Hundreds of Ugandan teachers working in Tanzania have been silently forced back as the host country cracks the whip on foreigners.
The expulsions raise questions about Tanzania’s commitment to the East African Community, particularly the Common Market Protocol adopted in 2009. The protocol provides for integrated border management, removal of restrictions on movement of labour and services, and the right of establishment and residence for East Africans.
Although many of these have been agreed, a Ugandan representative to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Fred Mukasa Mbidde, says two issues: labour movement and residence, are still “under the armpits”.
“We are not yet a country as East Africa. What Tanzania is doing obviously is not in the spirit of cooperation but it is within the current framework. Labour is only permissible to the extent that one has a work permit,” Mbidde told The Observer.
Before Isaac left for Tanzania in 2010 to work as a secondary school teacher of geography and economics, he had pounded the streets job-hunting in Uganda. He was only successful at landing a few unsatisfying ones which paid peanuts.
A friend working in Tanzania connected him to possible employers in the Swahili-speaking nation. An already frustrated Isaac jumped at the opportunity of a job at Green Bird High School, in the Kilimanjaro region.
“I found so many Ugandan teachers there who were in mostly church founded and private schools but as I talk now, many of us have since been forced to return,” he told The Observer recently.
“The pay was much better than here, and salaries varied from one school to another,” he said.
By the time he left late last year, a secondary school teacher earned about Ug Shs 1,000,000 on mostly two year renewable contracts, which attracted a gratuity of 15% each year.
Many of them did not have work permits. Then in the last year of former president Jakaya Kikwete things changed and worsened two years into President Magufuli Pombe’s presidency. Many Kenyans and Ugandans were thrown out.
“Immigration officers would come to the school and sometimes we would be alerted by administration and we would disappear. They usually came with our full names and details, which we believe were given to them by Tanzanian colleagues,” Isaac said. "Our employers loved us but Tanzanians are jealous…”
Isaac says it is “practically impossible” for a foreigner to get a work permit in Tanzania under the Magufuli administration. Many who have filed for permit renewal were denied and have since returned to Uganda.
A few months after taking oath, Magufuli said he wanted to end the haphazard issuance of work permits, adding that foreigners should not be engaged in jobs locals can do.
The cost of a permit in Tanzania ranges between Shs 140,000 and Shs 9,000,000. That depends on the kind of job one is doing, and for teachers, the subjects you teach. Sciences draw higher while arts attract lower fees. Jennifer Nakasujja, another deportee, said the fees were raised to $2,000.
Isaac said they had to settle for a three-month visiting visa which could be renewed clandestinely with the help of friends in the immigration department. Nakasujja said many foreigners are arrested on Tanzanian streets and deported.
“I was walking on the street someday and the immigration officers took me in. My work permit had expired and they wanted to detain me and process my papers for deportation, however at the police station, I found a Tanzanian lawyer friend who saved me,” Nakasujja said.
Married in Tanzania
For the six years he has been there, Isaac found love in Tanzania, married and now has a child. But he left his family behind when the crackdown intensified. And because he has no job, he cannot bring them here.
Isaac has returned once to visit them and he was allowed only a one month welcome, which he overstayed by two days and got into trouble with immigration officers.
“My wife didn’t have a maid at home and since I’m not working here, I went to stay with the child until we could get a maid. Unfortunately, we could not get one in time, I decided to get an extension and while I was being tossed around, my visa expired,” Isaac said.
He was questioned when he reached the border until he had produced his marriage certificates. However, getting married to a Tanzanian has no effect on a foreigner’s residency in Tanzania, Isaac says.
Ministry of East African affairs on spot
The shadow Foreign Affairs minister in parliament, Francis Zaake blames the deportation of Ugandans on an “inefficient, understaffed, useless and underfunded ministry of East African affairs whose officials do completely nothing apart from travelling.”
He suggests the ministry be dissolved and the little money allocated to it used to help those expelled. He wondered why Uganda sits quiet while its citizens are deported yet it freely accepts Rwandans, Kenyans, Tanzanians to work and own property here.
“…In Rwanda, it is hard to find a Ugandan working but they (Rwandans) are here working with Ugandan national identity cards,” he said.
Alfred Nnam, the spokesperson of the Foreign Affairs Ministry said they know about the deportation of Ugandans from Tanzania.
“…There have been some few cases that we know about and we have addressed in our joint permanent commission,” Nnam said.