Have regional MPs fallen short on TZ evictees?

Published: 4/Aug/2014
Source: The New Times (Kigali)

By: Eric Kabeera

Almost 12 months since the publication of a report directing Tanzania’s Government to compensate Rwandans who were evicted from that country in August 2013, nothing has been done.

The report compiled by top local government officials in the country, EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of political federation, Charles Njoroge, EALA member Zein Abubakar and other officials from the Arusha-based Secretariat, was meant to inform the basis of a debate at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on compensation of the evictees.

However the report has been gathering dust somewhere as evictees struggle to cope with the confiscation of their property, including livestock.

Richard Owora, the Head of Communication department at the Secretariat, said he had no knowledge of such a report while Bob Odiko, the Public Relations Officer for the regional Parliament failed to get back to us as promised by press time.

But the report, seen by this newspaper, recommended that the Tanzanian government compensates losses made during the forceful eviction of Rwandans.

It had directed the Speaker of EALA to establish a team of lawmakers on the Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution Committee, to investigate the matter in detail and advice on further action. No team has been set up to date.

The report particularly requested the EAC Secretary General, through the Council of Ministers, to direct Tanzania to compensate those whose property was illegally confiscated.

One MP from the regional Assembly, who preferred anonymity, said the report had never been debated because some members from Tanzania were opposed to it.

“The chairman of the committee on regional affairs and conflict resolution requested to conduct his own report and inform the Assembly but the Speaker objected to it. Other members, especially those from Tanzania, were on the defensive and rejected it, I think it’s the reason nothing has been done yet,” the lawmaker said.

About 14,253 people were forcefully expelled from Tanzania in August last year.

The evictees, some who had settled in Akagera region before the 1950s, were left with bare hands, some brutally evicted.

Some 8,361 evictees have since been reunited with their families or resettled in various parts of the country with the government constructing houses for them.

The expulsions followed an ultimatum by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete during a visit to Kagera Region, where he ordered all non-Tanzanians to have vacated the country within two weeks.

After the time elapsed, an operation codenamed “Operation Kimbunga” composed of Tanzanian police force, the department of immigration, and intelligence services began to expel all they deemed non nationals.

Abdul Karim Harerimana, a Rwandan member of EALA who sits on the Committee of Conflict and Resolution, said they would continue to demand for the report to be presented.

“The Secretariat has not presented the report officially but our stand remains the same; we still want to push for its release.  The victims should be compensated and such shouldn’t happen again in the region,” he said.

He recalled that the eviction was conducted in a brutal manner that was against regional integration spirit.

“Families were separated, there was physical torture, others were robbed of their properties, what we need is for people to be treated as human beings,” he said.

Jeanette Mukarugwiza, one of the evictees, said last week that the losses they suffered were far reaching.

“We had cattle, houses and other properties, I cannot list all of them, but they were all robbed and houses were destroyed. I know I cannot go back but compensation is in order,”   the 60-year old mother resettled in Kayonza District said.

The mother of four was evicted from Karagwe, one of the regions where many evictees lived.

Read at New Times.

Themes: Mass Expulsions
Regions: Tanzania
Year: 2014