by Donovan McGrath

Burundian refugees in Tanzania face increasing danger
(Mail & Guardian online – South Africa) Extract: Évariste Ndayishimiye’s first visit as the president of Burundi was nothing if not symbolic. He chose Kigoma, a town in northwestern Tanzania near which about 154 000 Burundian nationals continue to seek protection from the previous administration’s abuses. Many Burundians in the area probably eyed the visit, during which Ndayishimiye and Tanzanian President John Magufuli agreed to strengthen relations, as a sign that the dangers they face in Tanzania could increase. These dangers are all too real. Since October 2019, Human Rights Watch has documented how Tanzanian police and intelligence agents, in some cases collaborating with Burundian authorities, arbitrarily arrested, forcibly disappeared, tortured, and extorted Burundian refugees and asylum seekers, and forcibly returned at least eight to Burundi… The abuse is not only shocking in its brutality: it exposes that Tanzanian police and intelligence are working with Burundian authorities to target people the Tanzanian government is bound by international law to protect… Tanzania and Burundi have historically had a close relationship—former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere led the peace negotiations that led to the 2000 Arusha Accords, which established ethnic power-sharing and helped end years of conflict in Burundi that left an estimated 300 000 dead. But a protracted crisis in Burundi since 2015 has sent hundreds of thousands of Burundians fleeing to Tanzania. Now pressure has been mounting on them to return home… (30 November 2020)

The real story of the world’s biggest tanzanite find

Lazaro Lasimi

(Mail & Guardian online – South Africa) Extract: Lazaro Lasimi and his colleagues descended hundreds of metres into the earth underneath the Mererani Hills, in Manyara in northern Tanzania. At the bottom of the mine, they dug 57 small holes, carefully placing dynamite into each. Only when they were safely on the surface did they press the trigger. The explosion was designed to break the hard rock which protects one of the world’s most unique natural resources: tanzanite, the rare, shimmering violet-blue gem stone that is found only in Tanzania, and mostly in the Mererani Hills. Usually, it takes 15 minutes for the dust to settle. That day, Lasimi remembers, something was different: it took half an hour, even with oxygen pipes lowered into the depths to speed up the process. Once the staff geologist had given the go-ahead, Lasimi and the team eventually made it back down. In the rubble, he saw small and medium-sized rocks that he knew from seven years of experience in the mines here were likely to contain tanzanite. He started to collect them. One of his colleagues spotted a huge black rock that had somehow survived the blast. He started bashing it with a hammer, trying to break it into smaller pieces. But this rock was stronger than the hammer. Suddenly he realized: this wasn’t ordinary rock; the whole thing was tanzanite… The gemstone weighed an astonishing 9.27kg… It was, by some margin, the largest tanzanite stone ever discovered. And its owner, Saniniu Laizer—who was not there that day, and was only informed later by his eldest son, Joseph—was about to become an American dollar millionaire, and a Tanzanian shilling billionaire, several times over… June 24 was a day that no one in Naisinyai will ever forget. The minister of mines, Dotto Biteko, arrived, along with his cavalcade. Journalists and cameras recorded everything. A makeshift stage was hastily erected, draped in the colours of Tanzania’s flag: green, yellow, black and blue. The minister brought along an oversized cheque for the sum of 7.7 billion shillings ($3.3-million). In exchange, Laizer handed over his record-breaking 9.27kg tanzanite stone, along with another slightly smaller 5.1kg monster that had been found on the same day. In a stilted address, Laizer, wrapped in his Maasai shuka, said: “I thank God for this achievement because it’s the first time to get this size. When I found these, I notified government officials who evaluated the stone and today they called me for payment.” He said he plans to use the money to build a school and a clinic near his home, and a mall in Arusha. He will also give 10% to his employees… (1 September 2020)

British woman, 26, takes in 14 Tanzanian children after volunteering at an African orphanage on her gap year – and says they’re thriving now they have a place to call home

Letty McMaster and orphans at the home

(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: Letty McMaster, 26, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, was just 18 years old when a month long trip volunteering at an orphanage in Africa changed her life forever. She ended up staying for three years to support the children she had met, and when the orphanage shut down, Letty took in nine youngsters who would have been left homeless.,, Letty fought for the right to open her own home, in Iringa, for the nine children left homeless. She founded Street Children Iringa as a UK registered charity and has taken another five children into her home after meeting them on the streets and through the safe house that she runs. None of the children were attending school and lived in between the streets and the orphanage when she first met them but their lives have changed immensely since moving into Letty’s home. One of her boys, Eliah, was found on the streets in the middle of winter wearing just a T-shirt after his mother passed away. He is now in the top 20 of pupils in his year at this school. Fred, 11, had not eaten for days when he was spotted cowering in a dump. Since moving into the family home in 2019, he’s been accepted into a prestigious football academy. After his parents died when he was just two-years-old, Iddy had spent most of his life between the streets, gangs and the orphanage where Letty first met him. He moved into the family home in 2016 and is now a talented boxer and musician with his music being played on local radio stations. Letty said: ‘Since having a place to call home, they have all excelled in education and in every aspect of their lives. ‘Gosberth is one of the boys that I’ve looked after for the past seven years and is now studying at one of the top private schools in the country and is the number one pupil in his year. Eva is 19 and is chairperson of her year at university – she’s doing so well and has got a volunteer internship with an international NGO…’ (18 October 2020)

