AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has urged the Kenyan government not to deport Tanzanian opposition politician Godbless Lema and his family citing hostile political environment and persecution in his motherland.
The rights lobby told the Kenyan authorities to abide by the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which requires member states to provide unconditional asylum to refugees and political persecution victims.
“Kenya must not violate the internationally recognised principle of non-refoulment. The international principle is upheld by your own national laws. It 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,” said Irungu Houghton, the Executive Director of Amnesty International Kenya.
Irungu said that Mr Lema merits the protection as required by the refugee protection principles, given the recent crackdown on opposition politicians in the aftermath of the disputed general election.
He revealed that the protection clause envisages that such people ought to be granted unconditional protection whether their entry into the host country is illegal or legal. And, any attempt to return Mr Lema and his family members to Tanzania will only amount to human rights violation in itself.
“Transferring Godbless Lema back to Tanzania, a country where he risks facing serious human rights violations, would itself amount to human rights violations. The government of Kenya is obligated to protect and provide sanctuary to Lema and his family,” he said in the statement.
The 1951 Refugee Convention principle which is enforced by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reads: “…a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law.”
Should Mr. Lema and his family pen a letter to seek refuge in Kenya, Nairobi, being a signatory of the convention will be expected to work with the UNHCR to protect him and his family members.
The former Arusha Urban Constituency sneaked into the country via the Namanga Border post and was later arrested in Kajiado after Tanzanian immigration officers raised an alarm and coordinated with Kenyan counterparts. His exile comes a week after the Dodoma government commenced a crackdown on opposition politicians after the disputed poll, which saw President John Magufuli reelected.
“My wife went to the immigration department but they refused to stamp the documents insisting that she had to call me. When I went, I told them I did not have my passport and that I was not accompanying her and the children because she was just going to look for an international school,” Lema told Standard Digital on Sunday.
The Chadema party politician escaped the Tanzanian police net narrowly after he slipped into the Kenyan territory and entered his lawyer’s car. The lawyer, George Wajackoyah, drove him and the family to safety out of the Namanga township.
“Things are very bleak in Tanzania. I am the lawyer acting for Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema). I knew Lema was coming and wanted to hand him over to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) when he crossed,” he said.
He was later arrested at Ilbisil. His lawyer was to knock the doors of the US embassy to present his case and secure his protection. Chadema’s presidential candidate Tundu Lissu has not been spared either. He was arrested last week after he left the German Embassy, the local media reported.
Lissu, Lema and Chadema Party Charmain Freeman Mbowe had planned protests against the elections, which they termed as fraudulent.