Tanzania refutes xenophobic attacks on Malawians living there

The Tanzanian Government has denied reports that Malawians living in that country were being targeted in xenophobic attacks amid tension over the lake boarder wrangle.

However, the government has clarified that some 1,030 Malawians were netted in a clean-up operation against illegal immigrants from Malawi and other neighbouring countries.

Over the weekend Malawi News reported it had received distress calls from a number of Malawians living in Tanzania that they were being beaten up, raped, robbed and have their houses looted and burnt down.

Malawi’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Ephraim Mganda Chiume, also confirmed receiving reports of such incidents from the Malawian Embassy in Dar es Salaam but played them down saying calling them xenophobic attacks was an exaggeration.

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The newspaper further reported that the Malawians targeted were those living in high-density areas of the commercial city and it was not established whether the attacks had anything to do with the current wrangle where Tanzania is claiming part of the lake while Malawi claims the entire lake is hers.

The matter is currently under mediation by the SADC former heads of state forum.

But Tanzania media quoted that country’s Director of Information Services, Assah Mwambene saying no Malawian had been harassed during their clean up operation.

“These reports are false as there is no single Malawian who has been harassed as it has been suggested,” he said.

According to Mwambene, those nabbed were given the option to fill out immigration papers to state whether they still wanted to remain in the country or not.

During the operation some 25,000 illegal immigrants from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were sent back to their home countries after being found living in that country illegally.

The Immigration Officer for Dar es Salaam, Grace Hokororo, also reiterated that no Malawian had been harassed by the law enforcers during the operation.

“Since 2001 we have been registering illegal immigrants living in Tanzania and we found out that over 1,000 Malawians were living here illegally,” she said.

The government has declared a crackdown against illegal immigrants in an operation codenamed ‘Kimbunga’, meaning whirlwind, which was kicked off recently by President Jakaya Kikwete largely as a response to a rising wave of foreign instigated crime in the country.

Since the issue was first reported, the Malawi Embassy in Dar es Salaam has apparently been on top of the situation with officials visiting all the troubled spots but they are yet to issue a report.

Lake row update

Meanwhile, Malawi and Tanzania have been given three weeks to analyse and respond to a report produced by the Forum of Former Heads of State and Government mediating on the Lake Malawi border dispute.

The mediating team led by former presidents Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) and Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) on Friday met Malawi President Joyce Banda at the Kamuzu Palace in the capital, Lilongwe where they submitted their findings of consultations conducted with the governments of Malawi and Tanzania.

President Joyce Banda, after meeting Chissano and Mbeki on Friday, said Malawi will study the report and respond within three weeks.

She was accompanied to the meeting by representatives of opposition political parties, civil society organisations (CSOs) and some members of her Cabinet.

Said Banda: “The two leaders came into the country to update us on the lake wrangle. I am pleased to have received the report on behalf of Malawians. We will study the report and give feedback as requested by the mediation team.”

In July, the President told mediators on the dispute between Tanzania and Malawi on Lake Malawi about the border on Lake Malawi will not accept any interim agreement.

Banda also warned that if the countries fail to resolve the lake dispute by September 30 this year, she will take the matter to the International Court of Justice.

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