Tanzania activist abducted from Dar es Salaam street, rights group says

DAR ES SALAAM, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Men in civilian clothes snatched a Tanzanian human rights activist from a street in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam on Friday, the rights group that employs him said, in what appeared to be the latest in a series of abductions.

“We have received distressing news that our officer at the public education unit, Tito Magoti, has been abducted by people in civilian clothes at the Mwenge area in Dar es Salaam,” Dar es Salaam-based Legal and Human Rights Centre said on Twitter.

Police said they had no information on the abduction.

“I’m actually hearing this report from you journalists. I have no information on that matter,” Kinondoni regional police commander Mussa Taibu told Reuters.

The group that employs Magoti has been a vocal advocate for rights in Tanzania, including demanding an investigation into an assassination attempt on leading opposition figure Tundu Lissu, who was shot 16 times by unknown gunmen in September 2017.

Since President John Magufuli was elected in late 2015, Tanzania has tightened control of the media and civil society, shutting newspapers and websites, and arrested opposition leaders and restricted political rallies.

The 60-year-old has been nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, partly for his forceful leadership style.

He denies restricting media freedom and cracking down on democracy and human rights.

Last year, Africa’s youngest billionaire and Tanzanian businessman Mohammed Dewji was abducted outside a luxury hotel in Dar es Salaam. He was returned home safely a week later, but has not disclosed details of the incident aside from thanking the police at the time.

Other prominent Tanzanians have gone missing in recent years. Tanzania said in July it did not know whether investigative journalist Azory Gwanda, who went missing in November 2017 while investigating a series of murders of police and ruling party officials, was dead or alive. (Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by Giulia Paravicini, Maggie Fick and Nick Macfie)