Tanzania’s main opposition candidate in the October 28 general election Tundu Lissu has accused the government of plotting to lock him out of the polls.
In a letter to President John Magufuli dated August 21, through the law firm of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, Lissu is accusing the judiciary and the electoral commission, allegedly with the blessings of Magufuli, of attempting to deprive him of his right to contest in the polls.
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Lissu, 52, is expected to take on 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 the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Lissu also accused the National Electoral Commission of subjecting him and other candidates challenging Magufuli to irregular scrutiny.
In the letter signed by Robert R Amsterdam, the Chadema candidate has threatened to institute international investigations into Tanzania’s electoral process and alleged human rights abuses.
“We call your urgent attention to the fact that the Tanzanian judiciary and the National Election Commission are colluding to deprive Lissu of his right to stand as a candidate in these elections. These actions by the government of Tanzania constitute not just a grave abuse of power, but are also clear violations of the independence of the judiciary and Mr Lissu’s rights,” the letter reads.
“We ask that these abuses be remedied quickly and Lissu’s candidacy confirmed or we will be forced to initiate international litigation.”
Lissu, who was shot 16 times by gunmen at his home in Dodoma in September 2017, returned to Tanzania on July 28 after receiving treatment in Kenya and Belgium.
Lissu has accused the government of systematic attacks on him and his party over the years, including the 2017 assassination attempt.
“The government has taken no steps to apprehend or prosecute perpetrators of that dastardly attack and has used every lever of power to undermine Lissu’s health, well-being and political rights,” reads the letter copied to the Ibrahim Hamis Juma, the Chief Justice.
“After what appears to be an act of direct presidential intervention, he was denied statutorily guaranteed medical benefits. In what can only be interpreted as an act of political retribution, he was stripped of his seat in parliament on the grounds of being absent without leave when he was seeking medication abroad. In what is a clear breach of judicial independence, he was not given a chance to challenge his removal through available legal means.”
Lissu also claimed that the government has refused to accord him the security he is entitled, under the law, as a presidential candidate.
Lissu has accused the police of failing to stop attacks on his motorcade with claims government officials have indicated that their goal is ‘to get him’ rather than protect him.
The lawyers further accused the government of bringing sedition charges against Lissu under the Newspapers Act, “a pernicious piece of legislation that restricts freedom of speech and expression”.
“These charges, without any basis in fact or law, include seditious publication and conspiracy to publish seditious material. The charges represent a direct assault on the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” they said.
“It is important to note that even though these charges are a grave abuse of power, Lissu has not been convicted of any wrongdoing to date. He must therefore be treated as innocent until proven guilty,” Amsterdam’s letter further reads.
Amsterdam also accused the country’s judiciary and the election commission of colluding to prevent Lissu’s nomination for the presidency from being confirmed.
Tanzania’s opposition fears the general election will take place in a climate of violence and intimidation.
However, opposition parties have failed to form a united front against Magufuli after its leaders disagreed on a common candidate following a series of talks.