24 March 2019

Tanzania: Controversy As Two Students Held Over Citizenship

Mwanza/Bukoba — One of the students arrested in the country for allegedly benefiting from loans offered by the Higher Students Loans Board (HESLB) despite being a foreign national has said she always regarded herself as a Tanzanian.

Peace, who studies at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), and her brother, Tumaini Francis, who is at the Mwenge Catholic University (MWECAU), were arrested by Immigration officials in Kagera Region.

Their arrest came after an investigation revealed that they had secured loans issued by HESLB while they are not bona fide citizens of Tanzania.

When Interrogated by Immigration officials in Kagera Region, Peace said after the opportunity of joining higher education presented itself, she filled in a form for a loan and that she was never told that she had no merit of benefiting from HESLB loans.

"I filled in HESLB forms, and I had never been told that I was not entitled to the loans," said Peace.

Both Peace and Tumaini are second-year students and have been known as Tanzanians, despite the fact that both their parents are Rwandan nationals.

The students' mother, Marie Msabima, works for the Bethania Christian Aid Foundation at Kemondo in Bukoba District and her residence permit expires in 2020.

The students' loan forms are said to have been signed by the chairman of Rwagati Village in Kemondo Ward, Bukoba District, Joseph Kinyonyi, who is being held for allegedly signing documents to prove that the students are Tanzanians who are entitled to HESLB loans.

In his statement to the Immigration Department officials, Kinyonyi said he signed the documents because he believed the students were among children being cared for at the Bethania Christian Aid Foundation Centre that caters for needy children.

Speaking to reporters on March 22, the head of the Immigration Department in Kagera Region, Pendo Buteng'e, said an initial investigation showed that the students were born in Tanzania, although their parents are Burundian nationals.

"According to the country's laws, Tanzanian citizenship follows the parents', and this means that both of these students are not Tanzanian citizens," said Buteng'e.

Speaking to The Citizen on the phone Saturday on March 23, the chief spokesman of the Immigration Department in the country, Ally Mtanda, said, according to the citizenship law, being born in Tanzania was not enough to make a person a Tanzanian citizen, and the relevant procedures have to be followed in applying for citizenship.

"According to section 357 of Immigration Act sections 5 (1) and (2) (revised 2002), a person born in Tanzania can be granted citizenship if one of his/her parents is a Tanzanian citizen. When both parents are foreign nationals, their child cannot become a Tanzanian citizen until their application for citizenship is granted," said Mtanda.

Questionable birth certificates

While the students are said to be siblings, their birth certificates, which are also under scrutiny, show that their mothers are two different people.

On Tumaini's birth certificate, his mother has been mentioned as Frida Samwel, while Peace's indicates that her mother is Beatrice Rweyemamu.

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