Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu is set to return home to take part in presidential elections, three years
after surviving an assassination attempt.
The 52-year-old human-rights lawyer plans to run against John Magufuli, who’s seeking a second term after five years in power that critics say has been marred by a crackdown on civil liberties and political dissent. The vote in the gold- and gas-rich East African nation is scheduled for October 28.
Lissu has been living in self-imposed exile in Europe, where he’s been receiving medical attention after the September 2017 attempt on his life. He was shot 16 times by unidentified gunmen at his residence in the capital, Dodoma, and was initially flown to Kenya for life-saving surgery.
Lissu told his supporters in a social media address from Belgium that he’s returning home despite concerns that his life is still at risk.
“I don’t have a private army to protect me,” he said. “I expect the Tanzania Police Force to fulfill its obligation under the country’s electoral law to provide security to all presidential candidates.”
Magufuli, 60, pledged peaceful and credible elections last week. Opposition leaders say the deck is heavily stacked against them because of the absence of an independent electoral body and the possibility that international observers won’t oversee the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Since coming to power, Magufuli has boosted government revenue, moved to reform the mining industry and increased spending on infrastructure including roads, railways and power plants. He denies cracking down on the opposition.
Lissu, alongside opposition leader and former Foreign Minister Bernard Membe, are the biggest challengers to Magufuli’s re-election bid. Still, analysts expect the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, in power since independence from Britain in 1961, to comfortably win the elections.
“Opposition parties are entering the elections from a position of weakness, with the main opposition Chadema party split by internal divisions,” said Richard Mbunda, a political scientist at the University of Dar es Salaam. “Voters tend to back political parties that have the biggest chance of winning.”