by David Brewin
“Anyone who tries to provoke our country will face consequences … Our country is safe and the army is strong and ready to defend it,” President Kikwete said in a speech on 25 July to mark National Heroes’ Day. “We will not allow anyone to mess with our country, or try to take away our territory. We will deal with them just as we dealt with [former Ugandan ruler Idi] Amin”
These words were widely interpreted as referring to Malawi, thus raising the stakes in the escalating border dispute over the ownership of the northern half of Lake Nyasa/Malawi, Africa’s third-largest lake. Malawi claims the entire northern area of the lake while Tanzania says it owns the eastern half of the northern area. The southern part of the lake is shared between Malawi and Mozambique. Malawian President Joyce Banda has told mediators that her government would not accept any interim deal on the disputed boundary with Tanzania until the wrangle over sovereignty was settled. (Voice of America)
Seven Tanzanian soldiers, acting as peacekeepers as part of the African Union-UN mission (UNAMID) in the Sudan, were killed in mid-July in the Darfur region. Unidentified gunmen attacked them while on patrol between the Khor Abeche and Manawashi regions. Seventeen military and police personnel were wounded in the attack.
During a briefing in New York, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that “the peacekeepers were attacked when they were undertaking a routine confidence-building patrol. They were outnumbered four to one by their attackers who numbered between 100 and
150. They had trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. One truck was stolen during the attack and the mission later recovered three damaged vehicles.”
Various witnesses from South Darfur have reported to Radio Dabanga that two UN cars were later seen being driven by members of the government Central Police Reserve (nicknamed Abu Tira) and dressed in uniforms with distinctive ‘eagle insignia’ on their shoulders.
The government of Sudan blamed the rebel Sudan Liberation Army -Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) for the attack. Other reports said that it was unlikely that Sudan would take any serious action and UN policy appeared to be against opposing the government. Tanzania said it wanted to discuss UN policy as regards peace-keeping operations.
DR Congo and Rwanda
According to the East African, angry words were exchanged after President Kikwete suggested in Addis Ababa in May that Rwanda and Uganda should initiate direct talks with the rebel groups which are at the heart of the trouble which has persisted in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda called Kikwete’s suggestion ‘utter nonsense‘. Tanzania chairs the Southern Africa Development Community’s Peace and Security Council, but Dar’s conflicting obligations to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the East African Community leave it on a collision course with Uganda and Rwanda which are opposed to troop deployment under the UN.
Things later cooled down and an international agreement was signed by eleven interested countries. South Africa would be contributing troops to a greatly enlarged peacekeeping force, including Tanzanian soldiers, with increased powers.
More recently, a war of words has broken out between Tanzania and Rwanda, largely through nationalistic coverage in the respective countries’ press. This focussed partly on President Kikwete’s statements and partly on the expulsion of 7,000 “Rwandan” immigrants by Tanzania, many of whom had been settled in the north-west of Tanzania since independence. The Rwanda press called them “people of Rwandan ancestry” and the leading English-language paper turned to a personal attack on President Kikwete and his wife.
As this edition of TA goes to press in late August, Egypt is in a state of turmoil. Tanzania’s reaction was perhaps summed up in an editorial in the Tanzania Guardian:
“…Ironically, (while the world outside condemned the action by the army) the African Union has failed to speak aloud against what is happening in Egypt, perhaps for fear of biting the hands that feed it, or simply because of our neo-colonial syndrome.
“The truth is very clear: What took place in Egypt is a military coup and we as Africans do not have to be told by the Western countries what to say, at least not the United States…. If Africa cannot stop what is happening in Egypt, then it should strongly condemn as well as suspend that country from the African Union. But precious little has been taken by the African Union to address the worsening situation in Egypt. After five decades of this continent’s independence …. we still cannot speak aloud about our political and economic future. We wait for the so-called ‘masters’ to tell us what democracy is all about, what civilization means and above all, what a military coup means to our own development…. Today, the same people who supported the entire process from the beginning to the end now bless the barrel of the gun to be used against a democratically elected president. Still worse, the same masters now want us to believe that sometimes you can use a military coup to remove a democratically elected government, provided there are opposition members who have demonstrated for a week in protest against the regime.
“The best way to remove any government that doesn’t perform is through the ballot box. But it seems that there’s an old fashioned way we thought had been buried in Africa some years ago now taking place in Egypt – the military coup. What the Western countries do not want to admit is that democracy cannot be imported or exported. As Julius Nyerere once put it: ‘Democracy isn’t a bottle of Coca Cola that you can import’.”