Human rights group Amnesty International is calling on the Kenyan government not to deport a Tanzanian opposition politician who fled his country for fear of persecution. Godbless Lema, a former lawmaker in Tanzania’s Chadema party, left for Kenya after being briefly detained following his loss in controversial October elections.
It has been less than a week since Tanzanian President John Magufuli was sworn in for a second term in office, and opposition politicians are leaving the country in fear.
On Sunday, Kenyan authorities arrested Tanzanian opposition lawmaker and former member of parliament Godbless Lema as he crossed into Kenya with his wife and three children.
Demas Kiprono, a program manager with Amnesty International Kenya, says Nairobi should grant asylum to the politician.
“We spoke to his lawyer; his lawyer confirmed that he is trying to seek asylum because he doesn’t feel safe back in Tanzania. This is coupled with the fact that he was arrested and released soon after the election last week. ... We must process him through the normal channels, getting in touch with the refugee bureau, so that they can assess his refugee status,” he said.
A call for Lema to be granted asylum also came from Salum Mwalimu. He ran on the opposition ticket with Tundu Lissu, the man who unsuccessfully challenged Magufuli for the presidency.
“I think it’s good to provide any support just to protect his life rather than taking it as normal diplomacy or normal situation and deport him to Tanzania, because it will be very unfair if Lema gets back to Tanzania, and he finds his life in danger, or anything bad happens to him,” he said.
Lissu, who alleged fraud in the reelection of Magufuli, has sought asylum in the German Embassy in Tanzania.
Amnesty has accused the Tanzanian government of widespread abuses during the campaign. The rights group alleges the vote was rigged in favor of the CCM party, which has ruled since independence nearly 60 years ago.
Electoral officials say Magufuli won 84 percent of the vote. He has called for national unity, pledging to work for all Tanzanians.
An observer from the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa said it noted oppression, and the opposition had been targeted in a way that challenges the fairness of the vote.
Mwalimu, meanwhile, says it’s not in Lema’s character to leave the country unless the threats he received are serious.
“I don’t think Lema just decided to take that decision. He is a senior politician, he is well experienced, and he has gone through tough moments. So, until he reached that decision, there must be something very serious which he knows by himself. If that’s the case, anything can happen to him,” he said.
Tanzanian media report another opposition MP and former presidential candidate, Lazaro Nyalundu, has been barred from leaving the country for failing to produce travel documents.