Source: The New Times (Kigali)
By Eric Kabeera
The East African Community was revived in November 1999 when the treaty for its re-establishment was signed, and in 2009 Rwanda and Burundi joined the three founding members Uganda Tanzania and Kenya to expand to five countries in the bloc. The main purpose for reviving and expanding the community was to strengthen the political, social and economic cooperation among partner states as well as boosting intra-trade by eliminating trade barriers that impede the free movement of goods and services.
The heads of state went ahead to sign different protocols including the common market protocol that I would want to make a basis for my argument to air out my regional concerns, especially in the prevailing situation, where thousands of Rwandans found themselves on the receiving end of kicks and all kinds of assault at the hands of their neighbours in the western part of Tanzania, some having lived there since the 1950s.
Article 13 of the said protocol providing for the rights of establishment and residence, clause one reads “The partner states hereby guarantee the right of establishment of nationals of the partner states within their territories.”
Clause (2) continues to read; “For the purpose of paragraph 1 the
partner states shall ensure non discrimination of the nationals of the other partner states based on their nationalities,” I don’t think it requires an international legal pundit to interpret these two clauses.
That the author of such act is Tanzania, one of the founders of the community, which even hosts the three main organs of the bloc namely the Secretariat, the legislative assembly (EALA) and the court of justice, was major test for the grouping.
I visited Rusumo border in Eastern Province where the expelled Rwandans were being received and I found the whole situation disgusting, to say the least.
The tales of losses ranged from property to children, and the victims included very old people, who have for over 60 years known Tanzania as their home. I will not go into individual stories but to put you in a clear picture of the situation, by Monday, the number of victims had hit 6,000.
“Their residence permits expired and they have no right to remain in Tanzania. Whether you have been around for 70 years, whether you are married (to a Tanzanian) or not, our laws are clear, it’s not about how much time you have lived in Tanzania or who you are married to,” these are the words of Emmanuel Maherane, Tanzanian Immigration Officer whom I asked about the plight of the poor fellows.
Of much concern to me, is that since the evictions started on August 6, none of EAC organs or even individual officials has to my knowledge come up to condemn the act, and this worries me more about the plight of these people. However, the government of Rwanda has not spared any effort to see to it that they get all the required immediate assistance.
One of the functions of the EAC secretariat as stipulated in the treaty establishing the bloc, is “undertaking either on its own initiative or otherwise of such investigations, collections of information, or verification of matters relating to any matter affecting the community that appears to it to merit examination.”
We have not heard of any kind of investigation and this brings me to ask; doesn’t banishing people in such a way affect the community?
At least we would have expected to see the community’s secretariat, the EALA or any other organ commenting or showing their stand on the matter and helping the evictees to get back their lost properties.
However it’s not too late as the EALA resumes its sessions in Arusha this week I hope the members will show the integration spirit and discuss or raise the issue.