Over 5000 people who claim to be Tanzanian Nationals have sued the Uganda and Tanzania governments over their expulsion from Tanzania.
Represented by Mwesigwa Rukutana & Co. Advocates and OSH Advocates, the affected persons claim that between the years 2000 – 2006, the President of the Republic of Tanzania, H.E Jakaya Kikwete, through a Presidential Order directed the expulsion of an estimated group of over 50,000 people from Tanzania who lived along the Tanzania – Uganda boarder mostly the River Kagera basin, on a false account that they were refugees from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi or Democratic Republic of Congo.
‘’We have invited you here to share with you the plight of a Community that has been ostracized by the Governments that are constitutionally mandated and obliged to protect their lives, heritage and property, but instead have driven them to destitution, poverty, homelessness, and deaths. These are tens of thousands of people that were arbitrarily expelled from their lands, homes, businesses and farms, and whose property and source of livelihood have been either seized, destroyed or converted by officials and members of the armed forces of the Tanzanian Government. Despite their cries to both Governments, these people have neither been resettled nor defended by the Ugandan Government where the majority of them now live in destitution’’, noted Mwesigwa Rukutana , the victims lawyer.
The Order named ‘’Operation Kimbunga’’, and was reportedly inhumanly and mercilessly enforced by the Tanzanian Joint Task Force comprising of the Police Force, the Department of Immigration, the Intelligence Unit and the Tanzania People’s Defense Forces saw persons who are citizens of Tanzania by birth, decent, or by naturalization expelled from Tanzania. Some were allegedly immigrants to Tanzania who had stayed there for about forty years, while other individuals were intermarried with Tanzanians and resided and derived sustenance from the Tanzanian soil.
‘’Among those expelled were cattle keepers mainly from Uganda who resided along this stretch in search of water and pastures with valid licenses and permits from the Tanzanian authorities. The expulsion swept all including minors, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled. They were given only two weeks to exit the country. The expulsion of these innocent humans started and climaxed during the term of former President, His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete’’, added Rukutana.
To exacerbate the situation, around 2003, the Government of Tanzania single-handedly, unilaterally and arbitrarily surveyed the existing boundary pillars (BP27-BP4) which borders Uganda and Tanzania.
The alleged arbitrary survey claimed a big chunk of land that initially fell into the jurisdiction of Uganda, to Tanzania. The area was inhabited by thousands of people who included peasant farmers (growing food mainly for survival), rearing goats, cattle, and sheep among others. These were supported on the small pieces of land they had owned for decades and tilled to support their families for years.
Others had established residences with thriving businesses in mostly trade and large-scale farming. Most of them owned ranches with thousands of cattle and other livestock as well. They employed thousands of people on these ranches. Everyone in the arbitrarily converted land was forced to leave.
‘’In implementation of the Impugned Presidential Order, Tanzania’s Security Forces indiscriminately seized most of the Wanainchi’s properties and forced them out of the country while leaving them destitute. Their homes were burnt, destroyed or sold off to Tanzanian leaders and / or persons from the other parts of Tanzania’’, noted further Rukutana.
The mass expulsion was allegedly characterized with unlawful arrests, assaults, illegal detentions without trial, torture, murder, rape and other inhumane and degrading treatment.
The expelled were also subjected to gross injustices wherein families were separated with their close relatives being forced out of Tanzania and others staying behind coupled with intentional discrimination by the authorities and leaders of the Tanzanian Government.
According to Rukutana, The expelled persons are currently scattered and live in camps in various countries across the East African region, in dehumanizing conditions. They live in agony and distress. Some move from place to place in search of livelihood due to lack of stable designated places of residence as most are still settled in concentration camps while others are migrating from one place to another in search for livelihood.
‘’Despite numerous engagements and interfaces with various stakeholders such as the Government of the Republic of Tanzania, the Government of Uganda and the United Nations, the Tanzanian Government has remained adamant and has not allowed the expelled persons to return to their land. It has also refused to compensate and pay the damage suffered by the expelled persons due to the arbitrary actions of its authorities while carrying out these illegal expulsions’’, said Rukutuna.
The Government of Uganda is also faulted for failing and neglecting to recognize and protect the rights of the expelled persons, the majority of whom are Ugandan citizens by allegedly failing to hold the Tanzanian Government liable for their atrocities and has acquiesced in the unlawful “border re-affirmation process” that led to the displacement. It has also failed to resettle the expelled persons in a dignified manner and place.
Officials of both Governments are accused of faileing to follow up on the Undertakings of the two Governments to constitute a joint Verification Committee aimed at resolving the plight of the affected people.
‘’As a result of the above deprivations and injustices by the two Governments and their agents, these people continue to live in abject poverty and are unable to access the basic necessities of life. This has rendered them stateless, destitute and devoid of any belonging’’, noted Rukutana .
As a result of the alleged injustices, the expelled persons have petitioned the East African Court of Justice for redress , seeking orders that; The actions of the two Governments contravene the provisions of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Treaty; declaration that the Governments neglected to implement the orders of the sovereign Republics of Uganda and Tanzania through their respective Heads of states compelling both countries to constitute Joint Verification Committees aimed at settling, compensating and further addressing rights of the expelled persons; The expelled persons are also seeking compensation, damages and/or restitution from the Government of Tanzania. They also seek an order for damages and/or mandamus to compel the Government of Uganda to protect and/or recompense them for their losses.