The Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab) has earmarked more than 300 hectares of grazing land in Nyagatare and Gatsibo districts to livestock farmers being evicted from Tanzania.
At least 2,000 head of cattle have been transferred from Tanzania to Rwanda since Tanzania expelled Rwandans from Kagera region in the north-western swathes of East Africa’s largest nation.
The farmers had expressed worry over grazing land.
However, Celestin Nyambyi, the coordinator of Rab in Eeastern Province said yesterday the cattle would be put in quarantine posts for safety precautions.
“Cows coming in numbers may pose a serious health threat if not properly watched...but we have earmarked areas to handle the cows until further notes...the coming farmers will get all they need to resettle in their country,” he said.
More than 3,500 Rwandans who lived in Biharamuro, Ngara, Karagwe and Mureba districts since 1960s have so far been received after being expelled from Tanzania.
Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, the cattle farmers lamented the treatment they were subjected to by Tanzanian authorities and residents, saying they were driven out of the country with total disregard to basic human rights.
Alex Rurangwa, a farmer whose family had 3,000 head of cattle in Biharamuro District, said they were harassed and never allowed to move their cows to Rwanda.
He advised other Rwandans still in Tanzania to leave the country before they suffer heavy losses of property and life.
“All Rwandans should be moving out of Tanzania. A situation has been created where farmers will lose a lot. An environment for anybody to grab properties of Rwandans at will has been created,” said Rurangwa.
“They had all the rights to chase us from their country, but it is not in order to shoot at us and steal our cows as they did. I lost 30 cows to an unknown group of people. They ambushed and injured my brother.”
One of the returnees, Ben Celestin, 26, was receiving treatment at Kirehe Hospital yesterday after he was shot in the back with an arrow.
The burden of distance
Rurangwa said the cows they brought were their only source of income, although they wanted to change to other means of production.
“We suffered big losses; we need to change the business we have been involved in for long. We shall have to sell many of them to buy land, houses and resettle. Let other cattle sellers give us room to sell first, as an emergency.”
John Mugisha, a farmer whose cows are still on their way from Karagwe District, expressed uncertainly whether all of them would reach the country.
He said natural barriers such as mountains, rivers and game parks would tamper with movement of the cows.
“We are in problems. The days we were given and the treatment we received is a violation of our rights. Karagwe is very far from Rwanda. Our cows are on the way trying to cross rivers and swamps. So, they won’t make it here in time,” he said.
Roda Mungeriwase, 42, a mother of eight, said living in Tanzania had always been a problem for Rwandans.
“I had to leave the father of my seven children behind so he can take care of our property. My husband is a Tanzanian. My parents moved to Tanzania in 1966. This life of uncertainty has been our undoing,” Mungeriwase said.
“It is a pathetic situation where all of a sudden one finds themselves without property and home, families are completely shattered. I don’t know the plight of my husband or how he will look after our seven children,” she lamented.
Earlier, it was reported that the deadline given to Rwandans to leave Tanzania was August 9. However, according to the returnees, all Rwandans accused of living illegally in Tanzania have until Wednesday to leave the country.