Kenya + 1 more

Tanzanians Barred From Visiting Zanzibari Refugees

Dar es Salaam - The Kenyan government has barred Tanzanian politicians and government officials from visiting Zanzibari refugees at a camp in the country's Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.
Reports from Mombasa say the decision was taken to stop Tanzanian opposition leaders from using Kenyan soil as a platform to attack the Tanzania government.

"Effective now, we shall not allow any Tanzanian politicians to enter the camp because some people use the refugee issue as a forum for enhancing their political ambitious," a senior Kenyan government official said.

"What is needed is the will of Tanzanian opposition leaders and their supporters to hold dialogue with government authorities and reach a compromise on the plight of the Zanzibar refugees here," said Nimrod Wawere, who is in charge of refugee matters.

Kenya currently hosts more than 2,000 Zanzibari refugees, mainly from Pemba island, who fled the 27 January political riots that erupted in the two islands between policemen and CUF supporters.

In the past two weeks, CUF leaders have been visiting the Mombasa-based Shimoni camp housing the Zanzibari refugees. The visitors are said to be carrying political messages of insecurity and persecution in Pemba Island so as to instil fear among the refugees.

The CUF leaders who visited the camp include the party's Secretary General, Seif Sharrif Hamad, Vice-Chairman Khams Shaaban Mloo and a former leader of the opposition in the Union Parliament, Fatma Maghimbi.

The wave of Zanzibari refugees is reported to be a huge burden to the Kenyan government, which does not get adequate support from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"The influx of Zanzibari refugees has caught us unprepared. If we don't get assistance here, we are up for major health problems like cholera and other communicable diseases," Wawere said.

Refugees from Pemba are still fleeing to Kenya claiming that the security situation in the Indian Ocean island is still tense as policemen continue to harass civilians during raids to track down ring leaders of the 27 January riots.

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Zanzibar counterpart, Amani Karume, have appealed to the refugees to return home since the security situation has been brought under control.

But the refugees, with backing from CUF leaders are apprehensive of the security situation claiming that police brutality against Pemba residents, in particular, was still continuing.

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