Tanzanian politician Tundu Lissu has energised opposition politics after he returned to the country from exile to a heroic welcome. But that rise may also come at a cost to opposition figures who had been his eyes and legs in the country for the past three years.
Local observers say Mr Lissu’s return could bring him closer to a presidential contest in 2025 in which he can do better than in 2020 when he was muzzled out by John Pombe Magufuli’s regime.
“He has remained popular and he is such a convincing personality,” Tito Magoti, a Tanzanian activist said in an interview with Mwanzo TV.
Mr Magoti said Mr Lissu’s popularity has not been lost even though he stayed abroad and opposition barred from holding rallies.
Ban on political rallies
Earlier in January, President Samia Suluhu lifted the ban on political rallies which had been placed by the late Magufuli. Mr Lissu returned on Wednesday and his crowd-pulling homecoming arrival and huge reactions in the social media platforms may imply he is the opposition’s hope.
Mr Lissu called for the formation of a “national movement for constitutional reforms”, revisiting his old target of changing Tanzania’s constitution.
He still has to beat key competitors however, including President Samia, who will be going for the first presidential contest.
Within the opposition ranks, there is Zitto Kabwe, the leader of ACT-Wazalendo, Lissu’s party chairperson, Freman Mbowe, Zanzibar’s President Hussein Ali Mwinyi and his first vice president, Othman Masoud Othman aka OMO. The latter two are likely to side with President Samia, however.
Mr Mbowe has recently fought off accusations he was inching closer to President Samia, having been freed from jail and later met with her. But what this does to Tanzania may be to reawaken a political discourse that had been absent for the past six years when political rallies were banned and criticising the government sort of treated as criminal.
There are 19 registered political parties in Tanzania and they are taking advantage of the new political space after President Samia lifted the ban on public political rallies and meetings. Chadema’s inaugural public rallies were held in Mwanza and Mara in the party’s Lake Victoria strongholds a week before Lissu’s homecoming.
Full rights for rallies
President Samia says registered political parties now have full rights to organise and hold rallies to discuss political ambitions and criticise her government and criticise the ruling CCM party.
Aikande Kwayu, a political analyst said is yet to have a political “level playing field,” but argued that the latest gesture by the president could improve the political environment which is a good start.
Ms Kwayu said President Samia’s administration should not rest until it has created an increased political space for the opposition to thrive and grow followed by the obliteration of “oppressive legislations” like the “Police Act”.
Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, the Chairman of the Civic United Front (CUF) said that his party will be launching its political public rallies soon.
Police spokesperson David Misime said that police officers were ready to manage the gatherings.
Lissu vied for the presidency in 2020 but lost to the late Magufuli but he disputed the election results.