Government ‘Rogue Elements’ and the Attempted Murder of Government Critic in Tanzania—An Intelligence View

If there is a lesson for President Magufuli to learn from the assassination attempt against Tundu Lissu, that lesson should be to avoid the adversarial stance against the opposition in Tanzania—particularly CHADEMA.

Tundu Antipas Lissu (Inset Top Right)

By Evarist Chahali, Retired State Security Operative (Literal Translation from Kiswahili Original).


Information was spread in the afternoon of September 07, 2017, to inform Tanzanians an attempt to kill Tundu Antipas Lissu, a member of parliament from Tanzania’s main opposition party,  had been carried out in the country’s administrative capital, Dodoma; And the immediate question became, who made the attempt?

Tundu Lissu is Principal Legal Officer in Tanzania’s leading opposition political party, Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), he is Chief Whip representing the minority in Parliament. He is also President of  the Tanganyika Law Society. He was hit by numerous gun shots  while in his car as he drove home. He was fatally injured.

The frightening shooting took place in Dodoma  when the member of parliament drove home for lunch at an area in the administrative capital known as Area D.

Before I proceed further in this presentation let me use this opportunity to  wish Lissu a quick recovery. I also wish to extend my well wishes to all the followers, members and leaders in CHADEMA–the party for which Lissu has represented very well. Let me also warn the reader that “intelligence is NOT an exact science”.

Let’s now enter the discussion by alluding that so far there are three main scenarios (assumptions) concerning the attempted assassination of Tundu Lissu as cause of the attempted murder. The three assumptions derive from filtration of several assumptions.

President John Pombe Magufuli

The First assumption, and which appears to be accepted widely, is that this assassination attempt was carried out by the State (the Government) on the ground that Lissu has been a major disturbance to the Government. Those holding this view see Lissu as a fearless politician not afraid of telling the truth, and while others view him as a violence inciting agitator.

It is possible to accept as truth the following statement: that if there is a politician in the opposition who has been a painful thorn to the President John Magufuli government, that politician is Lissu. And that increases weight to this assumption strengthened by the fact that on August 18, 2017, Lissu told members of the public that he was being ‘followed’.

Let me quote him: “Before I begin my discussion let me request the Director of State Security who is called Kipilimba or the Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro, those young people sent in the Toyota Premio car with registration numbers T460CQV whom for three weeks in a roll have been following me wherever I have gone; yesterday I cornered them at St. Peter’s church.”

On the flip side, it would appear as if the Magufuli government has been wishing to get blame for nothing by making life so difficult for politicians in the opposition; life is difficult for politicians in the opposition due to total denial of  conducting political activity (political space), a situation created for no good reason.

In reference to existing statistics, over 400 leaders and followers of CHADEMA have been arrested since Magufuli came to power. The person who claims that leader ‘dislikes the opposition’ would not appear strange, although he might be thrown in jail.

In his various speeches, President Magufuli has failed to hide his feelings against people and leaders in the opposition. On June 12, 2017 President Maguful told the Speaker of the Parliament the following words:

“Use that same technique to stop them from blabber mouthing  in parliament so that they blabber mouth outside of parliament where we shall deal with them properly because when in parliament they have immunity and can insult anything.  It is for you now to straighten the immunity they misuse in parliament; they should be getting out of parliament.  If you sack one even for one month he will come to blabber mouth outside of parliament; and I am telling you let them blabber mouth out here—I will deal with them. I am not frightening you, but we cannot be fighting a war…you turn around and start fighting those who are advancing forward; it is better that you keep quiet and go to sleep.”

By observing the competition that exists between regional and district authorities as well as the police to persecute people in the opposition, particulary CHADEMA, the assumption that the Government was involved in the assassination attempt against Lissu is ‘ready-made’.

Nevertheless, despite all these indications that point toward the possibility of Government involvement in the attempted murder of Lissu, this assumption lacks validity in reality. Killing Lissu would lack efficacy in government. Yes, it is true to say the relationship between the government and Lissu and the opposition in general is not good–but killing Lissu would not yield any value for the Magufuli government.

And even if it had become necessary that he be eliminated, then more appropriate methods to remove a famous person would have been used with ‘death by accident’ being famous and much easier. And then there is something more disturbing in the September 7 event which further weakens the assumption claiming government involvement, which is the way the assassination attempt was implemented. The assailants appeared to seek massive publicity. Why was that so? The answer lies in assumption number three.

