Tanzania opposition politician and former presidential candidate Tundu Lissu has left the country for Belgium a week after a failed nationwide protest to reject a presidential election that he claims was marred by widespread irregularities. His departure for Europe comes after he took refuge for more than a week at the German ambassador’s residence, citing threats to his life.
Two weeks have passed since Tanzania voted in national and local elections that put incumbent President John Magufuli of the ruling Party of the Revolution (CCM) into power for a second term.
The main challenger, opposition candidate Tundu Lissu, decried the October presidential poll as rigged with voter intimidation and corruption. On Tuesday he fled to Belgium after claiming that his life was in danger.
“In order for us to continue with the struggle, we have to be safe. I’m leaving to be safe," Lissu says. He adds that there is no safety continuing to stay in Tanzania. He says he is not escaping but is leaving to open a new battlefield. Political analyst Azaveli Lwaitama says the government will use Lissu’s departure to delegitimize the political opposition. He says the government will convince Tanzanians the opposition consists of so-called imperialists, who were going to create chaos and leave the country when things get worse. Political analyst Ablulkharim Atiki says he sees this as a political game.
"How can you threaten a person who has one million votes, even didn’t reach two million," Atiki asks. He dismisses that as a political tactic.
Dar es Salaam resident Ahmadiya Yahya, 26, says the situation leaves many people in a dilemma.
"They leave citizens with many questions that maybe they expected demonstrations to happen and then leave the country in an insecure situation," he says. "As time goes by maybe they will get to know what is behind the scenes." Maria Thomas says Lissu’s departure is good for his safety, adding he has escaped death in a failed assassination attempt before.
“I think he has avoided a lot because, looking at 2017, he escaped death due to political issues," she says. She adds that, if he has claimed that his life was in danger, it is good that he left and it's better that he left because maybe there was something that was expected to come.
But the Tanzanian government has dismissed the allegations.
“Those allegations by the opposition are not new; they have been doing so every now and then. After they failed in a democratic process they create lies," says Hassan Abass, a government spokesperson. He adds that is why Tanzanians have ignored their allegations and continue with their duties.
Lissu is the third opposition leader to leave the country due to perceived post-election security risks.
Last week, former opposition lawmaker Godbless Lema fled to Kenya while Lazaro Nyalandu, another former opposition politician, tried to leave the country to neighboring Kenya.
This article was published by Voice of America.