I won't return to 'persecution paradise', says fleeing Tanzania ex-MP

Monday November 09 2020
Godbless Lema.

Godbless Lema, a former Tanzanian MP, at Kajiado Police Station in Kenya on November 9, 2020. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

Former MP for Tanzania’s Arusha Urban Constituency, Godbless Lema, who fled to Kenya over what he termed threats to his life, says he does not want to go back to his motherland.

He referred to Tanzania as a "persecution paradise".

The MP spent Sunday night at Kajiado Police Station in Kajiado County, about 80 kilometres south of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, after he was intercepted by Kenyan authorities in Ilbisil along Namanga road.

Mr Lema, his wife, two sons and a daughter crossed into Kenya through the porous Namanga entry point.

He had left his home incognito in a taxi and alighted at the Namanga border.

Speaking to the Nation from his confinement in a small room away from the common cell at the Kajiado Police Station, the politician said he came to Kenya to seek political asylum.


Dressed in a pink coat, white shirt, dark trousers, pink hat and a black pair of shoes, Mr Lema looked forlorn and in deep thought. His teary eyes told of a person who was fighting invisible enemies.

He was not handcuffed.


Sitting restlessly on a wooden chair, he said his life is in danger back home in Tanzania.

The opposition politician said he had already reached out to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) seeking asylum.

"I was being trailed by unmarked cars back in Arusha. My family and I also received a death threat. I decided not to ignore and left with my family. Tanzania remains a persecution ground for opposition leaders," Mr Lema said.

He said he is not a criminal evading justice but a leader staring at possible assassination due to his political stance.

His lawyer, George Luchiri Wajackoyah, said deporting the former MP to Tanzania would amount to a violation of human rights.

The lawyer, who had kept Mr Lema company the whole night, said security agencies were trailing the politician with the help of their Kenyan counterparts seeking to deport him to Tanzania.

"We are aware that some powerful individuals in Tanzania are pushing for the deportation of my client. I have already handed over his family to UNHCR," Mr Wajackoyah said.


He said his client had not recorded a police statement at Kajiado Police Station and insisted that he should be handed over to UNHCR.

"Kenya authorities must not return my client to Tanzania where opposition MPs are being persecuted. A person fleeing from persecution, according to Article 2 of the UNHCR Statute of 1951, does not need to present documents to any authority," the lawyer added.

Sources within police circles indicated that plans are underway to send Mr Lema back to Tanzania.

Senior police officers in Kajiado remained tight-lipped on the matter, avoiding contact with journalists.

Last week, opposition politicians in Tanzania were arrested over a planned protest.

They had called on supporters to demonstrate against the results of the October 28 General Election.