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Tanzania: Magufuli denounces UN human rights report, Tundu Lissu flees the country

By Abdul Halim, in Dar es Salaam
Posted on Thursday, 12 November 2020 12:54

Tanzania's re-elected President John Pombe Magufuli addresses delegates and supporters after he was sworn-in for the second term at the Jamhuri stadium in Dodoma
Tanzania's President John Pombe Magufuli addresses delegates and supporters after he was sworn-in for the second term in Dodoma, Tanzania November 5, 2020. Tanzania State House Press/Handout via REUTERS

The head of Tanzania's largest opposition CHADEMA, Tundu Lissu, has fled Tanzania for fear of reprisals against opposition figures in the aftermath of the country's questionable general election that saw John Magufuli re-elected for a second term.

Pictures on social media on Tuesday 10 November, show Lissu at Julius Nyerere International airport in Dar es Salaam waving before boarding a flight to Germany, and then onwards to Belgium – his final destination his lawyers confirmed to The Africa Report.

Denial of crackdown

His departure comes as Tanzania denies any claims of moving to terminate the opposition that proved to be a strong force in the lead-up and during the elections that were called out by the international community and observers for violations, including fraud and intimidation.

Lissu and his family had spent a few days at the German Ambassador’s residence in Dar es Salaam on claims of asylum. He says he had received credible information of plans to threaten his life.

But the government has denounced those claims of Lissu and other opposition: “I don’t know why opposition are claiming their lives are in danger, this is a free nation that respects rights of all citizens,” says Hassan Abbas, a government spokesperson who also serves as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information.

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

A fierce critic of Magufuli, he has returned to Belgium, where he had been living for three years before his return to run as a presidential candidate in the election.

LISTEN Tanzania: “Magufuli’s war on corruption is a mafia shakedown” – Tundu Lissu

The prominent lawyer survived an assassination attempt in 2017 while attending parliamentary session in Dodoma, where he was shot 16 times.

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 5 November.

On Sunday 8 November, the former Arusha Urban Constituency MP Godbless Jonathan Lema was arrested at Kajiado County after attempting to flee to neighbouring Kenya.

Kenya’s media reported that Lema, accompanied by his wife Neema and their three children, had crossed over at the Namanga border. They have all 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 Ilbissil, owing to its proximity to the Tanzanian border,” his lawyer George Luchiri Wajackoyah told Kenyan media.

Other prominent opposition facing arrest include:

  • Freeman Mbowe who is Chadema chairperson,
  • Isaya Mwita, former Dar es Salaam mayor
  • Boniface Jacob, former mayor of Ubungo municipality

Worsening human rights situation

The opposition have been demanding that the election be repeated, citing irregularities and calls for massive protests; an unlikely move given Magufuli has been sworn-in and is quickly steering the country out of discussions of voting day.

“Elections have passed, election have passed, election have passed, it’s a right time to unite and bring development to our country,” Magufuli said last week at his inauguration address in Dodoma.

READ MORE Tanzania: ‘Dark days ahead’ says opposition as Magufuli sworn in for second term

While members of the opposition continue to face difficult conditions, Magufuli’s government has rejected a report released  by UN the human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet who condemned the escalation of human rights in Tanzania.

I urge the Tanzanian authorities to respect and facilitate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly – Michelle Bachelet

In her report, Bachelet, says she is disturbed by reports of  continued intimidation, harassment and arrests of opposition following the election. “I urge the Tanzanian authorities to respect and facilitate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly,” she adds.

Bachelet goes on: “The tense situation in the country will not be diffused by silencing those who challenge the outcome of the elections but rather through a participatory dialogue.”

The report highlights that in the aftermath of the general election on 28 October, at least 150 opposition leaders and members have been arrested in mainland Tanzania and in semi-autonomous Zanzibar.

READ MORE Tanzania elections 2020: ‘The country will go the way of Zimbabawe’ – Tundu Lissu

While most have subsequently been released, at least 18 reportedly remain in custody, she notes.

But Sifuni Mchome , Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs has rejected UN claims.

“It’s possible that they speaking about Tanzania but it is also possible that these are just rumours,” Mchome told reporters on Wednesday 11 November in Dar es Salaam.

Bottom line

Since the general election, events unfolding are a rude wakeup call for Tanzanians who see their country slipping further away from a democratic state as it falls under the sole control of the ruling party the CCM.

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