It’s fate of the banished for Rwandans expelled by Tz

Ezra Nshimiyimana had spent the last 30 years in a place called Biharamuro in Tanzania. The 67-year-old Rwandan dedicated his life to livestock farming. But this is no more, after he was sent packing from East Africa’s largest nation following a clampdown on ‘illegal immigrants’.
Expelled Rwandans cross back from Tanzania at the weekend, while below some of the refugees carry the only property they can afford to on their journey of absurdity. The New Times/ T. ....
Expelled Rwandans cross back from Tanzania at the weekend, while below some of the refugees carry the only property they can afford to on their journey of absurdity. The New Times/ T. ....

Ezra Nshimiyimana had spent the last 30 years in a place called Biharamuro in Tanzania. The 67-year-old Rwandan dedicated his life to livestock farming. But this is no more, after he was sent packing from East Africa’s largest nation following a clampdown on ‘illegal immigrants’.

Walking out of the migration offices at Rusumo border, after being repatriated, he is visibly worried.

“When you look at the way people are treated sometimes you wonder whether it’s being done by our fellow Africans, let alone East Africans. My neighbour with whom we have been sharing everything is the one who stormed my home at night with other locals, destroyed my house, took away my cattle and threatened to kill us if we remained in the area,” Nshimiyimana said.

He said he had all the required residential documents but was ordered out of the country, leaving more than 60 head of cattle, land and a farm.

Nshimiyimana was forced to sell off all the animals at Tsh60,000 to a friend in order to obtain transport back.

He said he originates from Gisagara District in Southern Province. For now, what clouds his mind is how to start a new life from scratch.

Nshimiyimana is one of the Rwandans and perceived Rwandans who have been thrown out of Tanzania’s Kagera region.

Since last week, more than 3,000 Rwandans have been received and are being sheltered in Kirehe District.

Tanzanian authorities said they are targeting those without ‘valid residential documents’ but some of those affected say they had all the necessary documents, claiming security agents confiscated the papers.

Kagera region is located in the northwestern corner of Tanzania. The region borders Uganda to the north and Rwanda and Burundi to the west. The Kagera is Tanzania’s 15th largest region and accounts for about 3.3 per cent of Tanzania’s total land area of 885,800 square kilometres.

How they ended up there

Like other neighbouring countries, Tanzania welcomed Rwandans fleeing massive killings from 1959 and during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.  The refugees needed shelter running from the extremists who were hunting to exterminate them.

Although some repatriated home after the Genocide, others were forced by circumstances to stay in the host country. They were also not afraid since Tanzania apart from being a neighboring country it has a lot to share in common with Rwanda making the refugees feel at home.

It was not until recently when President Jakaya Kikwete visited Kagera that he ordered the eviction of what he called “illegal immigrants”.

Jane Mukandutiye, another returnee wept, not knowing the plight of her only son who had travelled to Mwanza in Tanzania.

“I called him, but his phone was off; I am now afraid they might kill him,” she said amid sobs.

The 53-year-old mother appealed to government to help her trace her son.

 She said before the expulsion, she pleaded with authorities for more days to look for her child, but in vain.

Fred Nsengiyumva, another victim, said he shifted to Karagwe from western Uganda while looking for pasture but he was chased away like an animal.

“We were driven out from our properties on account of our Rwandan nationality. My wife has escaped back to Uganda because they were threatening to rape her and my daughters,” Nsengiyumva said.

The cattle keeper, who had more than 200 head of cattle and a chunk of land he claims he bought from a Tanzanian national, said he was so frightened.

“What is happening there is like what we saw during Idi Amin (Ugandan leader, 1972-1979)’s regime when he gave few days to all Asians who were living in Uganda to leave the country. Sincerely, how can you give (an ultimatum of) only 14 days to people who have spent more than 50 years in a village?” Nsengiyumva said.

On August 4, 1972, Amin ordered the expulsion of Indians, giving them 90 days to leave Uganda. Amin claimed he had a dream in which God told him to expel Asians because they were ‘milking’ Uganda’s economy.

Nsengiyunva appealed to other regional countries and international community to intervene and stop Tanzania from harassing people.

More returnees

Jean Claude Rwahama, the director of refugees in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Affairs, said more Rwandans were expected.

“On Saturday, we received more than 1,000 and more are crossing the borders. We are constructing a new camp to accommodate all those who are coming,” he said on phone from Rusumo border.

By press time, yesterday, the number had risen to 3,356 people.

 Some 2,000 head of cattle belonging to some returnees are being taken to a camp at Mahama Sector in Kirehe District.

Rwahama said government was ready to welcome every returnee and provide them with basic needs as they plan to have a permanent solution.

Article 13 of the EAC Common Market Protocol on the rights of residence and establishment says, “The partner states shall ensure non discrimination of the nationals of the other partner states based on their nationalities.”

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