It is not in the nature of this column to lean towards matters political. But politics (the art of governance) affects life (socially and economically) sometimes even extremely as was the case with the recent expulsion of Banyarwanda from Tanzania.
A lot has been said about the same and, as such, we will strive to look at these matters from two perspectives: Tanzania’s interests and basic economics.
Tanzania’s interests: The borders of the United Republic of Tanzania, just as those of any other country must be recognised. The laws that govern what goes on within those borders must be obeyed. In the same spirit, the people found within those borders, while obeying those laws, must be protected by the self-same laws.
It is a fact that the borders of most African countries were arbitrarily drawn by colonialists. The Maasai community is, for example, in both Kenya and Tanzania.
The Rwandophones, Kinyarwanda speakers are perhaps the most adversely affected by these borders. Not all Banyarwanda are Rwandans. Some were made citizens of Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda by virtue of these colonial borders.
Listening to stories of some of these expelled parties leaves no doubt that they are actually Tanzanians who happen to have relatives across the border. Some of us who come from border communities can relate to this. More crucially one would expect extreme caution when dealing with such cases.
The Obama question: Some of the returnees are people who were born in Tanzania after their fathers moved to the then colonial Tanganyika in 1959 or before. Tanganyika got its independence in 1961 and so, technically, anybody who was there then should be allowed citizenship.
As for the ones who were born in Tanzania, let’s answer with a question: when President Kikwete recently received President Obama....was he receiving an American or a Kenyan? Obama’s Kenyan roots are no secret. Why do the rules change for these poor peasants?
Security threat? These are people who have spent all their lives in Tanzania. Were they a security threat? Almost all of them can only speak Kiswahili and other indigenous languages, how on earth were they a problem? Besides, their alleged home country is an East African Community member country.
What happened to the Common Market protocol, which was signed in Tanzania? What happened to the free movement of goods and services?
Economic reasons: Basic economics tell us that anyone within our borders or town will eat our food, sleep in our guest houses, ride in our vehicles, work for us they will be eating, earning, paying taxes to us. This was the case with regard to the Karagwe evictees in Tanzania.
Economically, we can use more of them. It cannot be in Tanzania’s interest to do away with such an economic plus. It never is, unless you believe in ‘beggar economics’ where self sustenance is a foreign word and thought. Idi Amin Dada proved this when Ugandan economy plummeted after he expelled Ugandan Asians
Progressiveness: While Tanzania kicked out these Banyarwandans, Rwanda moved fast to reassure Tanzanians within her borders. This was a diplomatic coup.
Besides, the volume of cross-border trade has been steadily increasing and Rwanda has been using port of Dar es Salaam, more and more. Why tinker with such good and easy business?
President Kikwete said he would like to improve relations with Rwanda. This is commendable but only through positive actions.
It is, therefore, difficult to believe that the expulsions are in Tanzania’s best interests at all.