SWIFT EVACUATION OF TZ NATIONALS IN SUDAN: Hallmark of a responsive govervnment.

TANZANIA has successfully evacuated its nationals from the war-torn Sudan following the outbreak of a bitter fight between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan’s Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

It was all smiles when the Tanzania national flag carrier the Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) plane wheeled down at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) with Tanzania evacuees on board on 27 April 2023. It was a moment of great pride for the nation.

Tanzania’s decision and the swiftness with which it carried out its evacuation and rescue operation, is a vivid testimony of how responsive to its citizens the government is. From the word go, the government was determined to extricate its nationals from the conflict area. A total of 206 Tanzanians were returned home safely and received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation, Dr Stergomena Tax.

Addressing the returning Tanzanians, Dr Tax reiterated her utmost gratitude to President Samia Suluhu Hassan for her determination and tireless efforts to make sure all Tanzanians trapped in Sudan return home safely. This noble gesture by the President is yet another very clear evidence of her caring and kindhearted nature.

For the returning Tanzanians, mostly students and embassy staff, it must have been a shocking experience to be caught in the fog of war and helplessly watching the thick black billowing smoke from the destroyed buildings, the shockwaving cracking sounds of machine guns, the squeaky sound of tanks moving in the sunny streets, the low flying jet fighters throwing missiles and bombs and performing the terrifying after burner manouvres and not to mention the apparently trigger-happy soldiers armed to the teeth roaming in their neighbourhood.

Indeed, it must have been a chilling experience. They must have also endured a lot of psychological torture of not being certain of how the daily security situation unfolds, where will the bomb fall next, seeing their food stock slowly diminishing with no provision of replenishment, no water, no electricity, reduced capacity to communicate, no possibility of getting airtime and with no electricity, charging of phones becoming a challenge.

And since it was during the holy period of Ramadhan, many who were fasting were not sure of their next iftar and how to break their fast.

This agony must have also been felt by the parents and relatives alike who were watching all these terrifying scenes from afar. The government understood their agony and was also concerned and therefore acted exemplarily very swiftly and decisively to rescue this unfortunate situation and this led to a well-organised and heroic evacuation operation.

Their trip from Khartoum to the border with Ethiopia was not uneventful either. The trip must have been marred with the usual security uncertainties of travelling in a war zone. But eventually, the five busses carrying Tanzania nationals and others from eight different countries were able to cover the gruelling 900 kms journey to the border town of Metema where after the normal border formalities they covered another 190 kms to the town of GONDAR now inside Ethiopia from where they were airlifted to Addis Ababa. For most military historians in Tanzania, the name of Gondar rings a bell.

It is a town which has some historical connections with Tanzania. It was Gondar and another town named Colito (Kolito) in Abyssinia which in 1941 the soldiers from Tanganyika, as part of the Kings African Rifles (KAR) from East Africa, fought a decisive battle which culminated in the final surrender of the Italian forces during the WWII campaigns.

Battalions from East Africa included 6th battalion KAR from Tanganyika, 4th battalion KAR from Uganda and 5th KAR battalion from Kenya. One of the notable figures during this KAR period was DT 13814 WOPC David Bugozi Musuguri.

Later after independence Musuguri swiftly rose through the ranks to become officer Commanding (OC) in the 2nd battalion Tanganyika Rifles, first Commanding Officer 3rd battalion TPDF, Division Commander during the Kagera War and later the Chief of Defence Forces from 1980 to 1988 before honourably retiring.

After the conclusion of the WWII, the KAR battalion from Tanganyika was relocated from its headquarters in Kurasini area (Bendera Tatu) to the newly constructed camp along Bagamoyo Road completed in 1954. The relocation was to make way for deep-water berths and railway sidings at the Dar es Salaam port.

This new barracks was named Colito barracks. The other barracks of the 2nd 6 battalion KAR stationed in Tabora was named Kalewa barracks and this one was in remembrance of KAR participation in WWII in the Burma theatre of war where they were fighting against the Japanese forces.

Gondar on the other hand was given to the newly formed infantry companies in Nachingwea at that time not a fully-fledged battalion. The rest is history.

After Tanganyika independence in 1961, 6bn KAR in Dar es Salaam became 1st Battalion Tanganyika Rifles and the KAR battalion in Tabora became 2nd Battalion Tanganyika Rifles. Following the infamous Tanganyika Rifles mutiny in January 1964, Tanganyika Rifles was disbanded and a more responsible defence force – The Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) was established in September 1964.

The barracks designation also later changed to reflect local history, and these were Lugalo, Mirambo and Maji Maji in place of Colito, Kalewa and Gondar respectively.

And now after so many years, as the saying rightly goes, history repeated itself. Tanzanians were in Gondar again.

However, this time around it was not the soldiers serving the colonial masters like in 1941, but rather it was civilians passing there after a heroic evacuation operation well organised by a government under a very responsible leader.

The government has managed to bring back smiles on the evacuated Tanzanians and their families. It was a well thought decision by the government. It was an action that has significantly raised the people’s confidence on the government capacity at the hour of need.

The fact that Tanzania managed to organise the evacuation for not only its nationals but also for nationals from eight other countries stranded in Khartoum, while the guns were still blazing in the streets, vividly shows the trust that other countries have on our country and the leader.

This is indeed important especially at this time when the country rigorously pursues political and economic diplomacy. As the country deservedly rejoice and congratulate the government for its swift action to bring back home safely the stranded fellow Tanzanians, we also join the government in calling for the warring parties to silence their guns, to give peace a chance and allow the situation to return to normalcy in order to reduce unnecessary suffering of innocent civilians.

• The writer is the High Commissioner of Tanzania to South Africa

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