Opposition lawmakers in Tanzania boycotted swearing in of a ruling party lawmaker who replaced a critic of the president following his expulsion from parliament.
Tundu Lissu, who survived an assassination attempt in September 2017 when he was shot 16 times by unknown gunmen, was dismissed from parliament in June over absenteeism and ethical issues.
Parliamentary chief whip of the main opposition party CHADEMA, Lissu was initially treated for his wounds in Kenya but has been recuperating in Belgium.
His expulsion saw in a by-election for his parliamentary seat, won last month by a ruling CCM party candidate who ran unopposed.
A vocal opponent of President John Magufuli, Lissu was arrested on several occasions and charged with incitement before the attack in 2017.
A former British colony of 57 million people, Tanzania is regarded as one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
Critics accuse Magufuli’s government of cracking down on dissent. His administration suspended newspapers, arrested opposition leaders and restricted political rallies. Government rejects the criticism.
Lissu’s expulsion could further weaken the opposition voice in parliament, where the ruling party enjoys a commanding majority of 75%, analysts say.
“How could we be part of the oath while Lissu was unfairly expelled from parliament? Everybody knows he is still receiving medical treatment,” opposition MP Esther Bulaya, who joined other CHADEMA lawmakers to boycott the swearing-in ceremony, told Reuters.
“It’s cruel. This raises questions if authorities are really interested in a multi-party democracy in our country,” Bulaya said by phone from Dodoma where the national assembly meets.
National Assembly speaker Job Ndugai defended the decision to remove Lissu, saying he breached parliamentary procedures.
Lissu filed a case in Dar es Salaam to challenge his expulsion.
His lawyers lost a bid for a court injunction to block the swearing and the court is expected to rule next week over the legality of his expulsion.
Magufuli condemned Lissu’s attempted assassination in 2017 and called for a swift investigation. No suspects have yet been arrested. Local media reported Lissu vowed to return to Tanzania and resume political activities.