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Bantu-Somalis to call Tanzania home

Refugees at a camp. Tanzania has given citizenship to refugees who had lived in the country for several years. Photo/FILE

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tanzania’s Ministry of Home Affairs has granted citizenship to 3,000 people who were originally Tanzanians but were captured by Arab slave traders centuries ago and sold to Somalia. They returned following the outbreak of the civil war in Somalia.

The ministry has also granted citizenship to 162,256 Burundians who migrated to Tanzania in 1972, ending a decade long confusion over their status. However, the government is facing a dilemma over whether to relocate them to other parts of the country or keep them in Tabora where they have lived for 40 years.

The UN refugee agency had advised that the refugees be distributed to 52 districts countrywide. However, the relocation came to a halt when some of the areas earmarked asked for money to establish development projects to support them and others rejected the idea due to security concerns.

The Bantu-Somalis are ethnically from the Wazigua tribe from northeast Tanzania. Centuries after their ancestors left Tanzania, they retraced the route they took as slaves.

At a meeting with the former refugees to grant them naturalisation certificates in Tanga, the Minister for Home Affairs Mathias Chikawe said some 150 Somali-Bantu refugees had opted out, hoping that the situation in Somalia would stabilise and they could return.

“I call upon the refugees granted the citizenship to refrain from being persuaded by terrorists to participate in terrorism,” Mr Chikawe said.

The process to grant citizenship to Somali-Bantus was put on hold in 2010 after the government discovered that the process was marred with corruption.

The refugees who rejected citizenship will remain at a refugee camp and maintain their refugee status.

Mr Chikawe said the former Burundians are now Tanzanians, and that the government is hesitant to relocate them to other parts of the country because it would contravene their right to live in any part of the country as new citizens.

UNHRC Representative in Tanzania Joyce Mends-Cole said making the Somali-Bantus citizens would enable them to build their lives and become self sufficient.

“The decision by the Tanzanian government to welcome the descendants to reapply for their citizenship voluntarily is commendable. It shows the catalyst role Tanzania has played to look for solutions to global solutions,” she said.

Source: The East African


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