The second assumption is weaker than the other two. This one is linked to the 2020 presidential elections.    That Lissu has been actively creating conditions for him to become the preferred presidential candidate for CHADEMA/the opposition during the 2020 presidential elections is indisputable.  But is it not true that Lissu has been brave in various spheres (he has never publicly declared intention to run for that office), and that his clarity in parliament and in matters of the law and on various national issues has made him the darling of every CHADEMA follower.

This assumption leads into the conclusion the attempted murder was work of members of CHADEMA opposed to Lissu’s rise in the party. The weakness in this assumption is, like in the first assumption, the lack of efficacy in hurting Lissu in public, the argument being this one: why would  Lissu’s opponents in the party wish to conduct the ‘operation’ in public instead of conducting a secretive operation–even if they were so many of them.

Like it was the case in the first assumption, even if it turns true political adversaries in his party were involved, why would the assassination attempt  be conducted under that aura seeking massive publicity. This leaves us with one assumption–the third, last assumption.  It is last but it contains a lot of meaning.

In this final assumption, this assassination attempt was conducted by what expert call ‘rogue elements’.  These elements presented to us a lot of difficulties during the fourth phase government of President Jakaya Kikwete. Rogue elements are made up of genuine Government employees who are doing illegal activities. Who sends them to conduct the illegal activities? That is a different territory.

There is something known as “Deep State”.  Every nation carries its own definition of “Deep State”.  An easier definition in our country would be the involvement of powerful people in government and society—for example former senior Government officials, powerful businessmen and politicians from any side of the political sphere but mainly from the ruling party.

This final assumption translates the attempted assassination of Lissu as an easier way to tarnish the image of  the Tanzania Government and especially President Magufuli—a blame scenario which had unfortunately been created (maybe purposely) in the event that something happened to a politician from the opposition such as Lissu.

Whenever a President fails to control his dislike of the opposition, those feelings create loopholes for his enemies to take actions which can be blamed on the President. This is the reason the first assumption which asserts that the Government had a hand in the assassination attempt appears correct since the argument has “ready-made” reasons.

This final assumption gets credence from a truth that President Magufuli has made many enemies  among the powerful, some of them being dangerous creatures. There are people who had been used to living like kings who have now been forced to live normal lives. If these people get access to an opening to hurt President Magufuli they would do so.

But, since it is currently  ‘very difficult’ (at least for the moment) to succeed in any attempt to hurt this leader, an easier path would be to damage his character—which, fortunately for his adversaries, is not very good.

There have been various complaints from the opposition accusing Magufuli of  being a dictator. And if you follow closely our current political dispensation, it not secret there are elements of dictatorship. From this perspective it can be seen how President Magufuli’s adversaries could plot to use this loophole to create  the picture “the dictator’s government kills its major enemy”.

This is what brings us back to the question of publicity; that the assassination attempt should be reverbareted loudly in Tanzania and outside the country. That reverberation is intentional  to paint the picture “President Magufuli is a dictator; and dictators torture people in the opposition and when necessary they kill them.”

Therefore, if there is a lesson for President Magufuli to learn from this assassination attempt against Tundu Lissu, that lessons should be to avoid the adversarial stance against the opposition in Tanzania—particularly CHADEMA.  The President knows very well there are people out there ready to do anything to get rid of him; but since normal ways to achieve this intention are not easy for now,  the easier path can be to  “use any means necessary”, come what may.

And this third assumption brings meaning  that links the assassination attempt to the recent burning of IMMA Advocates offices. Like the Lissu assassination attempt, the burning of the advocates offices was implemented to attract publicity; it seemed planned to make the public  say “you see where this dictator is leading to? Now he is even burning  offices of his adversaries”.

I conclude this analysis by explaining two-three issues. First, the purpose of this short analysis is not intended to interfere with the on-going investigation on the attempted assassination of Lissu.  I have presented this analysis as a person with knowledge of intelligence matters the politics in Tanzania, which includes matters that take place  “behind the curtain.”

Secondly, the purpose of this analysis  is not geared toward persuading anyone to change their  view on who was involved in the assassination attempt.

Finally, as I said earlier, the profession of Intelligence is not an exact science by 100%.  Therefore, although this analysis is very close to the true situation, it is not possible to reach the  true situation by 100%. Let me conclude by wishing Mr. Lissu good health while believing  relevant authorities will hunt culprits of the assassination attempt not only for the purpose of dislodging the government from blame, but also in order to ensure justice is done for Lissu.