A Tanzanian ex-MP has fled to Kenya with his family to escape what he terms as threats to his life, as opposition leader Tundu Lissu, who is seeking refuge in the German embassy, called for non-recognition of the country’s recent polls.
Godbless Lema, the former MP for Arusha Urban Constituency, fled by road with his wife and three children. He was received at the Namanga border by his lawyer, George Luchiri Wajackoyah, who said the politician will seek asylum in Kenya.
“I have handed him over to the Kenyan police for processing. He is ready to die in a Kenyan jail than by the Tanzanian police who are still pursuing him as we speak,” said prof Wajackoyah in an interview with the Nation, even as he expressed fears of a possible deportation of the politician.
Mr Lema was arrested by Tanzanian authorities together with other politicians in the aftermath of the October 28 elections, but was later released on a police bond without a charge.
President John Pombe Magufuli was re-elected and sworn in for a second term in the disputed poll, whose outcome the opposition has rejected. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has dismissed the claims of fraud.
Freeman Mbowe, chairman of Tanzania’s biggest opposition party, Chadema, was arrested alongside Mr Lema and former mayor of Ubungo Municipality, Boniface Jacob, in a crackdown intended to neuter demonstrations called to protest against alleged poll irregularities.
Lissu, the Chadema presidential candidate, was also arrested but later freed after interrogation by the police and is currently holed up in the Dar es Salaam German embassy.
“Tundu Lissu was shot in the past, we take no risks when it comes to his safety. We are currently in discussions with various governments to call for the non-recognition of the presidential election. We are investigating the wrongdoings of the CCM and compiling evidence to file a complaint to the ICC,” said Mr Lissu’s lawyer, Mr Robert Amsterdam, in a statement sent to the Nation.
“We are also working on sanctions to be imposed on targeted individuals. The search for justice concerning the state terror that has been unleashed continues, for Tundu Lissu, Chadema members and Tanzanian citizens.”
Mr Amsterdam is a partner at international law firm, Amsterdam & Partners LLC, which has offices in Washington DC and Istanbul.
Protection for Lema
Mr Lissu, 52, returned to Tanzania in July after three years in exile recovering from 16 bullet wounds sustained in what he says was a politically motivated assassination attempt.
The Tanzanian US embassy is said to be following closely the crackdown against opposition politicians. Prof Wajackoyah said the US embassy wants Mr Lema given protection by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
The two-term ex-MP was to spend the night in Kajiado police cells, prof Wajackoyah said. Many opposition candidates lost their seats amid claims of ballot box stuffing and denial of access for their party agents into polling stations.
Mr Mbowe lost his long-held seat at Hai in the Kilimanjaro region, one of several lost by the opposition. President Magufuli was declared to have won 84 percent of the vote, but the opposition demanded a re-run of the polls claiming widespread fraud.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) declared Mr Magufuli to have garnered 12.5 million votes against Mr Lissu’s 1.9 million. The Tanzanian opposition has faced years of attacks, arrests and a ban on political rallies by President Magufuli’s administration.
In the volatile Zanzibar island, opposition presidential candidate Seif Sharif Hamad was also arrested along with other leaders of the ACT-Wazalendo party after calling for protests against the election results.
There were claims of at least 10 deaths in the lead-up to the Zanzibar polls where the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi candidate Hussein Mwinyi was declared winner.