Police raid observers’ office, arrest staff

Friday October 30 2015

A police Officer guards more than 36 Legal

A police Officer guards more than 36 Legal Human Right Centre (LHRC) IT staff at the Tanzania Civil Society Consortium on Election (Tacceo) office after suspecting that the organisation had unauthorised information stored in their computers. PHOTO|SALIM SHAO 

By Bernad Lugongo

Dar es Salaam. Police yesterday raided and seized 24 computers from an office used by the Tanzanian Civil Society Consortium on Election Observation (Tacceo) to receive election reports from various regions.
At around 2pm armed police officers stormed the centre, located within the offices of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) at Mbezi Beach in the city and also grabbed 25 mobile phones for investigation purposes. The police also arrested 36 data clerks at the centre.
Speaking to the media at the scene, acting executive director of the LHRC, Ms Imelda-lulu Urio, said police officers told them they suspected the centre was collecting, tallying and distributing election results to the public.
The dramatic arrest lasted about five hours following arguments between police officers and officials of LHRC.
When the police officers stormed the centre, they locked in data clerks at the room and ordered them to pack all computers and mobile phones in boxes so they could take them to the Central Police Station for investigation.
However, due to arguments between the two parties, police spent five hours before leaving with the items and clerks to the police station at around 7.30pm.
Ms Urio complained that the police stormed their offices a search warrant and did not inform local leaders of the raid.
LHRC director of Advocacy and Reforms, Mr Harold Sungusia, said Tacceo was working legally under the accreditation of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to observe the 2015 General Election through at least 240 observers countrywide.
“What police has done today is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. This is rape to democracy,” said Mr Sungusia.
 He said following the incident, they are worried that they cannot complete compiling their report on election observation.
Yesterday’s incident comes just four days after the police raided vote-tallying centres used by the main opposition Chadema and arrested several officials who were operating the centre.
The incident occurred last night around 10 pm when their officials were continuing with collecting results from various wards around the country.
The centre had 800 officials who were contacting thousands of their party’s agents around the country.
Chadema alleged that its centre was doing the same work as a Chama cha Mapinduzi which is located at Mlimani City area.