Half a decade has passed since the news of the shooting of Tundu Lissu in Dodoma broke over the political and journalist communities and swept into the general populace. Those were dark times and the shooting is now a historic marker, the best-known incident in a period when violence was all too common against the outspoken.
Tundu Antiphas Lissu was shot several times, survived, was whisked away from Tanzania for treatment and ended up living in exile in Europe for several years. As he stayed away from here we asked each other: Who did it? Who did it? The land of peace was tangibly not peaceful and the world finally noticed. A critic of the government and opposition politician was gunned down in the capital city.
He is a tough cookie, Lissu is. It was a long grind to recover physically from his ordeal, one that we kept tabs on surreptitiously until it was no longer risky to talk about it openly. Watching his arrival in Dar es Salaam was a beautiful thing, a joyous thing. He walks with much more strength and vigour than I would have expected and though I was concerned that he not over-tire himself with a rally, he seemed to be up to the task.
Please don’t tell him I was watching, he really doesn’t need the ego boost.
Much more impressive is his unwavering mental and emotional fortitude. Surviving an incident is desperately hard, long after the body heals the mind and spirit struggle. But within a couple of years of his shooting, Lissu was on Zoom with the rest of the world yapping up a storm. His facility with language and propensity to pontificate at length make him a natural on the platforms which are Tanzanian favourites. This shrank his physical distance from Tanzania to nearly nil. And now he is back.
I think the day will come when Tanzanians will be ready to talk candidly about trauma. I don’t just mean individual trauma, I mean the traumas we carry from our foremothers who put up with colonialism and slave trades through to us who lose internet access or find ourselves thrown in remand for wanting our constitutional rights respected. The traumas of recent period I still refer to with some coyness. The day will come, but like any recovery it will come slowly and likely with a lot of pain, a lot of pain.
In the meantime, I celebrate this moment. The triumphant return of Tundu Antiphas Lissu might not have included an arch of commemoration, but it compensated with large crowds of welcome and a speech. It was exquisitely timed for maximum showmanship but it also fits in well with the glorious re-emergence of the opposition as fronted by huge Chadema rallies. As our oppressed opposition comes out of the shadows they have been living in, so does the sun shine on us all as Tanzanians. Like James Brown and Lissu, we’re back.
Let the games begin. And this time, play fair everybody, okay? Okay.
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]