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Tanzania Opposition leader Tundu Lissu flees country over 'threats to his life'

By Betty Njeru | November 11th 2020

Off to Belgium: Tanzania Opposition Leader Tundu Lissu. [Courtesy]

Tanzania Opposition leader Tundu Lissu fled the country Monday for political asylum in Belgium. 

Lissu had sought refuge at the German Embassy in Tanzania since Friday after expressing fears for his life.

Lissu told International media that threats against him have increased after he challenged the re-election of  President John Magufuli.

In a video posted on his Twitter account, the Chadema party senior leader is seen leaving for the airport accompanied by officials from the German embassy.

However, the US ambassador to Tanzania, Donald J Wright, said that Lissu was leaving the country to seek treatment abroad.

He tweeted on Tuesday: “Glad to hear @TunduALissu was able to depart Tanzania safely this afternoon to seek medical treatment abroad. Wishing him good health and a quick return so that he can continue to play a vital role in Tanzania’s political life.”

Lissu's departure follows a crackdown on Tanzanian’s opposition that has forced critics to flee the country.

The Magufuli administration has intensified arrests of opposition politicians barely a week after the president was sworn in for a second five-year term.

On Sunday former Arusha Urban Constituency MP Godbless Lema was arrested at Ilbissil in Kajiado County, after attempting to flee to Kenya.

The Standard reported that Lema who was accompanied by his wife Neema Godbless and their three children crossed over to Kenya at the Namanga border, who have since been released. 

“The police pursued and intercepted us at Ilbisil, where they took us to the local police post. I did not want them to lock up Lema in Ilbisil, owing to its proximity to the Tanzanian border," his lawyer George Luchiri Wajackoyah told The Standard.

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Other Opposition leaders who faced similar arrests include Freeman Mbowe, former Dar es Salaam mayor Isaya Mwita, and the former mayor of Ubungo municipality Boniface Jacob.

The opposition demanded a repeat election, citing anomalies and called for protests.

Lissu, a fierce critic of Magufuli is now returning to Belgium, where he had been living for three years before his return to contest the presidency in Tanzania.

The lawyer survived an assassination attempt in 2017, after he was shot 16 times, and requiring almost 20 surgeries.

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