EAC should change Tact to end refugee crisis

Wednesday February 21 2018

 

By TheCitizen

For decades, the East African region has been hit by wave after wave of refugees. This has been mainly due to unending political crises bedeviling nations across the region.

Presently, Tanzania hosts nearly 350,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo alone. This is no small number by any standards. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) early in the week said it needs over Sh600 billion to help take care of the refugee population in Tanzania.

The money will be spent on health and nutrition, food, education, security, energy, shelter, legal assistance and protection. Meanwhile, more refugees keep entering Tanzania because of the sad realities back in their home countries.

Humanitarian assistance during crises is crucial for the protection of human life and dignity. However, as the world mobilises money to assist, it’s also high time the bloc itself took more sincere steps towards addressing the root cause of the refugee problem.

And interventions by the international community should not only focus on providing refugees with basic needs, but also finding a more permanent solution to the crises in troubled countries. This is where regional diplomatic and economic bodies like the East African Community (EAC) come in. As the EAC heads of state meet in Kampala later this week, it is time for them to put the question of refugees high on their agenda.

The bloc has every reason to try and put a stop to the political turmoil in the DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia. The excuse often given, that condemning political violence is equivalent to meddling in the internal affairs of a state, is lame.

Governments of member states that are in conflict must be told openly and in no uncertain terms to put their houses in order. Otherwise the refugee crisis will remain a vicious circle.

The EAC and African Union should break this misplaced culture of silence on the political crises in the DRC, Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia. They have to act. It’s the only viable solution that will put a stop to the problem of refugees. Money only will not work.

Waste management crucial

Some civil society organisations (CSOs) have raised concerns over potential environmental hazards associated with mismanagement of waste. This is waste produced from oil and natural gas activities. It not only poses a serious health threat to humankind, but also to wildlife and aquatic species.

The CSOs are spot on. The need for relevant guidelines and regulations on the management of waste is long overdue. Needless to say, if the government turns a blind eye to the repercussions of mismanaging waste from extraction activities, some species will certainly be extinct before long.

This is why the Parliamentary Friends of Environment who met with the CSOs in Morogoro recently should take the advice seriously and act on it. The meeting came at the right time because Tanzania is currently implementing multimillion dollar projects, yet whose side effects may be fatal for both human beings and wildlife.

We must mine uranium and we need the Stiegler’s Gorge yydroelectricity as well as the oil pipeline project from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga. These are some of the major projects the country is banking its economic development on.

Nonetheless, in the absence of proper waste management regulations, these projects will come with huge environmental and human costs. The government should, therefore, come up with newer regulations and guidelines that will ensure Tanzanians stay safe and healthy.