Tanzania: Questions Linger On Lissu Attack

Tanzanian Opposition Member of Parliament, Tundu Lissu.

Dar es Salaam/Nairobi — The firebrand opposition politician, president of the Tanganyika Law Society, the Opposition Chief Whip in Parliament and Chadema's Chief Legal Counsel is currently lying in a hospital bed in the neighbouring country fighting for his life.

The man, who came into the public limelight in the early 2000's for speaking 'truth to power' especially in as far as the rot in the gold mining was concerned, is now fighting for his life at the Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi where he was flown to after his condition worsened following initial attempts to save his life at the Dodoma Regional Hospital.

His condition, after he was wounded in a gun attack outside his Dodoma home on Thursday afternoon, is described by doctors as stable but critical.

Chadema Chairman Freeman Mbowe said in Nairobi on Friday that the Tanzanian government had allowed his transfer to Dar es Salaam, but the leader's family and party colleagues opted for Nairobi, which is nearer to Dodoma by plane.

"We decided to fly him to Nairobi because we were not sure he would survive the long trip to Dar es Salaam in his condition," Mr Mbowe said.

Lissu was shot five times in the stomach, leg and arm. About 32 bullets had been sprayed on his black Toyota SUV by gunmen who were aboard a white Nissan SUV that had trailed the MP from parliament grounds where he had been attending the morning session.

"Mr Lissu had bullet fragments in his arms, legs and stomach at the time of arrival in hospital," said Mr Mbowe.

Lissu was a target for assassination

Prof Abdallah Safari told reporters on Friday that Lissu was targeted for assassination. "The gunmen's duty was to kill Lissu. Period. You cannot spray the car with so many bullets just to wound or send him a message," Prof Safari, who is Chadema's deputy chairman, said.

Why Lissu?

But as Lissu is fighting for his life questions are being asked by many Tanzanians, specifically, on the motives of the attack and on the identity of those who want to see him dead. That he had been attacked in broad daylight in a section of the capital city that is highly protected because of the high profile nature of the residents living in that area baffles many.

The chairman of Chadema Youth Wing Patrobas Kitambi told reporters yesterday that it was surprising that the attackers could get away easily despite the fact that the neighbourhood is always well guarded due to the fact that senior parliamentary and government officials live there. One of them being the deputy Speaker of Parliament Dr Tulia Ackson.

"This piece of information is important in the investigations. It is crucial to find out how attackers got away despite the security personnel present in the area," Mr Kitambi, who called for an independent inquiry on the attack, noted.

In a briefing to MPs on Friday Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai said it was a car belonging to Dr Ackson's family that rushed Lissu to the hospital. "They are just next-door neighbours," Mr Ndugai told legislators.

Political motive?

The Inspector General of Police, Simon Sirro, says speculations about the motives of the attack at this point is useless. "Only investigations can determine why the attackers targeted Lissu," he told reporters on Friday.

He said Lissu might have had many enemies, some of whom could have nothing to do with politics, just like any other human being. "That is why I caution politicians and social media users to avoid apportioning blame or pointing fingers," the IGP noted. But Mr Mbowe says Lissu did not have any known enemies outside political circles.

"We suspect a political motive behind the attack since the assailants were using machine guns. The number of bullets fired indicates an intention to kill him as opposed to a robbery attempt," Mr Mbowe said in Nairobi on Friday.

"We do not know of anyone who could have had a grudge with the Chief Whip outside of the political arena. He had complained to the police about being trailed by state security vehicles but they turned a deaf ear to his fears," said Mr Mbowe.

He added that attackers did not take anything from Lissu, adding that it was a clear indicator that the attack was purely motivated by political issues.

"Had they been thugs, they would have at least stolen his laptop or other valuables. The fact that they fired all those bullets before speeding away is an indicator that this is violent politics at play," said Mr Mbowe.

Who were the people trailing Lissu's car?

In his last press conference in August 18 Lissu directly and publicly addressed the IGP and the head of Intelligence and Security Services about the vehicle that had been trailing him for weeks. He said if those tracking him were sent by the police or the ISS then it was mismanagement of public resources.

"These boys should be properly utilised where they are needed. Trailing me is not a wise management of public resources," Lissu noted.

In previous press conferences Lissu also said he had been receiving threats to his life.

Mr Kitambi told reporters yesterday that they had written a letter to the IGP wanting action taken against people who were trailing Lissu's vehicle.

"We have never received any response," Mr Kitambi said.

Mr Sirro addressed threats to Lissu's life, when he was asked by reporters on Friday, by he only said that it was Lissu himself who was better placed to speak about the threats and whether he reported them to the Police.

(Additional reporting by Aggrey Omboki in Nairobi)

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