“We have 264,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ) who are in camps, in Kigoma. No refugee was turned away. Even if we wanted them to leave the country, we have specific processes that we follow, because Tanzania has many years of experience in welcoming, caring for, and protecting refugees.
We coordinated with the United Nations first, before advising the illegal immigrants to return home. The refugees from both countries are in camps. So, the issue of expelling them from the country does not exist“, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete told the US Congress Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations, during a meeting at the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 19, 2013.
The Tanzanian President and his delegation, composed of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Bernard Membe, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, and Tanzanian Ambassador in the US, Ms. Liberata Mulamula, were received by US Representative Kay Granger, chairwoman of the US Congress Subcommittee and a number of other members of the US House of Representatives.
Trade, Investments, Tourism and Illegal Immigrants
The objectives of the Tanzanian President’s visit to Capitol Hill was mostly trade, investment, and promoting tourism. During the meeting, he invited the US government and investors to invest in Tanzania, which has vast natural resources, including natural gas, parks, and minerals.
However, the meeting turned to the issue of the recent decision by the Tanzanian government to expel illegal immigrants from the neighboring countries. The Tanzanian President explained to the members of the US Congress that the issue was blown out of proportions and facts were distorted:
“ Those targeted were illegal immigrants based in Kagera, Kigoma and Geita. Some have been in the country for a while. Time and time again, they were told to regularize the resident status, but they did not do so. Since no one else will do it for them , they must leave . We gave two week notice; then , we added two more weeks. Around of 34,000 illegal immigrants left the county voluntarily; the rest was forced to leave through administrative operations.”
The Tanzania President stressed the firm resolve of Tanzanian government to expel illegal immigrants:
“ this operation will continue until we completely resolve the issue of illegal immigrants who are accused of acts of banditry , hijacking buses, invasion of natural forests to feed and accommodate thousands of livestock, especially the natural reserves of Kagera , Kigoma and Geita.”
The issue of the treatment of illegal immigrants by Tanzanian government has divided the Tanzanian government cabinet, pinning some against others.
The Tanzanian Minister of East African Cooperation, Samuel Sitta, accused the Tanzanian President of violation of human rights and defended the right of illegal immigrants to be in Tanzania. The minister has been, on his turn, accused of threatening national security and was asked to resign by Tanzanian members of parliament. Professor Hosea Kayumbo, a influential political science expert, accused Samuel Sitta of undermining the President and the Tanzanian Government and hence should resign his position of Minister for East African Cooperation. He questioned how the minister in charge of the integration of East Africa, and who is supposed to know uphold the immigration laws, may be the first to question and undermine these laws.
Tanzania, the New Darling of the West
The question of illegal immigrants came back when the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete had lunch with International Conservation Caucus Foundation ( ICCF ) at the Capitol Hill .
The reception of the Tanzanian president by the US Congress Sub-Committee and the launch with ICCF is the latest sign of the growing attention by the US Government to the country of Tanzania. In recent years, Tanzania has become the darling of the United States and the West.
In early July 2013, US President Barack Obama visited Tanzania (see President Obama: armed groups[in Africa] need to lay down their arms, and human rights abusers need to be held accountable of July 2, 2103) and emphasized the growing importance of Tanzania for the US.
It is not just the West. In less that a year, China, Japan, Australia, have reinforced their ties with Tanzania, either through visits by heads of state or top government officials, of by welcoming the Tanzanian leader with full honors (see: Tanzanian Jakaya Kikwete and Rwandan Paul Kagame Meet in Japan of June 1, 2013)
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