Tanzanian authorities have initiated an inquiry into Tundu Lissu, a prominent figure in the opposition, and detained him temporarily, along with other party members, on charges of participating in an unauthorized gathering, as reported by the police on Monday. Lissu, who had returned to Tanzania in January following years of exile after surviving an assassination attempt in 2017, was apprehended on Sunday but was subsequently released on bail a few hours later.
He, along with fellow members of Chadema, Tanzania’s primary opposition party, was en route to the Ngorongoro conservation area, where Maasai pastoralists were demonstrating against the government’s intention to relocate them.
A senior police official, Justine Masejo, stated that the investigation is still ongoing and further legal actions will be pursued once the inquiry is concluded.
Lissu claimed on Saturday that the police had prevented him from reaching Ngorongoro and had dispersed a sit-in protest organized by him and his team. They had planned to hold rallies in support of the Maasai, who have accused the government of forcibly displacing them from their ancestral lands to make way for safaris and hunting expeditions. The government contends that the Maasai’s increasing population is encroaching on wildlife habitats and initiated their relocation from Ngorongoro last year, describing it as voluntary.
Lissu remarked on Sunday, following his release, “Ngorongoro is not a prison. The police were concerned that I would expose the truth about the Maasai eviction.”
In January of the same year, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifted the ban on political rallies, marking a departure from some policies implemented by her authoritarian predecessor, John Magufuli. Lissu, a vocal critic of Magufuli and the ruling CCM party, survived an assassination attempt in 2017 when he was shot 16 times while in his car. He spent the subsequent years recovering in Belgium before receiving a warm welcome upon his return to Tanzania this year.