I personally believe any country has the right to decide which foreigner it will allow to enter or remain on its territory. But there are internationally agreed norms and procedures to ensure humane treatment of those a government decides it wants to deport, especially where long-term residents are concerned, as their expulsion is almost certain to lead to their uprooting, the tearing apart of families and untold suffering.
The physical expulsion of Rwandans should have gone through a legal process, unless Tanzania has now become a lawless state where people’s rights can be withdrawn by a presidential diktat, even in the face of international law.
In this particular episode, we hear of long-term residents, some having lived in Tanzania from as way back as the 1950s -- even before Tanzania existed as an independent sovereign state, and who had acquired land and established families, often with Tanzanian spouses-being deported unceremoniously even as their property is expropriated or acquired at arbitrarily low give-away prices, and who moreover are torn apart from their families without the authorities giving any consideration whatsoever to the human impact on both the deportees and those they are forced to leave behind.
Yet many others have been forced to flee under threat of physical violence from local authorities and the security forces, leaving behind family members, their land and livestock without any compensation whatsoever. This is both illegal under various international instruments to which Tanzania is a signatory. It is also morally reprehensible.
When such people must be deported, the authorities have to go through a legal process; it cannot be carried out summarily without a legal process and ensuring that their rights to property legally acquired over time are respected.
Calling a human being “illegal” has usually been the first step in the process of dehumanisation; and we know where that invariably leads: genocide and other atrocities.
In the meantime, we Rwandans need to tamper down on all anti-Tanzanian invective. Let us concentrate instead on welcoming our people back home and resettling them as we know how and as we have done in the past with millions of returnees from different case-loads of refugees and emigrants who returned to their homeland voluntarily or otherwise after 1994.
The relevant authorities can then engage Dar es Salaam to seek appropriate compensation for those who have been summarily deported without being allowed to dispose of their property or to leave with it.
We owe it to ourselves to ensure that even in such circumstances our people see that Rwanda does everything in its power to protect its people’s rights no matter where they may be.
Mwene Kalinda, Kigali, Rwanda
Reaction to the story, “Tz evictions: 740 acres of land for livestock farmers”, (The New Times, August 12)