Tanzania suspends opposition leader’s election campaign

TANZANIAN authorities on Friday suspended the election campaign of leading opposition candidate Tundu Lissu for seven days over accusations of inciting violence in the run-up to a national vote set for October 28.

The National Electoral Commission said the decision was taken by its ethics committee after it received two complaints from the ruling party and another party about the language Lissu had used on the campaign trail.

It was the latest attempt to derail the campaign of Lissu, a fierce critic of President John Magufuli’s administration. Magufuli faces 14 challengers with analysts saying a divided opposition is likely to ensure he wins a second term.

President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania makes his address at the 17th Summit of EAC Heads of State. Photo source: Paul Kagame

Lissu said the ban was “unacceptable”, calling the decision “another proof of a discredited electoral commission and a compromised electoral system”. He did not comment on the specifics of the accusations.

“I will not be intimidated or silenced. The campaign will continue on Sunday as scheduled,” Lissu said in a tweet.

Lissu returned to Tanzania in July after surviving assassination attempts in September 2017, when he was shot 16 times, and spending three years in Belgium receiving treatment.

Emmanuel Kawishe, the national ethics committee secretary, accused Lissu of having incited violence by “using offensive words which are against election ethics”.

He said Lissu had also made “unsubstantiated allegations” that Magufuli had hosted a meeting with election supervisors from across the country on steps to rig the vote.

The committee said Lissu could appeal its decision. 

Critics say Magufuli’s government has sought repeatedly to silence the opposition ahead of the vote. The government has denied the allegations.

Nine opposition politicians were arrested in June for allegedly holding an illegal assembly. The same month, the operating license of the opposition-leaning newspaper Tanzania Daima was revoked after it was accused of violating laws against spreading false information. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.