Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu, who was wounded in a gun attack outside his Dodoma home, is in stable but critical condition at a Nairobi hospital.
The firebrand Singida East MP was airlifted to the Nairobi Hospital in the Kenyan capital on Thursday night after his condition worsened, amid concerns for his security.
Chadema party leader Freeman Mbowe said in Nairobi that the Tanzanian government had allowed his transfer to Dar es Salaam, but the leader’s family and party colleagues opted for Nairobi, which is nearer to Dodoma by plane.
“We decided to fly him to Nairobi because we were not sure he would survive the long trip to Dar es Salaam in his condition,” Mr Mbowe said.
The Chadema leader, who accompanied Mr Lissu to Nairobi, said the MP had been shot several times when his car was shot at, necessitating two blood transfusions.
“Mr Lissu had bullet fragments in his arms, legs and back at the time of arrival in hospital,’’ said Mr Mbowe.
He discounted a possible gang attack, saying Mr Lissu did not have any known enemies outside political circles.
“We suspect a political motive behind the attack since the assailants were using machine guns. The number of bullets fired indicates an intention to kill him as opposed to a robbery attempt,” said Mr Mbowe.
“We do not know of anyone who could have had a grudge with the Chief Whip outside of the political arena. He had complained to the police, and the Security Minister about being trailed by state security vehicles but they turned a deaf ear to his fears,” said Mr Mbowe.
The armed assault is the latest in a long line of incidents, which the Chadema leadership says, amounts to harassment and intimidation of opposition politicians and dissidents in Tanzania.
“Although this is the first time one of us has been shot at, we are seeing this as a continuation in a pattern of harassment and intimidation of the government’s critics. Being a member of the opposition is simply not safe in Tanzania,” said Mr Mbowe.
He said the attackers did not take anything from Lissu, adding that it was a clear indicator that the attack was purely motivated by political issues.
“Had they been thugs, they would have at least stolen his laptop or other valuables. The fact that they fired all those bullets before speeding away is an indicator that this is violent politics at play,” said Mr Mbowe.
Former Law Society of Kenya chairman and Pan African Lawyers’ Union deputy chair Eric Mutua, who visited the Tanzanian colleague in hospital, called upon the Kenyan government to protect Mr Lissu.
“We are not sure whether the people who tried to kill him in Tanzania will not attempt to complete their mission in Kenya. It is important that Mr Lissu be protected by Kenyan police officers,’’ said Mr Mutua.
Meanwhile, in Dodoma, parliamentary Speaker Job Ndugai has asked MPs to help offset Mr Lissu’s hospitalisation bill by donating at least half of their sitting allowance. Mr Ndugai told MPs on Friday that Mr Lissu had been hit by five bullets, of the 28 to 32 bullets sprayed on the vehicle.
In Dar es Salaam, the Delegation of the European Union termed the attempt on the life of Mr Lissu an “attack against democracy.”
In a brief statement on Friday, the EU envoys strongly condemned the attack and asked the Tanzania government to bring to justice those responsible for “this unwarranted attack against democracy.”
Mr Lissu’s shooting is the first to happen in Dodoma since the parliament moved there from Dar es Salaam almost 20 years ago.
Mr Lissu has recently fallen afoul of the John Magufuli administration, especially after his revelation that a government commercial aircraft, a Bombardier Q400, had been seized in Canada due to Dar’s failure to pay $38 million to the Canadian Stirling Civil Engineering.
The company had won tender to construct the Wazo Hill-Bagamoyo Road but the government terminated the deal without paying compensation and the aggrieved company sought legal redress.
Mr Lissu, who is Chadema’s chief legal counsel also doubles as the President of Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) whose candidacy faced spirited resistance from the government which maintains that a professional organisation such as TLS should not harbour political agenda.
The government threatened to disband the TLS if Mr Lissu were to be elected President, but he won by 88 per cent of votes.
— Additional reporting by Chris Kidanka in Dar es Salaam