It is almost three weeks since a large-scale war started in the Tigray region of Ethiopia involving a multitude of internal actors and external military players. That this is happening in a country where the African Union (AU) is rooted, with its overarching slogan ‘silencing the guns in Africa’, is puzzling, to say the least.
Migration watch: East Africa
Granting rights to long-term refugees
The long-term housing of refugee populations has always proved
problematic. Now, the Tanzanian government has tried something new which brings
the hope of easing tensions between refugees living long-term in camps and local
residents living nearby. On 4 August, the government granted citizenship to the
first group of more than 3,500 Burundian refugees who are among the more than
162,000 Burundians who arrived in Tanzania after fleeing ethnic violence there
in the early 1970s.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lauded the
action. Spokesman Andrej Mahecic said: “The decision marks a major milestone in
a programme that will bring to a close one of the world’s most protracted
refugee situations… It also represents the first time that any country in
Africa has naturalised refugees on such a scale.” Last year, the government gave
the refugees a choice to return home or to apply for citizenship. The UNHCR saw
this as an opportunity not to be missed. UNHCR advocated on behalf of the
refugees with both governments, and offered to provide assistance to those who
decided to return home and to those who opted to stay.
In addition to
Burundian, Congolese and Rwandan refugees and economic migrants, Tanzania has
also seen a rise in Kenyans seeking jobs. Most Kenyans are employed in services,
private schools, media and banks. While the government has generally welcomed
immigrants, new residents are not as easily accepted by locals. In its insular
times under ‘African socialism’ between the 1960s and 1980s, Tanzania was never
a major magnet for migrants. But the country’s stability and its recent burst of
economic growth have meant more outsiders are looking for opportunities. It
seems the adjustment process will not be without its problems.