Kenyans deported from Tanzania encounter difficult times

Tanzania's President John Magufuli. 105 organisations sign statement decrying rights violations. PHOTO | MAGDALENE MUKAMI

What you need to know:

  • Kenyan nationals living in the country claim that the exercise was a move to free up jobs for the locals.
  • It has been reported that scores of Kenyan nationals are arbitrarily arrested and detained in Tanzanian cells on tramped up charges.

James Chacha, a resident of Sakuri in Kuria East, Migori County, left for Tanzania on completing his secondary school education a decade ago.

For him, cheaper college fees in the neighbouring country was the main attraction to cross the border.

He joined a medical training college and graduated with a diploma in nursing before securing a job at one of the dispensaries in Mwanza town. 

And, he found a wife in a Tanzanian lady, bought land in the outskirts of the town and built a family house.


Thereafter, Tanzania became home as he managed to get documents from the country’s immigration department granting him citizenship.

Mr Chacha, 34, was living a comfortable life until recently when he was sent packing by immigration officials on grounds that he is not a Tanzanian.

“It all started when President John Magufuli came to power. Immigration officials embarked on reviewing citizenship of Kenyan immigrants.

"I was told to present my birth certificate, primary and secondary education certificates, letters from officials at the village among other documents,” Mr Chacha said.

He added: “Getting clearance from these offices proved futile as the officials avoided attending to anyone said to be a Kenyan.”

He lost his job and was ordered to leave the country immediately.

His life has never been the same as he was compelled to leave his family — wife and one year old child — and run back to Kenya to avoid incarceration.

“I had to leave the country as quickly as possible or I would have been arrested and jailed like many of my compatriots.

"My life has been thrown into disarray for besides separating with my family, I have been rendered jobless and I am still struggling to get back on my feet,” he said.


Chacha’s story represents the plight of so many Kenyan families that have been shattered as a result of being thrown out of Tanzania, where they have known as home for many years.

This has been going on since President Magufuli took over the leadership reins.

However, Kenyan nationals living in the country claim that the exercise, popularly known as Operation Timua Wageni, was a move to free up jobs for the locals.

The move saw scores of Kenyan nationals, who were said to be the most targeted, declared prohibited immigrants and deported.

Several Kenyans have lost their jobs, property and many separated from their kin following the deportation. 

The most affected families come from the Kuria region.

The Kuria tribe extends to Tanzania hence making most of the Kenyan Kurians cross over; some had permanently moved to the country.

Some who were born by Kenyan parents living in Tanzania have no links in Kenya.

Maroa Kehaga’s family, which traces its origins in Nyamtiro, had lived in the country for over 20 years.


Mr Maroa himself moved there over 30 years ago. His five children have been born and raised in Mugumo.

However, on January 2017, Maroa was informed that he is not a Tanzanian and that he and his family had to leave and go back to Kenya for he had been declared a prohibited immigrant by Tanzanian authorities.

His family was ferried by immigration officials and dumped at the Isibania/Sirare border.

Mr Maroa, who had sold his piece of land in Kenya, was forced to quickly sell his property in Tanzania to start life afresh.

“It has been tough for me and my family. Tanzania has been the only home we have known.

"My children believe they are Tanzanians but we were forced to come back to Kenya as it was clear the government of Tanzania did not want us there,” Mr Maroa said. 

“Moving from Tanzania was the most painful thing that ever happened in my life,” he continued.

“Two of my children were stopped from working. I closed my business and sold my property at a throw-away price. Up to now, I have not settled.”

He used the proceeds he got from selling his property to buy a piece of land at Masangora near Sirare, where he built a four roomed semi-permanent house where he currently lives with his entire family.

Mr John Muniko Makongo from Kugitimu was arrested last year by Tanzania police officers on allegations that he was a robber.


He was taken from one police cell to another before he bribed his way out and ran back to Kenya.

He says that contrary to the allegations levelled against him, he was an established trader in Mwanza and that his business competitors set him up because he is a Kenyan.

“Business people in Tanzania who fear competition have taken advantage of the deportation to eliminate successful Kenyan traders from the country. They set me up so that I could be deported,” Mr Makongo, who has resorted to farming on his half an acre plot at his Kugitimu home, said.

A part from the deportations, it has been reported that scores of Kenyan nationals are arbitrarily arrested and detained in Tanzanian cells for framed up charges.

According to those interviewed by Nation, the arbitrary arrests are part of the scheme to scare Kenyans out of the country.

“Police officers arrest Kenyans anyhow accusing them of crimes such as robbery and murder.

"They hold them in their cells until they are bribed to release them. This makes Kenyans run away,” Victor Robi, a trader in Tarime, said.

Kenyan traders operating in Tanzania have also raised complaints that they are often harassed by police officers and immigration officials, something that has adversely affected their businesses.

Also affected by the alleged harassment are Kenyan students in Tanzanian colleges.

A number of Kenyans troop to Tanzanian medical colleges because of affordability.

Most of the students say life in the country has become tough.

“Tanzanians see us as thieves. Sometimes we are embarrassed in public whenever police manhandle us for no good reason,” Joseph Mwita, a student, said.