‘Happy corals’: climate crisis sanctuary teeming with life found off east Africa
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: Scientists have discovered a climate crisis refuge for coral reefs off the coast of Kenya and Tanzania, where species are thriving despite warming events that have killed their neighbours. The coral sanctuary hotspot, teeming with spinner dolphins and boasting rare species, including prehistoric fish and dugongs. Researchers believe its location in a cool spot in the ocean is helping to protect it and the surrounding marine life from the harmful effects of the climate crisis. Tim McClanahan, the author of a study on the refuge published this month in Advances in Marine Biology, has been looking for coral sanctuaries in the west Indian Ocean for more than a decade… The coral refuge, which stretches from Shimoni, 50 miles south of Mombasa, in Kenya to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, is fed by cool waters from deep channels formed thousands of years ago by glacial runoff from Kilimanjaro and the Usambara mountains. The cool water appears to protect the corals from episodic warming events like El Niño… (15 December 2020)

So long, Southsea: last sultan of Zanzibar quits UK after 56 years in exile
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: After more than half a century of living in Southsea, Portsmouth, with its unpredictable British weather, shingle beaches and Victorian pier, relocation to the Gulf state of Oman might take some adjustment. But for Jamshid bin Abdullah al-Said the 91-year­old last sultan of Zanzibar, it was the next best thing to going home. The man who ruled the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago until he was deposed in a bloody revolt in January 1964 finally arrived in Muscat … Multiple earlier requests from the sultan to be allowed to live in the Gulf state had been rejected by the government on security grounds. But now his request to retire in Oman was granted due to his age, a family member in Muscat told the Abu Dhabi-based the National. “He always wanted to spend his last days in the country of his ancestors and now he is happy he can do that.” … He became sultan of Zanzibar after the death of his father in July 1963. In December that year, the islands … were granted independence from Britain. Just one month later the sultan was deposed in an insurrection, and a republic was proclaimed. He fled Zanzibar on the royal yacht as his palace was seized by rebels. After being refused permission to settle in Oman, he flew to Britain with an entourage of 61 relatives, friends and household staff. Two weeks later, the New York Times reported that the sultan’s impecunious state obliged him to move “from his pillared London hotel in the shadow of Buckingham palace to a modest hotel in Bayswater on the unfashionable side of Hyde Park”. In May 1964, the British government made a payment of £100,000 to the former sultan, the paper reported. The sum allowed him to settle in a semi-detached house on a quiet street in Southsea, Hampshire, where the contrast with Zanzibar’s white powder beaches and crystal waters must have been striking and perhaps a little painful… (20 September 2020)

Tanzania ‘using Twitter’s copyright policy to silence activists’
(BBC News online – UK) Extract: Every day on Twitter, Kigogo – a Swahili name that means a VIP or swashbuckling tycoon – doles out the latest gossip from Tanzania’s corridors of power. The details are embarrassing and shocking at times but Kigogo’s nearly 400,000 Twitter followers love these revelations, dubbing Kigogo “our president of the Twitter republic”. “I’m a whistleblower and I expose corruption and human rights abuses in the country,” Kigogo, whose identity is a closely guarded secret, told the BBC. But shortly before the 28 October election, Twitter suspended the @Kigogo2014 account because of “more than 300” copyright complaints to the social media platform that the account had breached its copyright policy – a charge Kigogo denied.

Internet rights campaigners allege that the policy is increasingly being used by “repressive governments” such as Tanzania’s to silence critics. Twitter has not responded directly to these allegations but did release a statement in October decrying the blocking of the social media platform ahead of the election… The attack came days after Kigogo tweeted about an alleged scheme by the ruling party to tamper with ballot papers ahead of the elections, in which President John Magufuli was seeking a second term. The Tanzania National Electoral Commission denied allegations of fraud before and after the election. The complainants appealed to Twitter to crack down on Kigogo for violating the US’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, which Twitter and other popular US-based technology companies have to comply with around the world… Several Tanzanian officials have publicly said they were looking for the person running the Twitter account, accusing them of incitement, leaking government secrets, spreading lies and threatening national security… (22 December 2020)

