Tanzania Opposition Names Veteran Politician Tundu Lissu As Presidential Candidate

Tundu Lissu (file photo).

Former MP for opposition Chadema party Tundu Lissu has been nominated as the presidential candidate against incumbent John Magufuli in the 28 October elections.

Lissu was serving as an MP when he was the victim of an assassination attempt in September 2017 in Dodoma, the administrative capital. Shot 16 times, he fled the country and had more than 20 surgeries while receiving treatment in Belgium.

He returned to Tanzania last week for the first time since being shot.

His nomination is a reaffirmation that he still has power within his party. Lissu made a name for himself in the year before he was shot, as he was arrested eight times, including two weeks before the assassination attempt. He had been charged with incitement, among other charges.

Before he left Belgium, Lissu told French newswire AFP that he was going to try and fight for the presidency when he went back to Tanzania.

"Whether we are going to have free and fair elections, that is not the question, we don't expect that. The issue is ... are we going to have our lives by the end of the electoral process?"

The past five years under Magufuli's tenure has been 'hell' for opposition and Chadema, he said.

"The biggest thing has been the untold suffering. Killings of political leaders, attacks on political leaders, abductions, disappearances, torture, illegal prosecution of opposition leaders and activists in courts of law, with trumped-up charges," he added.

Ready to go

Lissu said that his health was better, but one of his legs is a few centimetres shorter after the attack.

"You have to be aware of the fact that I was shot 16 times. All my limbs, my legs, my waist, my arms, my stomach were basically ripped apart by 16 bullet shots and therefore to mend me, to put me back on my feet, took a long time," he said.

Although Magufuli called for an investigation into the attack, no one was ever arrested.

Lissu has a lot of support behind him, but it will be difficult to unseat the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party that has been ruling since independence.

But Magufuli has come under fire both within the country and outside it for his crackdown on the press, as well as the arrests of opposition members. He has also refused to report any cases of Covid-19 since May, saying that Tanzania is not in the throes of the epidemic like the rest of the world.

Lissu said the way Covid-19 measures have been handled are a "a national embarrassment".

"So we have total blackout on corona and because there is total blackout, the president wants the world to believe that there is no corona. It's a disaster," he said.

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