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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Tanzania accepts Somali Bantus
Somali Bantu girl in Tanzania
The next generation will grow up in Tanzania
Authorities in Tanzania say they will grant citizenship to thousands of Somali Bantu refugees.

Tanzania's Deputy Home Affairs Minister, John Chiligati, told BBC News Online on Wednesday that the move will benefit more than 3,000 Somali Bantus who are already settled in the country's eastern coastal region of Tanga.

They fled to Tanzania following the collapse of the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

"The refugees are welcome to apply for citizenship and will be given one hectare piece of land per person in Chogo, where their ancestors are believed to have come from, about 300 years ago," he said.

Mr Chiligati explained that the refugees had been given special treatment by being hosted in Tanga, because their origin was traced to the Wazigua ethnic group.

"They speak fluent Kizigua and follow the tribe's traditions," he said.

Slave origins

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, (UNHCR) has already built a health centre, schools, playgrounds, shops, markets, water points and a police post at Chogo, for an estimated cost of $2million.

Somali Bantus in Tanzania
The Somali Bantus can speak Tanzanian languages

The UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have launched a large-scale plan to resettle Bantus, who say they are persecuted in Somalia.

They are descendants of slaves who were captured from Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique by the Sultan of Zanzibar and other slave lords and sold into Somalia.

Some were freed after many years but are visibly different from most Somalis, with darker skin and curlier hair.

US-bound

About 900,000 Bantus, who remained in pre-civil war Somalia continued with their farming livelihoods along the Juba River and became part of the fabric of Somali society.

The Somali Bantus who are to be resettled in the United States originate from one of six main ethnic groups in the three countries along the shores of the Indian Ocean - Wangindo, Wamakua, Wanyasa, Wayao, Wazaramu, and Wazigua.

In 1997, UNHCR forged an agreement with the Mozambique Government in an attempt to resettle the group to its ancestral homelands.

A registration centre was set up in the town of Dadaab.

But the plan was aborted at the eleventh hour due to what was described as lack of resources.

In 1999, the US government pledged to resettle more than 12,000 Somali Bantu refugees, most of them illiterate.

The first batch of some 74 people left for the United Sates in March.


SEE ALSO:
US accepts Somali Bantus
13 Mar 03  |  Africa
Persecuted Bantus begin new life
20 May 03  |  Africa


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