Tanzania opposition heavyweight nominated for presidential vote

Tanzania’s main opposition Chadema party on Tuesday nominated heavyweight Tundu Lissu, who was shot 16 times in a 2017 assassination attempt, as its presidential candidate to run against incumbent John Magufuli in October’s election.

Lissu, a former MP and Chadema’s deputy chairman, returned to the East African country from exile last month, telling AFP that he was “going back home to try and fight for the presidency”.

He had lived in Belgium for two years, being treated after a brutal attack outside his home in the administrative capital Dodoma in 2017, a year in which he was arrested at least six times.

Lissu will take on President Magufuli, who took office in 2015 promising a crackdown on corruption but has since been accused of narrowing freedoms, increasing authoritarianism and seeking to cover up his country’s coronavirus outbreak.

At a party meeting on Tuesday, Chadema unanimously approved Lissu’s candidacy for the October 28 general election after he won a party vote.

“All members of this meeting voted for Tundu Lissu, I declare him as the presidential candidate for Chadema in the 2020 elections,” said party chairman Freeman Mbowe, who is also recovering from a “politically-motivated attack” in June.

After a string of arrests of opposition figures, the United States last month accused Tanzania of seeking to “stifle democratic norms” ahead of the election.

Ahead of returning home last month, Lissu told AFP that his health was good.

“You have to be aware of the fact that I was shot 16 times,” he said. “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.”

“Of course I’m not as I was three years ago: my leg is shorter by several centimetres. But otherwise I’m fine.”

He also said that Magufuli’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic had been “a national embarrassment”.

Tanzania has not released official coronavirus figures since late April, and unlike most African countries, it has taken no specific measures against the pandemic. Magufuli has repeatedly asserted that Tanzania has no coronavirus patients.

The country’s opposition fears the general election will take place in a climate of violence and intimidation, and has called for the formation of an independent electoral commission.