The pomp and color that was witnessed during the return of Tanzania’s opposition leader, this Monday amid cheers of “president, president, president” is the reason why the incumbent will be having sleepless nights as elections near in the next three months.
Lissu, who survived an attempted assassination where all the evidence clearly pointed out to the Tanzanian government is a modern day miracle. He had left parliament and as he was being chauffeured to his house in Dodoma on September 4th 2017,49 years then, gunmen with military grade guns sprayed 36 bullets to his car. Luckily, with more lives than a cat, he mysteriously survived the onslaught and was admitted at Nairobi Hospital for specialized treatment to remove 8 bullets lodged in his body out of 16 that got him. Later he was airlifted to Belgium for more treatment and a self-imposed exile.
Prior to this cowardly act on Tanzania’s fearless opposition stalwart, he had been arrested over 8 times with the latest for calling Magufuli a dictator.
The facts that pronounced that it was an assassination were:
- He lived in a house paid for by parliament and his neighbor was the Deputy Speaker of the national assembly and his residence is guarded 24/7 inside and outside.
- However much the government insisted that the attackers we’re unknown, the policemen guarding his gate where nowhere to be seen.
- The police declined external help to investigate the matter.
- The CCTV on the estate and outside his gate mysteriously disappeared.
- Him and his driver were never questioned by police despite being the primary witnesses.
- The Tanzanian Parliament didn’t pay a single cent for his sustenance and bills in Nairobi Hospital despite him being an entitled MP.
- The government muzzled the press not to publish any articles on the incident.
In a press briefing shortly (2017) after 7 bullets were removed from his body leaving one that posed no immediate danger,he stated “This is the time to turn the government of Magufuli to an international skunk” , borrowing Mandela’s words description of Apartheid-era South Africa.
He at the same time faulted Magufuli’s government for the death of a journalist and an opposition chief found floating in the sea.
October 28 Election.
“I represented other MPs in escorting Mr Lissu to Nairobi after a failed assassination attempt. The situation was terrible and therefore, it is a blessing to welcome him back as we witness him walking on his feet,” said Arusha Urban Member of Parliament GodBless Lema.
Mr Lissu will face President Magufuli in the October 28 election should he win the party’s presidential primaries.
He picked nomination forms through his agents and is seen as the likely Chadema presidential candidate after Mr Mbowe and three other party leaders dropped out of the race.
Prior to election.
Brave Tanzanians continue finding ways to speak out about the shrinking space for discourse and dissent in their country. Outsiders, including UN human rights experts, have spoken out about the persecution of journalists, civil society leaders, and opposition politicians. They note that the government’s “crackdown has escalated in recent weeks, with reports that an opposition leader was attacked by unidentified assailants, the arrests of eight opposition members for alleged unlawful assembly, the suspension of a newspaper’s license, and a police raid on training organized by the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition.” But neighboring states are largely silent about the country’s increasingly authoritarian direction.
In this climate, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the upcoming October elections. The legal context in which opposition parties operate has changed limiting their capacity to mobilize voters, and major civil society organizations have been disqualified from observing the polling. In Zanzibar, where citizens’ civil and political rights have been denied multiple times in the context of elections, the voter registration system has only added to citizens’ mistrust.
The stage increasingly looks to be set for an election that serves the interests of the current leader, but erodes popular trust in democracy itself.