Some Ugandan nationals living along the Mutukula border in Kyoteta district participated in the general elections exercise in neighbouring Tanzania.
Tanzanians on Wednesday took to the polls to elect the president, members of the national assembly and local council leaders. However, some of the Ugandans living along Mutukula crossed over to the Tanzanian border district of Misenyi to also cast their ballots.
From our interviews, it transpires that to some people, they consider themselves as belonging to both countries, and with their livelihoods and families existing on either side, they felt compelled to participate in choosing the leaders they want to manage their affairs.
Rashid Mawanda a boda boda rider in Mutukula town council is among the dozens of Ugandans that participated in the Tanzanian elections. He says despite him being in possession of a Ugandan national ID card, he also obtained the Tanzanian voter's card, one of the requirements to vote in Tanzania. Mawanda explains that many people especially those living along the border and are fluent in Kiswahili could easily register as voters in Tanzania while some obtained national IDs as well.
Hamid Jabar Kakuru, a cross border trader in Mutukula who also participated in the Tanzanian elections argues the many Ugandans have multiple homes and families inside Tanzania hence freely participating in its internal affairs including elections.
Kakuru, however, indicates that those who didn't pass the red tape (fluency in Swahili) during the registration exercise were turned away and their names have not featured on the voters’ registers.
Asked about the interest of participating in the affairs of a foreign country, Kigongo argues that it helps them freely interact with communities in both countries and smoothly transact business on either side of the border.
A polling assistant at Kabakesa polling station at one of Tanzania’s border villages who spoke on conditions on anonymity noted that they cannot rule out the possibility of Ugandans participating in the elections. He says that they allowed everybody who presented any of the requirements set by their National Electoral Commission.
According to him, the voters were validated on appearance in the voters register, presenting of Tanzanian national IDs, voters cards or a passport, saying it is possible that some non-citizens could have unscrupulously obtained any of the requirements.
Notably, the elections in Tanzania were conducted amid a shutdown of the internet and all social media that started on Tuesday. The tight race is between the incumbent President John Pombe Magufuli of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and Tundu Lissu of the Chadema Party, alongside other 13 candidates.