Nairobi, Kenya, Sep 13 – Tanzania’s main opposition party claimed Tuesday that the government of President John Magufuli played a role in the gun attack last week that wounded an outspoken politician and shocked the country.
The lawmaker, Tundu Lissu, has had a series of run-ins with the government and has been arrested at least six times this year, accused of insulting the president and disturbing public order, among other charges.
“The government is involved in this attack,” Benson Kigaila, who handles defence and security matters for opposition party CHADEMA, told reporters in Tanzania’s main city of Dar es Salaam.
“Magufuli and his government harassed Tundu Lissu because he wouldn’t stop criticising, in and out of parliament, President Magufuli.”
Lissu, chief whip for the parliamentary opposition, was attacked at his home in the capital Dodoma on Thursday, after returning from a parliamentary session.
He was shot in the stomach and leg, according to local media reports, and the party said he was in critical condition.
After being transferred to a hospital in Nairobi, the party reported that his condition had improved.
“They kill in order to silence people, but we will not be silenced,” said Kigaila, who added that the attack happened in an area guarded by security forces that is home to ministers.
Lissu, 49, is also president of Tanzania’s bar association, the Tanganyika Law Society, as well as being CHADEMA’s attorney general.
His most recent arrest was in August after revealing that a plane bought for the national carrier had been impounded in Canada over unpaid government debts.
CHADEMA’s vice president Abdallah Safari said the “only inference for ordinary Tanzanians is that the police and the government are involved in this attempted assassination.”
For his part, Magufuli wrote Thursday on Twitter that he was “shocked to hear the news of the attack on Tundu Lissu and I pray to god almighty that he will soon recover.”
The president, who came to power in 2015 as a corruption-fighting “man of the people”, has been increasingly criticised over his authoritarian leadership style, with a clampdown on the opposition, journalists and artists.
In July, Lissu was charged with hate speech after calling Magufuli a “dictator”.