Gunmen shot and badly wounded Tanzania’s most outspoken opposition figure Thursday near his home in the capital, the government said, in an attack that shocked the East African nation known for its relative peace and stability.
Lawmaker Tundu Lissu of the Chadema party, who recently faced criminal charges after he called President John Magufuli a dictator, was wounded by an unknown assailant in Dodoma, said Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba.
Lissu was shot in the stomach, leg and arm, said Dr. Charles James, a regional medical officer. A statement from the opposition party said the lawmaker was “seriously wounded.”
Police have launched a manhunt for Lissu’s attackers, said Gilles Muroto, the Dodoma police commander. He said more than one gunman occupied the vehicle from which the shots were fired.
Lissu, who also leads Tanzania’s lawyers’ association, had appeared in the national assembly earlier Thursday and apparently was being driven home when the attack occurred.
On Twitter, Tanzania’s president said he was saddened by the shooting and said he was praying for Lissu’s rapid recovery. The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, condemned the “brutal and unnecessary incident.”
In July, Lissu was criminally charged with using abusive language after he called Magufuli a dictator over alleged attacks on the opposition and the media.
Magufuli has faced growing accusations by rights groups and others of being intolerant of criticism since he was elected in 2015. Live transmission of parliamentary debates has stopped, and opposition rallies have been banned until the next election cycle in 2020.
In a statement, Amnesty International urged Tanzania’s government to investigate the attack and “reassure Tanzanians and the world that this shooting was not politically motivated.”
“This cowardly attack on one of Tanzania’s most fearless and prominent politicians raises concerns about the safety of all dissident voices in the country, at a time when space for dissent is quickly shrinking,” the group’s deputy regional director Sarah Jackson said.
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