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The East African : March 3rd 2014
10 STATUS OF AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS Uganda accused of receiving money from Israel for refugees Is≥aeli pape≥ ≥epo≥ted the sec≥et deal in August 2013 By GAAKI KIGAMBO The EastAfrican U ganda is secretly receiving African migrants be- ing ejected from Israel where they had sought asylum. An Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, which first revealed the secret deal in August last year, reported on February 19 that a Sudanese citizen — one of 55,000 asylum seekers targeted for expulsion — had called friends back in Israel to inform them that he and six others had arrived safely in Uganda and had received $3,500. The cash is part of an incen- tive package Israel is offering to encourage “voluntary departure” as well as flight fare from Tel Aviv through Cairo to Entebbe where, upon arrival, the asylum-seekers are issued a three-month visa. Although The EastAfrican has established the presence in Kampala of some of the asylum seekers expelled from Israel, none was willing to speak. Once in Uganda, it is up to the government to keep the asylum seekers or facilitate their return to their own countries, a dangerous option that would put their lives at risk. For Eritreans, for example, political and economic conditions in their country are reported to be so difficult that they are ready to risk their lives to flee the country. Last October, several Eritreans died when a boat carrying over five hundred people Uganda and Israel are both signatories of the 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees HISTORICAL IRONY South Sudanese refugees. The status of refugees will worsen as the alleged deal leaves them technically stateless. Picture: File sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. “I have no official informa- tion or otherwise about [the transfers]. All what I have seen are reports in the media about it. If there is any such person here, he is here illegally and should be arrested immediately,” said Musa Ecweru, a Deputy Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness who oversees refugee affairs. The 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which both Uganda and Israel are signatories, prohibits any member country from expelling or returning “a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Member countries, the Convention further states, cannot expel a refugee to any other country in which they may be persecuted. The only exception it makes is for circumstances where the person being expelled constitutes a danger to national security. Tel Aviv’s stated purpose in expelling the migrants is to preserve “the Jewish and democratic character of the country,” according to Haaretz, which successfully challenged the gag order over which East African country Tel Aviv was in talks with. “You sense in the reasons they have given undertones of racism, as if Africans were contaminants,” said Dismus Nkunda, a specialist in refugee affairs with the International Refugee Rights Initiative. According to Mr Nkunda, the fact that the Department of Refugees has not been involved is disturbing and reveals what fate awaits the migrants. “Technically, you could say these people have been rendered stateless by this situation. If they fled because of persecution, you cannot expect them to return home, or even feel safe here in Uganda. Mr Ecweru’s warning about illegally staying in Uganda taken together with In 1903, Theodor Herzl, considered the visionary behind the establishment of a Jewish homeland, courted Britain, then a great colonial power. Joseph Chamberlain, its then equivalent of foreign secretary, proposed a territory in Uganda, which had come under British protection only seven years back. However, In 1905 The team sent to inspect the proposed area wrote it off as unfit for European settlement. recent allegations of forced extraditions of Rwandans, cast doubt over the safety of citizens fleeing from countries that enjoy friendly relations with Uganda. Although Haaretz re- ported that Hagai Hadas, a special envoy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had obtained Uganda’s consent, it did not know which Ugandan officials Mr Hadas spoke to or what was actually agreed, since the purported agreement remains a tightly guarded secret. The EastAfrican NEWS MARCH 1-7,2014 Genocide suspects to be t≥ied in F≥ance By EDMUND KAGIRE The EastAfrican EFFORTS TO have genocide perpetrators extradited back to Rwanda to face trial suffered a major blow after France’s highest court blocked the extradition of three suspects last week. The French Court of Cas- sation on Wednesday overturned a November Appeals court ruling approving the extradition of Claude Muhayimana and Innocent Musabyimana, saying that the two men could be tried in Paris. In a similar development, the same court also upheld a September decision by another court rejecting the extradition of Col Laurent Serubuga, a former military officer in the previous regime wanted by Rwanda over the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The two developments have been described as a major setback for Rwanda, which was gaining some ground in its bid to have genocide suspects in Europe, and beyond, sent back to Rwanda to be tried where they committed their crimes. Rwanda’s Prosecutor General Richard Muhumuza told The EastAfrican that the recent French decision denying extradition of three suspected genocidaires is a “setback to Rwanda’s goal of prosecuting Rwandans, in Rwanda, currently residing in France, accused of genocide and related crimes.” Mr Muhumuza, whose office has conducted a relentless pursuit of genocide suspects, said that France, which is currently prosecuting Capt Pascal Simbikangwa for the crimes he is alleged to have committed in Rwanda during the genocide, should go ahead and prosecute the three men if it cannot send them back to Rwanda. “It must try the three sus- pects whose extradition to Rwanda has been denied. The refusal to extradite must not be synonymous with exoneration from the charges,” he said. Kigali maintains that France’s actions are tantamount to entrenching impunity. Rwanda and France have had an uneasy relationship over the genocide and the events that led to it. Even in 2009, when the two countries had a rapprochement, the issue of genocide suspects remained an outstanding one. The Rwandan gov- ernment maintains that France harbours the largest number of genocide suspects, some of whom it considers “big fish.” Setback Rwanda wanted the suspects tried in Kigali The umbrella associa- tion of genocide survivors, Ibuka, also contends that France’s handling of genocide cases is “not serious.” The president of the association, Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, expressed concern that Paris’s move could influence decisions taken by other countries. “We are used to this ping- pong going on in French courts. All these people they are protecting are known for who they were in the previous government and their roles in the genocide are no secret,” said Mr Dusingizemungu. The trial of Mr Sim- bikangwa, which began this February, had raised hopes that France would eventually move to act on genocide cases 20 years after the event, but the latest developments deal a blow to those hopes. IMF sounds ala≥m ove≥ Da≥’s budget sho≥tfall By A CORRESPONDENT The EastAfrican THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund has sounded the alarm over Tanzania’s huge budget deficit, currently standing at over $522 million. A visiting IMF delegation that as- sessed the country’s fiscal environment said it was concerned about the government’s failure to align its expenditure with revenue. In a report released after consultations with Treasury chiefs, IMF team leader Paolo Mauro advised the government to make realistic revenue assumptions. Experts agree that such shortfalls are the result of the government’s tendency to rely on tax revenues at the expense of non-tax revenue. “The government concentrates on taxing formal sources alone, forgetting other sources that could provide revenue,” said Haji Semboja, a senior economics lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam. But Bank of Tanzania Governor Benno Ndulu said that the government’s revenue estimates were real and it is only that some tax measures were not rolled out as expected. Prof Ndulu said, “In the past three years, our revenue collection has been very good. In 2010/2011, we exceeded the target and in the following two financial years we recorded between 97 per cent to 98 per cent revenue achievement. This means that the revenue targets are not farfetched.” One of the problematic tax revenue uptakes was the Sim card tax that met with stiff opposition from the public and mobile companies and had to be scrapped. The IMF advised the government to preserve fiscal space for infrastructure investment and priority social spending while gradually reducing the fiscal deficit to maintain debt sustainability. As of December last year, the foreign and local debt stood at $16.6 billion. The IMF believes that the government’s tax policy reforms under preparation, including a review of the value added tax, have the potential to improve efficiency and to mobilise additional resources.
February 24th 2014
March 10th 2014