In an exercise to kick out so-called illegal immigrants, Tanzanian authorities may be left in a dilemma after it turned out their citizens were driven out of their own country.
Rwanda, one of the host countries of the evictees, now has to deal with Tanzanians who have refused to go through the registration process, protesting the expulsion from their motherland.
Since the evictions begun last month, more than 7,000 have crossed into Rwanda. The eviction process has left broken families, property has been lost and homes burned down. Others still bear wounds from alleged harassment by Tanzanian security operatives who are enforcing the expulsion exercise.
“This is unacceptable, the fact that I have looks similar to those of Rwandans doesn’t make me Rwandan. I was expelled because of my physical appearance. I can’t allow this,” said one of the victims only identified as Rashid.
Most of the evictees were from the districts of Bukoba, Muleba, Karagwe, Biharamulo and Ngara in the Akagera region.
According to Rashid, when the security operatives came searching, they rounded up anyone they judged to be “Rwandan looking,” some of the features he described include being light-skinned or tall.
Rashid had never set foot in Rwanda before and speaks no Kinyarwanda. He speaks only Kiswahili, Tanzania’s national language. He has held leadership positions in his community and his identification documents include membership to the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
He is just one of the close to 100 who, On Monday said they were determined to prove they are Tanzanians and had been wrongfully expelled.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs yesterday confirmed the reports of wrongful eviction
“Last week, we received an sms (tsxt message) from Tanzania indicating that they are going to forcefully send Rwandans back home, and on Saturday when they mounted the operation, they sent their own citizens,” said the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs Seraphine Mukantabana.
About 200 evictees arrived in Rwanda through Rusumo border at the weekend alone.
The minister confirmed that; “so far, the Tanzanian nationals that have been sent to Rwanda and have refused to be registered are close to 100.”
The chairperson of the East African Community Council of Ministers, Shem Bageine, was quoted in the Ugandan media as saying that mistakes had been made in the expulsion process.
“Reports reaching us say that the bulk of those expelled were actually born and married in Tanzania. Our Tanzanian counterparts regretted that there were some mistakes made in the process of eviction, which was primarily aimed at weeding out criminals causing havoc,” Bageine told the press in Uganda.
When The New Times contacted the Tanzanian government spokesperson, Asa Mwambene, he said that any Tanzanian nationals who were wrongfully expelled should register and send their details to the Tanzanian authorities.
Meanwhile, by press time, the Tanzanian nationals who were forcefully sent to Rwanda refused to enter the transit camp designated for all the evictees, demanding to return to their country.