2009-09-18 07:36:00 Loliondo: Tamwa slams state By Florence Mugarula The Citizen Human Rights activists in Dar es Salaam have criticized the government for arresting residents of Loliondo district in Arusha earlier this week on the pretext that they were non citizens. The Executive Director of Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa), Ms Ananilea Nkya told the Citizen yesterday that the government should not abuse its power by oppressing innocent Tanzanians. She said it was strange to see the government react against the residents after they had decided to see the president following a long standing conflict of interest between them and an investor in wildlife, Ortello Business Company (OBC). "This is expression of weakness on the part of the government. These people have been living in the country for years. How come today they become Kenyans after seeking audience with the president whom they want to intervene and solve the land dispute and the many acts of dehumanisation by foreigners?" queried Ms Nkya. She challenged the government to provide evidence showing that the arrested people were indeed Kenyans. From the onset, she said, Ngorongoro district officials had shown serious weakness and irresponsibility to the point that it was now difficult to believe their statements that they were dealing with Kenyans. "I remember when we visited the area, the district officials claimed journalists were involved in burning homesteads, livestock and other properties but a few minutes later, we saw members of the paramilitary Field Force Unit (FFU) leaving the area. So you can imagine how irresponsible these officials are," said Ms Nkya. Ms Nkya said further that FemAct and other human rights groups would meet soon to discuss the issue of giving the residents legal aid. Advocate Yonathan Mbuga said the government could only declare a person a non citizen after proving so in the courts of law. He said it was acceptable to suspect any person of being a non citizen but that does not mean the suspect is not a citizen. "Only the court can pronounce someone an illegal immigrant after a fair hearing," he said. Last Sunday, a group of Loliondo residents marched to the State House in Dar es Salaam in a bid to see President Jakaya Kikwete and present to him their grievances about mistreatment by OBC. But upon return to Arusha, Immigration Officers arrested three women including CCM councillor, Ms Manda Ngoitika on allegations that they were in the country illegally. Stripping people of their citizenship status has become an easy administrative weapon to silence those seeking their rights. Prominent journalist, Jenerali Ulimwengu was declared a non citizen under president Benjamin Mkapa when he became too critical of his government. Ulimwengu's Tanzanian citizenship has since been restored but the administrative whacking "to behave yourself" was no lesser embarrassing.