Tanzanians in exile assured of safety at home

Sunday June 12 2022

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu with Chadema leader Tundu Lissu, who lives in exile in Belgium. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Tanzanians living in exile for political reasons have responded with guarded optimism to a statement from the government assuring them of safety back home.

Last week, the government asked political activists who had fled the country, especially during the regime of former president John Magufuli, to come back, saying the situation is better now.

"There is no reason for any Tanzanian to remain in exile. The country is safe, opportunities for economic advancement are plenty and relations between the government and political opposition have improved with a healthy reconciliation dialogue now in progress,” Home Affairs Minister Yusuf Masauni told parliament in Dodoma on Tuesday.

Mr Masauni was responding to Special Seats legislator Grace Tendega from the opposition Chadema party.

Chadema leader Tundu Lissu has been exiled in Belgium since 2020 when he disputed the re-election of former president Magufuli, who died in March 2021.

In separate responses, Tanzania’s three most prominent political exiles — Mr Lissu, Godbless Lema and Ansbert Ngurumo — said they took the minister's words seriously after several attempts to get assurances of a safe return to Tanzania.


Mr Lissu, who has lived in Belgium since narrowly surviving a 2017 assassination attempt that left him badly injured — he returned to Tanzania to vie for president in the 2020 elections — described Mr Masauni's statement as "a very good move" on the government's part because it depicted a sincerity to "all of us who had to flee our motherland for political reasons".

"Now my colleagues and I can start planning our passage back home," added Mr Lissu.

Mr Lema, who also fled the country immediately after the 2020 election citing security fears and presently lives in Canada, also said he felt encouraged to return to Tanzania "any time from now".

Mr Ngurumo, a journalist who now lives in Sweden after leaving Tanzania in 2019 via the Namanga border post into Kenya said, "The minister has made a clear statement that should be kept on record for reference. But statements are statements and actions are actions. I would be happier if the statement was accompanied by actual guarantees.”