Tanzanian opposition leader takes refuge in German ambassador’s residence after death threats

Chadema Presidential Candidate Tundu Lissu smiles as he shows his finger marked with ink after casting his vote at Ntewa Primary School's polling station in Ikungi town Singida region, Tanzania, Wednesday. Oct.28, 2020. Opposition challenger Lissu has urged people to go into the streets to protest if election results are announced Thursday without being counted properly. (AP Photo)

Nairobi – Tanzanian opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu said he took refuge at the German ambassador’s residence in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam on Saturday after receiving death threats following a disputed election.

Lissu, who as head of leading opposition party CHADEMA was the main challenger to President John Magufuli in the October 28 election, said that immediately after the vote he started getting death threats.

“I received two unknown calls whose callers told me they will deal with me once and for all,” he told Reuters.

“We are waiting for the embassy to negotiate with the government for us to leave (to go) abroad. I cannot leave in a normal way without security assurance.”

Officials at the embassy were not immediately reachable for comment.

Police said there were no threats against Lissu and were unaware of him seeking refuge, adding that he had been provided with police security in the run-up to the elections.

“He finished the campaign safely and he went to vote safely. He is safe and (from) what we know there is no threat against him. Lissu is just creating things. There are no threats against him,” Dar es Salaam police special zone commander Lazaro Mambosasa told Reuters.

Lissu was shot 16 times and serious wounded in 2017 in what remains an unsolved case.

He and other opposition leaders including CHADEMA chairman Freeman Mbowe and ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe were briefly arrested this week after calling for demonstrations to demand a re-run of the election, saying it was riddled with fraud. They also want a new independent electoral commission.

Police said the demonstrations were illegal and were meant to cause violence.

Magufuli, who was sworn in on Thursday for his final five-year term, has promised to work with his rivals.

He is praised by some for pushing through big-impact infrastructure projects and a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

His critics accuse his government of intolerance and authoritarianism, including a crackdown on critical voices, closure of some media outlets and preventing opposition rallies.

The government denies that it stifles dissent.