Tanzania opposition leader Godbless Lema was on Sunday arrested as he fled to Kenya as a crackdown in the neighbouring country intensifies following the swearing of President John Pombe Magufuli for a second term in office after a disputed poll late last month.
The immediate former Member of Parliament for Arusha Urban Constituency, who lost his seat after serving for two terms, was arrested at Ilbissil in Kajiado County after he and his family crossed over through the Namanga border.
The Chadema leader is said to have left his home in a taxi accompanied by his wife Neema Godbless, their three children and alighted at Namanga.
Lema told the Standard that his wife presented documents to immigration officers who refused to stamp them unless she was accompanied by him.
He told the officials that he was not accompanying his family to Kenya insisting that his wife was just going to look for an international school for the kids.
The officials then allowed the family to pass but Lema later managed to join them after slipping into his lawyer’s car.
The lawyer, George Luchiri Wajackoyah, was monitoring the situation from the safety of the Kenya side and drove the fugitive MP out of the border town as soon as he and his family entered his car.
However, they didn’t go far as the officials upon realizing that they had been outfoxed alerted Kenyan authorities who arrested them.
“The police pursued us and arrested intercept us at Ilbisil where they took us to the local police post. I did not want them to lock up Lema in Ilbisil, owing to its proximity to the Tanzanian border,” lawyer Wajackoyah said.
The lawyer claimed that he was pursuing asylum for the fugitive MP in Kenya.
“Things are very bleak in Tanzania. I am the lawyer acting for Chama Cha Maedendeo na Demokrasia. I knew Lema was coming and wanted to hand him over to the United Nations Human Rights Commission(UNHCR) when he crossed, ” he said.
The MP reiterated the remarks saying, “Right now, I am with my wife Neema, my 14-year-old son Allbless, Brilliance(daughter) my last born son Terrence. I do not know what tomorrow holds. I am now looking for asylum.”
The MP’s lawyer, who schooled with Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, said as soon as the US embassy opens today (Monday), he will present Lema’s case as he has been in communication with the political attaché, explaining that opposition leaders in Tanzania are going through a rough time with some including Lema being sought by police.
Magufuli was sworn in last Thursday and Lema was among opposition leaders who were arrested for organising protests in the country. They were later freed but continue to call for justice.
The October 28 poll was marred by claims of arrests, restricted access to polling stations, multiple voting, pre-ticking of ballots and widespread blocking of social media. Only two opposition lawmakers were elected with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party bagging all the other seats.
The opposition leaders have been calling for the disbandment of Tanzania’s electoral body, National Electoral Commission (NEC), to pave way for a fresh election.