Tanzanian politician Godbless Lema, family arrested fleeing to Kenya

Tanzanian politician Godbless Lema, family arrested fleeing to Kenya

Tanzanian politician Godbless Lema and his family were arrested over the weekend while fleeing to Kenya.

The former lawmaker who lost in the recently held elections after having served for two terms in Parliament was arrested in Kajiado.

He was in the company of his wife Neema Godbless and their three children.

His lawyer George Luchiri Wajackoyah said they were headed to the UNHCR offices when Kenyan police intercepted them.

“Nimepigiwa simu na mheshimiwa Godbless maanake mimi ni wakili wa chama cha Chadema, wakili wake, wakili wa Mbowe na wakili wa Tundu Lissu. Alinipigia simu akaniambia Prof, njoo Namanga nataka kukuona. Nimemkuta na mama na watoto watatu. Ameniambia anakambia Tanzania kutokana na hali ya siasa ilivyo. Kwamba amechoka kushikwa na heri auwawe akiwa Kenya kuliko akiwa Tanzania,” Wajackoyah told VOA Swahili.

Reports indicate that Tanzanian immigration officials had tried to block and his family at the the Namanga border.

However, the former lawmaker indicated that they were headed to Kenya in search of an international school for the children.

It is then that he was allowed to cross the border into Kenya.

He is said to have entered his lawyer’s car with his family and immigration officials later realised they had been hoodwinked.

They called their counterparts in Kenya who led the hunt for Lema.

“Tumevamiwa na maaskari karibu 20, tukashikwa na kupelekwa wote kwenye kituo cha polisi cha Ilbisil. Nimewaambia polisi kwamba Godbless na familia yake ni wahamiaji wanatafuta hifadhi,” the lawyer said.

The arrest comes barely a week after Tanzanian President John Magufuli was sworn for his final five-year term.

He had promised to work with his rivals even though opposition leaders were briefly arrested after calling for demonstrations to demand a re-run of the election, saying it was riddled with fraud.

On November 2, Tanzanian police arrested Lema, Freeman Mbowe, Isaya Mwita (former mayor of Dar es Salaam), and Boniface Jacob (former mayor of Ubungo municipality).

They called for protests against the outcome, which returned President Magufuli to office with 84% of the vote.

Critics have accused the Magufuli government of intolerance and authoritarianism, including a crackdown on critical voices, closure of some media outlets and preventing opposition rallies.

The United States has said it was concerned about reports showing “systematic interference in the democratic process”, while Britain said it was “troubled by the reports of violence and heavy-handed policing in the elections”.

The government denies that it stifles dissent.

Report from VOA and Reuters