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Tanzanian opposition leader returns after years of self-exile

Tanzanian opposition leader returns after years of self-exile
Tundu Lissu moved to Belgium after 2017 assassination bid, says President Hassan has promised his safety in Tanzania

By Kizito Makoye

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AA) – Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Tundu Lissu returned to Tanzania on Wednesday after years of self-exile in Belgium.

Lissu, 55, moved to Europe after surviving a September 2017 attack in which he was shot 16 times by unknown gunmen in the capital Dodoma.

He announced his plan to return earlier this month, days after President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifted an over six-year ban on rallies of opposition parties imposed by her predecessor John Magufuli in 2016.

Lissu landed at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam at around 1:35 p.m. (1035GMT), where he was welcomed by hundreds of supporters of his CHADEMA party.

Speaking at the airport, Lissu said he decided to come back because Hassan and her government have assured him of full security.

“The government issued a statement in the Parliament calling upon those of us who fled the country on security grounds to return, and that our security will be guaranteed,” Lissu told Anadolu.

The CHADEMA deputy chairman said the government’s announcement came after his discussions with Hassan last February in Brussels, where she was attending a meeting of European and African heads of states.

“Because the president said political parties are free to hold rallies, and because she wants discussions on national consensus and major legal and constitutional reforms for a more democratic constitution, I have decided to return home,” he said.

Lissu remained a fierce critic of Magufuli’s government and was arrested multiple times.

The attackers who shot him in 2017 are still at large and there are no ongoing investigations, but Lissu asserted that he is not afraid.

“The government has not clarified if I will have a security detail or not, but still I will not be intimidated by any threats. My security is in the hands of the president,” he said.

The ban on opposition rallies was just one of a raft of repressive laws enforced by Magufuli, who ruled from September 2015 until his death in March 2021.

Analysts say his regressive policies severely trampled on fundamental basic rights such as freedom of speech and assembly, and led to a sense of fear among citizens and politicians alike.

Fatma Karume, a former president of the Tanganyika Law Society, a Tanzanian bar association, welcomed Lissu’s return to the country.

“We cannot allow someone to be attacked like that just because of politics. It is not acceptable in any democratic country where people want to live peacefully,” she told Anadolu.​​​​​​​

source: News Feed
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