Mozambique, Tanzania join forces to tackle Cabo Delgado violence
(Aljazeera online – United Arab Emirates) Extract: Mozambique and Tanzania have signed a memorandum of understanding to join efforts in the battle against an escalating armed campaign by ISIL-linked fighters in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province. The agreement, sealed by the two countries’ police forces … includes the extradition of 516 fighters from Tanzania to its southern neighbour, Mozambique’s state-owned newspaper Noticias reported … The violence in gas-rich Cabo Delgado began in October 2017 when members of an armed group, which later pledged allegiance to ISIL, attacked police stations in the key port town of Mocimboa da Praia. Since then, more than 2,200 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. Mozambique’s army has struggled to contain the fighters, who have regularly beaten back the country’s security forces and air support from a private military group to capture and hold key locations during violent raids. Emboldened, the fighters have recently expanded their sphere of operations north into Tanzania, crossing Rovuma River that marks the border between the two countries to carry out raids on villages in Tanzania’s Mtwara region. Many of the recruited fighters are also thought to come from Tanzania, whose police said … they had arrested an unspecified number of people for allegedly planning to join the armed campaign. Noticias quoted Mozambique’s Police Chief Bernardino Rafael as saying that one of the key objectives of the agreement is to bring all the suspected fighters who are detained in Tanzania to face justice… “The agreement provides for us to work together to control the Rovuma border,” Rafael said on private broadcaster STV after signing the accord in Tanzania… (23 November 2020)

Tanzania still bound by African court despite withdrawal
(East African online – Kenya) Extract: Tanzania’s withdrawal from the Arusha-based African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) came into effect on November 21, but the country legally remains a member of the Arusha-based court and will continue to adhere to other provisions of the protocol establishing it. The court allows individuals and non-governmental organisations to sue Tanzania. As a human rights court and the African Union’s apex human rights mechanism, it has jurisdiction to hear cases alleging violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, the withdrawal means no Tanzanian individual or non-government organisation can seek direct recourse at the court. They can still do so through the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights based in the Gambian capital Banjul. “This withdrawal decision should not be construed as the end of the road for Tanzanians who may be aggrieved by certain state decisions or actions. Tanzania has not withdrawn from the protocol of the Treaty establishing the African Court, but from the clause that allows individuals and COSs to file cases directly with the court,” said Elifuraha Laltaika, a senior law lecturer at Arusha’s Tumaini University. “Tanzania is therefore still a legitimate member of the African Human Rights Commission and can still be prosecuted through that avenue,” he said… Tanzania has the highest number of cases filed by individuals and NGOs as well as judgments issued against it by the African Court.
(28 November 2020)

Inside Kenya’s tiff with Somalia and Tanzania
Kenya’s persistent trade tiffs with neighbours may be a result of dynamics beyond the region, which could require political solutions. Two of Kenya’s neighbours, Somalia and Tanzania, have recently stalled business ventures for Kenyans over alleged bad policy by Nairobi.
Tanzania cancelled landing rights for three more airlines—AirKenya, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation—after Kenya insisted Tanzanians arriving in the country have to be quarantined for 14 days… Nairobi has had a month-long standoff with Tanzania, which has led some analysts to think the region, despite having integration blocs, may be harbouring different ambitions… (3 September 2020)

Uganda accuses Tanzania of unfair charges on transporters
(East African online – Kenya) Extract: Uganda and Tanzania are locked in a dispute over road user fees for trucks headed for the Dar es Salaam port, with Kampala threatening to retaliate against “unfair” charges imposed on its transporters that are higher than those applicable to Rwandan shippers. Kampala has filed a complaint with the EAC Council of Ministers, accusing Tanzania of breaching the Common Market Protocol by imposing different road user charges to partner states in the same trading bloc… At the centre of the dispute is a $500 fee that the Tanzanian government charges Ugandan trucks traversing its territory, compared with $152 charged on Rwandan trucks… (28 September 2020)

Tanzania dethrones US as Kenya’s tourism top source market
(East African online – Kenya) Extract: Tanzania edged out the US as Kenya’s leading tourism top source market in September buoyed by its lesser Covid-19 lockdown measures, new data shows. Rising virus cases have hampered arrivals from the world’s biggest economy after many countries, including Kenya, categorised US travellers as Covid-19 high-risk. This has forced many of them to either cancel or postpone their trips indefinitely. This comes at a time when the US total infection, which is the highest globally, stands at more than 10 million with over 200,000 deaths. Unlike the US, Tanzania imposed little restraints amid an economic impact cautions on its citizens as well as the … concluded presidential elections that saw President John Magufuli re-elected for the second term. Latest data from the Tourism Research Institute (TRI) shows the US trailing Tanzania at number three. This is a significant jump from August when the country could not even appear among the top 30 source market of visitors to Kenya. “Tanzania leads with 4,309 followed by Uganda (3,812) and US (3,458),” the data shows… (16 November 2020)

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