DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – A Tanzanian court ruled on Friday that an opposition leader was guilty of sedition and incitement on accusations that he falsely said some 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in his home region in 2018.
The court however set Zitto Kabwe, the head of ACT Wazalendo party, free on condition that he refrain from saying or writing anything that would be considered sedition.
Kabwe, who is member of parliament for Kigoma urban constituency, in western Tanzania, was charged in November 2018 with three counts related to incitement after saying that 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in the region.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the time, the head of police in Kigoma said just two herdsmen and two officers had died during an operation to stop pastoralists keeping livestock illegally on a government-owned ranch.
Huruma Shaidi, principal magistrate of Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam, said he found Kabwe guilty on all three counts.
In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.
Kabwe’s defence lawyers said they were going to appeal the verdict.
“Zitto Kabwe is a politician and we are in the elections period, we are going to appeal this ruling to clear him,” Jebra Kambole, Kabwe’s lead counsel, told reporters outside the court.
Kabwe split away from the main opposition CHADEMA movement in 2015 and is now his party’s only lawmaker.
The East African country has been one of the continent’s most stable, but opposition leaders and rights groups have accused the government of cracking down on dissent – an accusation it dismisses.
Tanzania is expected to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in October.
(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Frances Kerry)