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- A former legislator from the main opposition Chadema , Lema fled Tanzania in November 2020, citing threats to his life following a disputed election
Dar es Salaam. Opposition politician Godbless Lema returned home from exile in Canada to a cheering crowd on Wednesday, March 1, in Arusha.
A former legislator from the main opposition Chadema , Lema fled Tanzania in November 2020, citing threats to his life following a disputed election.
His return comes a month after another opposition stalwart Tundu Lissu arrived back in his homeland after spending most of the past five years in exile following an assassination attempt.
Their return follows the lifting of a ban on political assembly by President Samia Suluhu Hassan in an overture to the opposition.
"Chairman of the party's northern region arrived this afternoon at the Kilimanjaro International Airport," Chadema wrote on Twitter.
Cheering supporters dressed in the party colours of white, red and blue thronged the airport, some 70 kilometres from the northern town of Arusha where the opposition was to hold a welcome rally.
They waved flags and placards reading "Welcome home son".
A fierce critic of the government, Lema served as member of parliament for 10 years and was one of many opposition MPs who lost their seats in key strongholds in the 2020 election.
Lema sought refuge in Kenya with his wife and children before being granted political asylum in Canada.
Political gatherings were outlawed under John Magufuli, who died just five months after winning his second term -- with 84 percent of the vote.
Hopes however dimmed further in July 2021 when Chadema party leader Freeman Mbowe was arrested on terrorism charges. He was released after seven months.
President Samia sat down face-to-face with Lissu in Brussels in early 2022, again buoying hopes that change could be on the horizon.