Citizens of the Great Lakes Region are the latest casualties of the Tanzanian fear of dominance by neighbours. More than 25,000 Burundians and about 7,000 Rwandans have been labeled “illegal immigrants” and expelled from the Kagera region in western Tanzania in less than a month.
It is not the first time that Tanzania has expelled foreigners. But in the past, this process was well planned and executed. This time, the expulsion has taken place without consultation and warning and in a context of tension between Rwanda and Tanzania on one hand and Rwanda and the DRCongo on the other. Tanzania has said it was expelling “illegal immigrants” and denied it was targeting Rwandans. However, analysts believe the timing of the expulsions could be a prelude to war with Rwanda. Tanzania may be clearing the Kagera region of foreigners to avert Rwandan intelligence gathering.
Rwanda has forced Tanzania to reduce the toll fee for trucks from 500 to 152 dollars. Tanzania was charging each foreign truck entering its territory from Rwanda 500 dollars. Rwanda increased its fees from 152 dollars per truck to 500 dollars, saying it wanted to harmonize the charges. Tanzania whose trucks cross Rwanda to deliver goods to eastern DRCongo reduced its toll fee to the same level as Rwanda’s. About 200 Tanzanian trucks cross the Rwandan border daily compared to only 20 from Rwanda entering Tanzania daily.
However, the steep increase of toll fee by Tanzania came at a time of tension between the two countries and it caused panic among businessmen and transporters. Rwandan businessmen are worried about their goods passing through Dar es Salaam as a tit-for-tat game takes root between Dar es Salaam and Kigali.
Tension between Rwanda and Tanzania is a stark reminder of the war which took place between 1998 and 2003 and involved Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia on the Congolese side and Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi on the other.
The UN Intervention Brigade is made of South Africa and Malawi, two other SADC member states. Angola has until now resisted DRCongo’s call to join the brigade. Some reports also say Zimbabwe may have agreed to be part of the brigade. Other states likely to be pulled into the Congolese quagmire include Burundi and Uganda, which has been accused by the DRCongo and international NGOs of supporting M23.
Tension between Rwanda and Tanzania started building up when Tanzania contributed troops to the UN Intervention Brigade with a special mandate to use force to disarm armed groups operating in eastern DRCongo. Through Resolution 2098, the UN Security Council on 28 March 2013 authorised the deployment of the brigade whose members are drawn from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi. The force’s commander, James Mwakibolwa, is from Tanzania which will also contribute 1000 troops. Unlike the initial mandate, which allows UN troops to carry out peacekeeping operations in the region, the latest resolution allows the brigade to use force against a myriad of rebel groups scattered in the vast eastern DRCongo.
One of those armed groups, the M23, is allegedly supported by Rwanda and Uganda and is composed of mainly Congolese Tutsis. The tension rose a notch higher during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the African Union in Addis Ababa last May. Addressing other heads of state, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete suggested that Rwanda and Uganda negotiate with armed opposition, in their respective countries if lasting peace was to be attained in the region.
The Rwandan foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, rejected the proposal and accused Kikwete of sympathizing with DRCongo-based Rwandan genocide forces. Rwandans who reacted on internet said the UN intervention brigade was out to annihilate the M23 which, in their view is a buffer between their country and the FDLR. They also believe they will ultimately be absorbed into the conflict if M23 is crushed. “Forget about M23, it is the Rwanda government that is being targeted… this is a war to prevent yet another genocide against Tutsis and Rwanda should be prepared accordingly”, commented a Rwandan on the internet.
The international media quoted Rwandan Kagame addressing the youth and saying that he would wait for the right place to hit Kikwete while Tanzanian Foreign Affairs Ministry officials were also quoted saying that Dar es Salaam would defeat Rwanda in case of war. Although the two sides have since toned down their rhetoric, regional analysts say the damage to regional integration has already been done, especially after the Tanzanian expulsions which achieved the opposite effect of what regional integration was intended to do in the first place. Regional analysts fear fighting in eastern DRCongo which would involve Tanzanian troops serving under the UN Intervention Brigade and Rwandan troops which have been massing at the DRCongo-Rwanda border could shift to their common border.
There are signs of a widening gap among EAC states, Tanzania shifting southward and Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda looking for partnership northward. Burundi is hanging in between, only joining projects it benefits from but not slapping the door for EAC. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are eyeing more cooperation with South Sudan and Ethiopia to fill the gap left by Tanzania. The plan to build the Lamu port which will serve mainly Ethiopia and South Sudan is a telling sign. South Sudan sent a ministerial delegation to the Mombasa tripartite meeting.
Newly independent South Sudan is large, rich in oil and has to build infrastructure from scratch. It has constantly had problems with Sudan upon which it has depended for importation of manufactured goods and export of its oil. It has in recent days turned toward its southern neighbours of Kenya and Uganda for imports and trade routes. South Sudan’s entry into the EAC could offer to the Kenyan and Ugandan industries the market they were seeking from Tanzania.
With the strongest economic growth rate averaging 10 per cent in the last decade, Ethiopia is also a potential market and cooperation partner for Kenya. With 91,195,675 inhabitants, it offers a huge market for Kenyan industries.
During a visit to Kenya in November 2012, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn invited the Kenyan mobile telephone giant, Safaricom, to invest in his country. Kenyan manufacturers called on the Ethiopian government to allow Kenyan banks and retailers to operate in his country. Ethiopia is yet to open its market to foreign companies, decades after the fall of the last communist president, Mengistu Hailemariam. However, it encourages Foreign Direct Investment especially in infrastructure projects so as to keep up the growth momentum. It also wants investment in agriculture, especially sugar and palm oil farming and has set aside 400,000 hectares for the purpose.