A mother, wife and lawyer had her life come to a standstill the day her husband, a known political figure, was brutally shot by unkwon assailants in the country’s capital
“Hon Tundu Lissu has been shot,” is the message Advocate Alicia Magabe, Tundu Lissu’s wife remembers reading the day her husband, an outspoken political leader and chief whip of the official opposition camp in parliament (Chadema) was brutally shot outside his home in Dodoma.
Magabe and Lissu have known each other since they were law students at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1991. “We started as friends, as classmates,” Magabe says. After graduating, Lissu continued with further studies while Alicia went abroad. The two stayed in touch and later in 1997 they got married.
Magabe works as an advocate and is a partner at a law firm in Dar es Salaam. The attack on her husband’s life rendered her incapable of continuing with work since she had to be by his side while he recovers. “My colleagues help me with my work since I’m currently taking care of my husband,” she says.
Magabe has shifted her entire life to Nairobi. This was inevitable due to the treatment requirements. She wakes up early in the morning at her adopted place of residence and heads to the hospital to be by her husband’s side, she leaves the hospital at night, and this is a daily routine.
Leaving her job behind is one thing, but she had to leave her children behind too. They are being taken care of by family members, but they miss that motherly presence. It is a sacrifice that Magabe had to make. She and her husband had to leave their two children, twins named Augustine and Edward aged 15 back in Tanzania when they travelled to Kenya.
For the first time ever the embattled parents missed their children’s birthday that’s on the 25 of September due to medical treatment in a foreign land.
On 16 October Magabe travelled back to Dar es Salaam to bring her children with her back to Nairobi so they could see their father. It was the first time since the incident that they got to see their Dad.
For the first time in a while the two children got to be in the presence of their mum and Dad at the same time. It has certainly been tough on the family, having to deal with the reality that an attempt on the life of one of their own was made. “I’m worried about the safety of my family,” Magabe says. This incident has laid bare the fact that our safety is not assured.
The day of the incident
It was a day like any other as Magabe went about her business in Dar es Salaam, while her husband did his political duties in the country’s capital. Little did she know that later on that day she was going to receive the shock of her life.
She had just left Kerege in Bagamoyo and decided to head to Bunju, where her longtime friend Gloria, who works as a primary school teacher, lived.
The two friends met over at Gloria’s place at around 12:30 noon they had lunch, and out of fatigue, Alicia went on to take a quick nap on the couch before heading to her place in Tegeta, a house she shares with her husband and their two children.
After about 25 minutes, Alicia was awoken by Gloria, advising her that if she sleeps a lot during the day, she will lack sleep later at night. “After waking up I decided to check my phones for any important messages,” she recalls, continuing, “I checked my first phone and saw a message from Lillian Masiaga, a member of Chadema and a distant relative. The message read “Hello sister, I hope all is well, there’s unconfirmed news that’s circulating, if it’s indeed true, I send my condolences.” Magabe was taken aback by the message. First thing that came to her mind was that her husband was involved in an accident.
Magabe asked her friend Gloria to call Lillian because she didn’t know if she could bear to hear the news herself. Gloria then asked to read the message first before making the phone call, hoping that Magabe had misinterpreted the message.
After handing over the phone, Magabe decided to check WhatsApp messages on her other phone while Gloria confirmed the news. Being a member of different groups affiliated to Chadema on WhatsApp, Magabe logged into one of them to see if there’s any news. “As I scrolled through the messages, I came across a message saying ‘Hon. Tundu Lissu has been shot’ I instantly screamed,” she recalls. Gloria and other people (members of Gloria’s family) who were in the house dashed to the living room upon hearing the screams.
After knowing the reason for the frenzy, a social media crosscheck was conducted to see whether there was similar news anywhere else. Unfortunately the news had gone viral on all online media platforms. “I started asking myself; if my husband has been shot, is he still alive, how is he doing?” Magabe, in complete shock, wondered. “These are the thoughts that ran through my mind; I started thinking of what immediate action to take.”
After a while Magabe asked to go home, she knew a home environment would calm her down and she would be able to decide whether to immediately fly to Dodoma or take other measures.
Calls and messages started coming in uncontrollably on both her phones. Considering her state of mind at that time, the distraught wife and mother couldn’t respond to any inquiries so she asked her friend to take charge of her phones. The two of them left for Magabe’s residence.
Magabe, flustered and exceedingly worried was still in disbelief over everything that was unfolding. In order not to draw attention to herself, she avoided large crowds, even opting to use an ATM other than going inside a bank to make a withdrawal on her way home.
As she and Gloria approached her neighbourhood street, Magabe instantly noticed a crowd of people looking at her vehicle. “Our neighbours and some street vendors were outside my house as I entered the driveway.
They wore dejected expressions which were indicative of the current nightmare,” Magabe speaks. The gate to her house was left open welcoming those who had come to show their support.
Magabe then got in contact with people in Dodoma to get further information about the current state of her husband. “I spoke to people who were at the hospital, they informed me that my husband is undergoing emergency treatment but is alive. They assured me that he is alive,” she speaks. She then got a phone call from Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe who instructed her on what to do next.
Magabe was required to travel to Dodoma that same day. She got into the car with Tundu Lissu’s brother and Gloria. While on the way to the airport, they got a call, which required them to change means of transportation. “We had to hop on motorcycles (bodaboda) to the airport in order to beat the late evening traffic,” she narrates. “It was the first time I rode a bodaboda in Dar es Salaam,” she reveals. Throughout the hectic journey to the airport, Magabe prayed to God for a safe arrival.
The agitated wife got a chance to see her husband for the first time after the attempted assassination when she arrived at the hospital in Dodoma.
“I looked at him in his unconscious state and could clearly see that he was badly hurt,” she recalls with sadness.
Treatment in Nairobi
A decision was made for Lissu to be taken to Nairobi Hospital for treatment. Magabe had to accompany her husband to Nairobi.
She wanted to be by his side. She stands as the pillar of strength for her family.
Doctors in Nairobi were equally shocked by Lissu’s case. The team of doctors, which comprised of over 12 highly skilled specialists, said that for a victim who’s been hit 16 times by bullets, it is miraculous that all the bullets missed major organs.
“Doctors said that my husband needed a lot of blood transfusion due to the profuse amount of blood he lost after the attack,” she says, and went on to thank everyone who volunteered to donate blood at Nairobi hospital.
Recovery is imminent for Lissu. What is left now is the next phase of treatment, which involves physical therapy to reinstate his mobility.
Lissu has been at the hospital for 3 months now, and every single day his devoted wife has been there to support him. She leaves her new residence in Nairobi around 8-9am to head to the hospital, and departs at night. She is not allowed to sleep at the hospital.
Since the attack, no arrest has been made in connection to the case. Magabe wants justice to be done.
“I want to know who ordered the hit on my husband, I want to know who tried to kill my husband and I want to know why they did it,” she demands.
Magabe has since forgiven the assailants, but she wants justice to be done.
“My forgiveness shouldn’t be misconstrued; I want to see justice get served. Those who did the atrocious act should be dealt with legally,” she notes.