Shock as Tanzania Acts Against ‘Aliens’

Published: 12/Fév/2001
Source: The East African

THE GOVERNMENT crackdown on « aliens » signalled by the declaration of four prominent personalities in Tanzanian politics as « non-citizens » has sent shock waves through the country’s border regions, where thousands of people of foreign origin could face deportation.

Estimates put the number of « aliens » at well over 30,000, most of whom live in Kagera, Kigoma and Rukwa in western Tanzania and Ruvuma and Mtwara in the south, as well as in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Many have intermarried with Tanzanians, and are accepted as citizens by local people.

Refugees have been migrating into Tanzania almost continuously since the first wave that fled ethnic killing in the Central African states of Burundi and Rwanda some 50 years ago. Some of them lives in refugee camps but others intermingled with Tanzanians in villages along the borders.

Asked about the crackdown, the spokesman of the Directorate if Immigration, Mr Herbert Chilambo, told The EastAfrican: « The government is not ready to comment on the issue at the moment. » However, a senior government source in Dar es Salaam confirmed, « This is just the beginning. The crackdown will continue to net all non-citizens and remove those found to be in sensitive civil service positions. We have names that we are following up on, » he added without revealing any.

Meanwhile, Rwandan officials interviewed in Kigali said that whatever steps Tanzania took against people of Rwandan origin, « our policy is to welcome home all Rwandans in the diaspora. » Rwanda is one the major sources of « aliens »: in Tanzania. Some estimates put the number of Rwandans living in the border regions at over 10,000.

The secretary general (permanent secretary) of the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Seth Kamanzi, a former Tanzanian citizen, told The EastAfrican that his government had not been formally informed on the citizenship issue by Tanzania, « but the Rwandan policy is to welcome home all bona fide Rwandans from all over the world. »

Mr Kamanzi, who once worked as a lecturer at the Institute of Finance Management in Dar, said he had read the « shocking story » of the cancellations of the citizenship of four prominent people, two of whom are Rwandans by birth, in the Tanzanian newspapers. There had been no formal communication to Kigali, he said. « I know some of those involved to be people of high standing, people who have served Tanzania for many years owing to its strong Pan-Africanist outlook, » he added.

The government says it has established that a former Tanzania High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Timothy Bandora, and a former District Commissioner and member of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) National Executive Committee, Mr Jenerali Ulimwengu, are Rwandans.

Of the other two, Kagera regional CCM chairman Mr Anatoli Amani is said to be Ugandan and Ms Maudline Castiko, CCM Zanzibar publicity secretary and a NEC member, is apparently a Zambian. All four have been instructed to formally apply for Tanzanian citizenship. Mr Amani has reportedly contested the government order.

Many former Tanzanian citizens like Mr Kamanzi are now prominent persons in Kigali. They include, among others, Dr L. W. Rutayisire, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Rwanda, who lectured at Dar es Salaam University and served on the board of directors of the Bank of Tanzania. Some of Mr Kamanzi’s relatives are still in Tanzania, including his brother, who is employed by the Bank of Tanzania.

The Tanzania Citizenship Act 1995 prohibits dual citizenship, but many Tanzanians are said to hold dual citizenship. Most are Tanzanian/ Rwandans, Tanzanian/ Canadians, and Tanzanian/ British. Observers in Dar es Salaam were last week asking why the government waited so long to eject non-citizens, and how they could rise to sensitive positions in government and ruling party.

With the exception of Rukwa region on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, where it is estimated that some 4,000 Congolese alongside several thousand Rwandese refugees, there are no exact counts for the other border regions outside refugee camps. Large numbers of foreigners are thought to be living in Kigoma and Kagera region in villages and towns on the borders of Burundi and Rwanda. Thousands of Mozambicans who fled the fighting between Frelimo and Portugal in the freedom struggle from the early 1970s live in the southern Tanzania regions of Mtwara and Ruvuma.

Dar es Salaam has been host to foreigners from as far away as Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan, while Zanzibar has historically hosted, unquestioned, people originating in the Comoros islands, known locally as Wangazija. Government officials say most such « aliens » did not bother to formalise their citizenship even when the opportunity arose at independence in 1961, and in the 1990s. The Citizenship Act 1995 also provides for immigrants to regularise their citizenship, but is ignored by most. The descendants of these immigrants attended schools and colleges during Mwalimu Nyerere’s era, went to the National Services – a paramilitary training institution for Tanzanian youths – and were appointed to positions in the army and the civil service, with some being appointed ministers and joining the diplomatic service.

A number of prominent figures in the country have in the past had their citizenship questioned with some of them forced to justify it in courts of law. This has invariably occurred when vying for political office. These include the current Minister for Industries and Trade, Mr Idi Simba and the former Minister for Lands, Mr Arcado Ntagazwa, now MP for Muhambwe in Kigoma region. The current Minister of Education, Mr Joseph Mungai, is of Kenyan origin.

Themes: Acquisition de la nationalité, Nationalité des politiciens
Regions: Tanzanie
Year: 2001