Tanzania Government to Vet Non-Citizens

Published: 2/Jun/2000
Source: The East African

Dar-es-Salaam (The East African, June 2, 2000) – The Tanzania government, wary of infiltration by foreigners of top strategic positions in the army, government and politics, has embarked on a discreet campaign to identify non-Tanzanians and weed them out.

Government sources in Dar es Salaam told The EastAfrican that the move was prompted by the impending general election, due in October. It is feared that some non-citizens are eyeing political positions through Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

A nomination to compete on a CCM ticket practically guarantees the contender victory and a ride to power in Tanzania.

The EastAfrican has further learnt that CCM initiated the move to identify and avoid non-citizens, because it was feared that they could pose a political risk after the election. The opposition could successfully contest their citizenship in court and reduce their numbers in the National Assembly.

Tanzania has many non-citizens who have permanently settled in the country without any legal documents. Some have lived in the country for the past half a century, having come from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Comoros and Yemen.

Last year, MPs protested against the government’s laxity in vetting people who seek high positions in the government, the army and internal security organs as well as elective positions.

Highly placed sources told The EastAfrican that a task force has been formed by the Immigration Department to review citizenship regulations.

But when the public relations officer of the department, Mr. Hubert Chilambo, was contacted for comment, he laughed off the issue.

Asked for comment last week, the Minister for State in the President’s Office in charge of Good Governance, Mr. Wilson Masilingi, denied knowledge of the citizenship committee.

“What I know is that we conduct continuous investigations over citizenship and that’s the job of the Immigration Department.”

However, Mr. Kilontsi Mpologomyi the Kasulu CCM MP, would neither admit nor deny his membership in the citizenship committee nor that of alleged chairman, former Director of Intelligence Dr Hassy Kitine.

He said, “I have never attended their meetings, nor do I know the terms of reference for the Committee.” Efforts to get comments from Mr. Kitine failed.

However, a government source said the committee’s terms of reference was to investigate non-citizens all over Tanzania, how they entered Tanzanian politics, and their impact on neighbouring countries. It is also to suggest ways to tighten immigration laws.

Last year, parliamentarians identified sources of major illegal immigration as being the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Rwanda. The “peaceful stay” of non-Tanzanians was attributed to Tanzanian authorities, who for the past three decades accepted anybody who professed a socialist orientation or financially supported the ruling party. They were regarded as “good citizens.”

The source added that Tanzania’s laxity in monitoring has led neighbouring countries to become suspicious of these people once they go back to their countries. The international community sees Tanzania as hosting trouble makers from other countries, especially if those countries are in turmoil.

The source said some of infiltrators had become Tanzanian spokesmen, and were heavily involved in running NGOs, the press and other sensitive areas where it was difficult to detect them.

An immigration official told The EastAfrican that many foreigners obtain their citizenship through marriage to local women. Although that does not legally give them automatic citizenship, it enables them to obtain it faster on humanitarian grounds.

A number of suspected foreigners have held important ministerial and military positions too. Others have had to fight for their citizenship in court. Mr. Abdulrahaman Kinana, who served as Minister of Defence under President Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1985-1995) had a rough time justifying his citizenship as his father’s immigration file “got lost”. His father is said to be a Somali from Mogadishu. He has since quit elective politics.

Mr. Iddi Simba, the Minister for Industries and Commerce, successfully argued in court to retain his citizenship.

A former Tanzania ambassador to Germany and Japan, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hassan Ahmed Diria (MP – CCM Raha Leo), encountered a citizenship snag while seeking nomination to run for Zanzibar presidency in this year’s election.

His opponents have shouted “foreigner” claiming he was of Somali parentage.

Mr. Arcado Ntagazwa (MP- CCM Muhambwe), who once held ministerial position in Lands and Urban Development, and Natural Resources and Tourism, too had to fight a bitter battle to retain his Tanzania citizenship.

Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Nationality of Politicians
Regions: Tanzania
Year: 2000