TUNDU Lissu, the opposition’s presidential candidate in Tanzania’s just-ended general election has left for exile in Europe, citing life threats from “unknown people.”
Lissu had previously been arrested by police on 2nd November 2020 within the premises of the German Embassy in Dar es Salaam, before the embassy intervened and had him released from the Central Police Station. Since then, he has been staying at the ambassador’s residence, while the ambassador made diplomatic interventions with Tanzanian authorities over his safe exit.
Sources say that Today Tuesday evening 10th November 2020 Lissu left the ambassador’s residence escorted by the ambassadors of Germany, and Belgium to the Julius Nyerere International Airport to catch Ethiopian Airlines on his way to Belgium. Later in the evening, the US ambassador to Tanzania tweeted to wish him luck.
Lissu, however, told the media that he was not seeking asylum in Belgium because he is already a resident of that country.
Lissu’s wife, Alicia Magabe, left earlier to Belgium on Saturday. Both Lissu and his wife had been residing in Belgium since January 2018 as he underwent medical treatment after preliminary treatment at the Nairobi Hospital, Kenya, following an assassination attempt of 7th September 2017.
Shot 16 times, and having undergone over 20 surgeries on several parts of his body, Lissu remains a “walking miracle” that flew home in late July 2020 to contest a presidential election against incumbent John Magufuli.
The election was characterised with ineffable irregularities, including ballot stuffing, prevention and removal of opposition polling agents, pre-marked votes in favour of ruling party candidates, and the strong use of military and police to intimidate, harass, beat and shoot opposition supporters, agents and candidates.
The opposition said the election never took place, while some renowned election monitors and observers – including the Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW) – said the election (which gave 84% toMagufuli and 14% to Lissu) was not credible.
Lissu’s exit marks a new beginning of Tanzania’s political environment. Two days before Lissu’s departure, another prominent politician, Godbless Lema, a former Member of Parliament for Arusha Urban, sought asylum in Kenya following life threats.
SAUTI KUBWA is aware of a good number of activists and mid-level politicians who are in hiding within and beyond Tanzania’s borders in the past week fearing for their lives.
Besides Lissu, other top opposition leaders were arrested on the eve of 2nd November for organising the nationwide protest against the rigged election. They were released after two days but are still facing police harassment.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) has issued a statement, signed by UNHCR chief Michelle Bachelet on 10th November 2020, decrying the disturbing reports of intimidation and harassment in Tanzania. Bachelet called on Tanzanian authorities to “ensure people are able to express their grievances without fear of reprisals.”
She also called for an immediate release of detained persons in the aftermath of the elections and for the authorities in Tanzania to “respect and facilitate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”