Tundu Lissu, the leader of Tanzania’s opposition and a former presidential candidate, has said that he will return from exile in Europe this month to “write a new chapter” in response to the Tanzanian government’s decision to end a ban on political demonstrations.
Last week, President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifted the six-and-a-half-year ban on political rallies as part of her reconciliation strategy. She took over the presidency in March 2021 after the death of her predecessor, John Magufuli, and the ban on political rallies was one of the first things she did after taking office. Magufuli put the ban in place in 2016. It allowed elected politicians to hold rallies in their own districts, but it made it illegal for them to hold other political rallies and protests.
“With the lifting of the illegal prohibition on political action, it’s now time to come home and go back to work,” Lissu stated on Twitter on Friday, announcing that he would arrive on January 25 and stating that it was now time to return home and get back to work. “We cannot continue to forever live in exile,” Lissu stated in a speech that was broadcast live on YouTube and reported on local channels in Tanzania, and he emphasized this point several times. “I have high hopes that this year will mark the beginning of a new chapter for us… According to him, the year 2023 will be a pivotal one in the annals of the nation’s history.”
After being shot 16 times, predominantly in the lower abdomen, in an attack by unknown assailants in the administrative capital Dodoma in September of 2017, Lissu originally fled the country to seek treatment overseas. In the twelve months leading up to the assault, he had been taken into custody eight times. In the election year of 2020, Lissu made a brief comeback for a few months in order to run against Magufuli, who passed away barely five months after being reelected to his second term.
Despite the fact that Lissu received 13% of the vote, his Chadema party would not accept the results because they claimed there were extensive violations. Soon after the election, he began getting threats of death; prior to departing for Belgium, he took refuge in the home of the German ambassador in Tanzania after escaping to safety there.
The arrest of Lissu’s party member Freeman Mbowe on terrorist charges in July 2021 put a damper on any hopes of reform occurring during Hassan’s administration. A face-to-face meeting between the president and Lissu took place in Brussels at the beginning of 2022, which once more bolstered optimism that changes were on the horizon.
Since taking power, Hassan has reversed some of Magufuli’s most contentious actions, including the lifting of a ban on four newspapers, and he has pledged reforms that the opposition has been calling for a long time. President Samia Suluhu Hassan has demonstrated, through both her government and her party that they are prepared to embark on a new path. In the video message, Lissu stated that it is necessary for them to demonstrate that they are also prepared for that. “I am returning to my roots in preparation for the rebirth of our nation.”