Kenyans in Namanga on Monday engaged police in running battles as they protested alleged harassment by Tanzanian authorities, raising tension among residents at the border town.
They lit tyres on the roads paralyzing transport services and threatened to eject all Tanzanian nationals living and working at the border town if the harassment does not stop.
Police officers used tear gas to disperse the angry locals who blocked vehicles with Tanzanian registration numbers from entering Kenya.
The Kenyans also damaged a water tank supplying the liquid to the neighbouring country from the Kenyan side.
According to Uhuru Ole Sirote, a Nyumba Kumi official, Tanzanian barmaids working in Kenyan clubs have been told to go back to their country as a way of retaliation.
“Kenyans are angry at the way their compatriots are being treated by Tanzanian authorities,” said Mr Sirote.
According to him, Tanzanians claim that Kenyans are living and working in their country without valid documentation.
“We have been co-existing with our Tanzanian neighbours for the longest time. Our people live and work on the other side just like their people who work here,” he said.
Tensions at the border town have been building for a while now.
Reports indicate that the current standoff was triggered about three weeks ago when Tanzanian authorities gave quit notice to Kenyans working there.
“Our people were only given seven days to get out of Tanzania. Some of these people have invested there,” adds Mr Sirote.
One of the Kenyans who spoke to the Nation, and who identified himself as Samuel Ngeselai, aka Ngethe, said he had been doing business in Tanzania and that he was born there.
He said Tanzanian authorities were demanding proof of citizenship from them through documents like their parents’ and grandparents’ identification papers.
“My grandfather moved to Tanzania during Mau Mau days; my mother and I were born there. They recently asked me to go back to Kenya.
“They have now asked my wife, who is Tanzanian, to stop operating our business on the Tanzanian side, saying they belong to me, a Kenyan,” said Mr Ngeseai, who has another shop on the Kenyan side.
Mr Sirote added that today’s clashes were triggered by the move by Tanzanian authorities to arrest and detain Kenyans on the Tanzanian side.
“Some of our people were arrested from lodgings. This is not right at all,” he said.
©Alleastafrica and Daily Nation