Friday, September 20, 2013

The Weekly Sneak: Do Unto Others...

Maybe I am naive about the extent of the "immigrant problem" in Tanzania, but this Operation Kimbunga looks frightening to me. Mainly because "illegal immigrant" and "criminals" gets used repeatedly in the same sentence, seeing as they are the targets of the same effort to "clean up" society. And it is being done by... yup, armed organs of security. Sigh.  

There are elements of a witch-burning to this project, an attempt to appease and distract a rather stressed out society. After decades of laissez-faire, the weakening of the presidency as the center of power, and intractable poverty, it was only a matter of time before the pendulum started swinging back from left to right. This is tangible in the change in tone of reporting, in the way language in the media and even in the pronouncements made by public officials and politicians is becoming harder, with a lot less uungwana to be found.

Anecdotes of people's rights being abused have already begun to crop up. The worrying thing is that whatever latent xenophobia we had that we tried to manage through the practice of utu- with varying levels of success- has been unleashed. It isn't that much of a step from xenophobia to all prejudices that can founder a country. It's a matter of prosperity, to be honest- wealth will come to Tanzania but at the rate we're going we might not have enough diversity, cordiality and good humor left to enjoy it. I don't want to live in a Lete Kipande society. 
"Besides which, it just strikes me as a little bit unfriendly to do this kind of thing to guests and neighbors. It is true, Tanzania’s been having some troubles and grumbles lately. If you read this paper on a regular basis, you will be familiar with every sensational aspect of the EAC’s little nervous breakdown by now, prodded along in no small measure by gleefully detailed reportage. It makes one think, a little bit, about the ethical ramifications of sensationalizing certain aspects of a story."


  1. A very interesting issue indeed. Thanks for bringing this operation to our attention. The Tanzaninan state is showing a new side. There seems to be a more narrow understanding of bona fide African residents of Tanzania than in the days of Mwalimu. The push for national identity cards is definately another aspect. Lessons from other African countries, i.e. Ivory Coast, should give a clear indication that asking 'who is a real Tanzanian' is a dangerous game to play for the government. It can easily turn ugly.

  2. This is a fair assessment, I am a little worried about the way we are taking most of this situation lightly. I agree that there is a sense of distraction in Operation Kimbunga to say the least. But just as puzzling is the pardoning of deportation after a bribe has been handed (if reports and personal experiences are to be believed).


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