Ex-Tanzanian MP who fled to Kenya over Magufuli’s ‘persecution’ granted political asylum in Canada

Godbless Lema
Godbless Lema with his family leaving Kenya for Canada. [Photo: Star]

Former Tanzanian MP for Arusha constituency Godbless Lema who has been living in Kenya for the past month after escaping political persecution has been granted political asylum in Canada.

Lema together with his family fled to Kenya via taxi in November but were intercepted at the Namanga border where he was detained before being taken to Kajiado for questioning.

He was later released after explaining that he had received death threats on his life as soon as Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli was re-elected in what Lema and his party – Chadema – cited as ‘sham elections’.

Lema left Kenya together with his wife and children for Canada on Wednesday to start a new life. He was vying for a third term but did not manage to retain the seat.

Following his arrest in Kenya, international lobby groups led by Amnesty International asked the Kenyan government not to turn him away and grant him political asylum.

Amnesty International cited that sending him back to Tanzania would make him more vulnerable to persecution which had been witnessed on other Chadema politicians, most of whom have fled Tanzania.

“Kenya must not violate the internationally recognised principle of non-refoulment,” Amnesty International Kenya Director Irungu Houghton said at the time.

His lawyer Prof George Wajackoyah said that Lema would rather be in a Kenyan police cell other than in Tanzania.

“He is ready to die in a Kenyan jail than by the Tanzanian police who are still pursuing him as we speak,” he told the press when Lema was detained at Ilbisil in Kajiado.

Lema joins his party leader, Tundu Lissu, the Chadema party boss and Magufuli’s rival who fled to Germany a few weeks ago.

Lissu was escorted to the airport by among others, foreign envoys in Tanzania for “security reasons”.

Tanzania held its polls in October and Magufuli was later announced the winner, much to the Lissu’s opposition who claimed that there were massive electoral malpractices.