Tension in Tanzania ahead of vote

·2-min read

A major opposition party in Tanzania is accusing police of shooting dead three citizens amid unrest over alleged fraud on the eve of the country's presidential election.

The ACT Wazalendo party on Tuesday also said police in the semi-autonomous island region arrested its Zanzibar presidential candidate, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad.

A police official in Zanzibar city, Mohammed Hassan Haji, confirmed the arrest to The Associated Press but gave no details.

Police in Pemba city, however, did not comment on the ACT Wazalendo allegation that police shot dead three people and wounded at least nine on Monday evening on the eve of advance voting in the region.

"Tonight the army has been distributing ballot boxes at polling stations designated for advance voting. Citizens in areas surrounding the polling stations have claimed that these boxes contain ballots already pre-marked," the party statement said.

"They accordingly sought to prevent these ballot boxes from being transferred to the polling stations."

Police at first responded with tear gas and then live ammunition, the statement said.

The ACT Wazalendo presidential candidate in Zanzibar, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, condemned the shootings. He was then arrested Tuesday morning at a polling station as he went to vote, the party said.

"Zanzibar lives matter," the statement said, calling for his immediate release.

There was a heavy police and military presence in Zanzibar on Tuesday, with many roads blocked.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli seeks a second five-year term in Wednesday's vote, and opposition parties and human rights groups have expressed concern that the vote is already compromised in favour of the ruling party.

The populist Magufuli quickly consolidated power after winning the 2015 election and barred opposition political parties from holding most public gatherings. Candidates ahead of Wednesday's vote have alleged harassment by authorities.