Kenya must not deport fleeing opposition Tanzanian MP and his family

Following the arrest of Tanzanian opposition politician Godbless Lema in Kenya on 8 November as he fled Tanzania with his family, and faced with the risk of deportation back to Tanzania by Kenyan authorities, Amnesty International Kenya’s Executive Director, Irungu Houghton said:

Godbless Lema and his family must not be forcibly returned to political persecution and likely imprisonment.
Irungu Houghton, Amnesty International Kenya's Executive Director

“Kenya must not violate the internationally recognized principle of non-refoulement, anchored in Kenya’s own laws, which prohibits Kenya from turning away people at the border or returning them to a country where they would be at risk of persecution or danger. Godbless Lema and his family must not be forcibly returned to political persecution and likely imprisonment.”

Godbless Lema fled to Kenya through the Namanga Border Post with his wife and three children seeking asylum from the Kenyan government. The Tanzanian politician is in police custody in Kajiado, Kenya. His lawyer, Prof. George Wajackoyah has confirmed that he may be deported.

Kenya must not violate the internationally recognised principle of non-refoulement, anchored in Kenya’s own laws, which prohibits Kenya from turning away people at the border or returning them to a country where they would be at risk of persecution or danger.
Irungu Houghton, Amnesty International Kenya's Executive Director

“Returning Godbless Lema back to Tanzania, a country where he risks facing serious human rights violations, would itself amount to a human rights violation on the part of the Kenyan authorities. Kenya must protect and provide sanctuary to Hon Lema and his family,” said Irungu Houghton.

Kenya is a state party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and the 1969 Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (now the African Union), Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. This means Kenya is obliged to allow anyone seeking asylum into the country, whether their entry is by legal or illegal means.

Further, Godbless Lema has the right, under Kenyan law, to have his application heard and considered for refugee status. He also has the right to remain in Kenya until a final decision has been made on his case.

“Kenya should facilitate Godbless Lema and his family to get asylum to safeguard their human rights in line with their its obligations,” said Irungu Houghton.

Background

Godbless Lema, the immediate former Member of Parliament for Arusha Urban Constituency, was arrested and later released on police bond without charge by Tanzanian authorities after the 28 October elections in which President John Magufuli was re-elected in a landslide victory. Opposition parties including Chadema, ACT-Wazalendo and Civic United Front rejected the results and called for fresh elections. Since the election, opposition politicians and protesters have faced arbitrary arrests and violence.