Arusha. Tanzania and Rwanda have been urged to meet urgently and resolve the matter of the expulsion of illegal immigrants from the former.
The expulsion which followed a 14-day ultimatum issued by President Jakaya Kikwete during his visit to the region in July, has elicited a war of words between the two neighbouring countries. The East African Community (EAC) Council of ministers directed at the weekend that the matter should be sorted out by the two partner states in the regional bloc before it degenerates into further crisis. “The Council directed the United Republic of Tanzania and Republic of Rwanda to urgently meet and resolve this issue,” the EAC said in a press statement on Monday.
For its part, the regional organisation directed its Sectorial Council on Peace and Inter-State Security to consider developing regional mechanisms “to address future challenges of the above nature”.
The EAC’s official position on the crisis comes as thousands of Rwandese nationals continue to cross border from Tanzania.
Tanzania has reiterated its position over the recent exercise on illegal immigrants saying that it didn’t target any specific nationals but the operation was a normal routine.
But when reached for comment on the matter, the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, said there was no way Tanzania can reverse its position over the illegal immigrants instead he noted that procedures for living in any country should be observed and respected.
Minister Membe said, “Those who think that Tanzania had an agenda on expelling the illegal immigrants are wrong….it was the internal exercise and off-course those who have no documents supporting their stay have left already,” EAC secretary general Dr Richard Sezibera told journalists in Arusha last week that although Tanzania acted “within its rights” to kick out the illegal aliens the decision was not in the interests of the EA cooperation spirit.
The East African Law Society, a legal body with an observer status within EAC, has condemned the expulsion terming it “inhuman and degrading’. Over 22,000 undocumented aliens from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, DRC, Zambia and other countries have already left since the late July ultimatum.