The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) joins its Uganda-based member, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), to deplore the detention and subsequent deportation of Dr. Wairagala Wakabi who is the Executive Director of CIPESA.
According to CIPESA, Dr. Wakabi was detained by immigration officials upon arrival at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salam, Tanzania earlier today (April 25, 2019), with the authorities stating no basis for his detention. He was later deported to his home country, Uganda.
Dr. Wakabi is among other civil society actors who have been invited to participate in the annual commemoration of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Day hosted by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC). The event which is scheduled to take place on April 28, 2019, is preceded by a two-day workshop aimed at engaging civil society organisations, online journalists and human rights activists on how to safely use online platforms for promotion and protection of human rights.
CIPESA is also one of the civil society organisations nominated to receive an award for is regional work in promoting human rights online during the event.
After several hours of detention and interrogation, AFEX has learnt with disappointment that the Tanzanian authorities have deported Dr. Wakabi back to Uganda. At the time of issuing this statement, lawyers of the human right activist remained the Tanzanian authorities had not given any reason for his deportation except for the untenable reason of “national interest”.
This is not the first time authorities in Tanzania have detained human rights activists visiting the country. Last year, immigration officials on November 8, 2018 detained two staff of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo, who were in the country on assignment. They were detained in their hotel room in Dar es Salaam and were later taken to an unknown location. They were released the following day.
AFEX is seriously concerned about the continued use of such repressive measures to further limit the already shrinking civic space in Tanzania and the East African region at large.
We join CIPESA to condemn the detention and subsequent deportation of Dr. Wakabi. We call on governments and stakeholders across the continent to join rights groups in denouncing this blatant abuse of power to violate the fundamental rights of Dr Wakabi and all other civil society activists being harassed in this manner.