Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Tanzanian odyssey- a lesson in African brotherhood

Okay o. So there I was sitting jeje and I get an e mail saying I have to go to Tanzania later in the year. It's for work and I'm quite excited because I've never (whisper it) been to another African country. There I am gallivanting to Spain and Italy and France and the US and I have never even been to Ghana....na wa for WAEC....

Anyway they tell me flights are booked and arangements made and I'm asked to check if I need a visa. I go to the Tanzania High Commission website http://www.tanzania-online.gov.uk/visa/visa-who.html and carefully go through the list of countries whose nationals require a visa.

Nigeria is not on the list so I'm quite excited. Let me explain. In my office, everyone knows about me and my visa wahala. Whenever I need to travel for work or even for play, I often need to get a visa. Thankfully some of the embassies have given me long duration visas (stand up US and Canada to be acknowledged) but others including the Schengen states insist on giving me itsy bitsy visas that need to be renewed ever so often. Anyway I digress.

The point is that when I saw Nigeria was not on the list and the UK was, I laughed. Ehen, for a change, my English colleagues would need to get a visa and I would not- let them see what it is like to be filling forms and sending it up and down. Hooray for African solidarity!

Anyway I noticed a bit of small print at the bottom of the web page that said to call the High Commission if your country was not on the list. So I picked up the phone and called:

"Tanzania High Commission"

"Good morning, I'm a Nigerian based in the UK and I need to go to Tanzania later in the year for work and was calling to find out what the visa requirements are?"

"Hold on a minute I'll transfer you"

Another female posher voice comes on the line and I repeat my question

"You cannot apply for your visa here, you have to apply from Tanzania. Nigerians need what we call a referred visa- it's only issued from our Immigration Headquarters in Dar es Salaam"

"I beg your pardon, but I can't go there without a visa, can I?"

"No, the people inviting you have to apply on your behalf in Tanzania"

"But they sent me a letter of invitation and asked me to apply at the Embassy here"

"I am telling you what you need to do"

I decide to try a different tack- "But what if I'm a tourist- just going on holiday"

"Then the people you are going to stay with have to apply for you in Dar"

"So there is no way I can apply from here"

"Have you been listening to me?"

"Errrr yes"

"I don't think so, because if you had been listening that question will not be necessary"

As I sit with my mouth open, I hear a click. Madam has dropped the phone on me.

So much for African brotherhood.

I Google "Tanzania Immigration" and find this:

" Referred Visa
The referred visa is one that requires special clearance or permission from the Director of Immigration Services in Dar es Salaam or the Principal Immigration Officer in Zanzibar. This type of visa is required for nationals of Lebanon, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Somalia and for Refugees, stateless people and other nationalities as may be specified from time to time by the authorities. People affected by this regulation may make enquiries at the nearest Tanzania mission abroad."

So I've asked my office people to get in touch with the people I'm going to see in Tanzania, but as it stands, there's no guarantee that I'll be seeing another African country anytime soon :-(

20 comments:

Everchange said...

Bust Tanzania jare. Nigerians, and stateless people?? What the heck.

Anonymous said...

This is it o, i've had it! We are officially the laughing stock of the world! Can you imagine that insult form Tanzania of all countries in the world? I give up!

ayoke said...

UKNaija, apologies for the length of this comment.

There are very strong feelings against Nigerians in East Africa - notably Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It's really bad in Kenya. They think all Nigerians are criminals. Whenever I pass through Nairobi, I just respect myself and sit in the airport lounge. Once, whilst waiting for the connecting flight to Kigali at Nairobi airport, a fellow Nigerian classmate decided to join other people from different African countries to while away time in town. The border officials said the rest can go out without a visa but she, being Nigerian, cannot leave the airport. She came back quite saddened.

Indeed, it's a shame for African brotherhood. I recall that in school, we had this discussion about the need for the integration of African markets in order to be able to effectively take advantage of globalisation. The visiting lecturer - who happened to be Nigerian - then complained that it can take months to get a Kenyan visa and that it is a reflection of the difficulty of integration in Africa. One of the Kenyans in my class (there were 3) remarked: "Yes, and we will make it even worse for Nigerians to come".

Anyway, back to your post. It's not just Tanzania that has this special rule. Swaziland allows citizens of Commonwealth countries to visit without visas but Nigerians require visas. To be fair to Swaziland though, you get the visa in max of two days and you don't need any supporting documentation. As for Mozambique, they will consider giving people visas at the entry border but not to Nigerians.

Strange thing is that I've been and lived in some of these countries and there is nothing to them but our reputation goes ahead of us and like Desola wrote, we may just have become the laughing stock of the world.

Can I ask a question?

"Who do we blame?"

Anonymous said...

Ayoke,
you are right about East Africans having a strong prejudice against Nigerians. I had Kenyan coursemates who after realising that we don't bite, confessed that when leaving Kenya, their parents explicitly warned them not to be friends with Nigerians. A lot of it has to do with our reputation. Those our brothers who have gone before us have spoiled the land!!!(won ti ba ile je)
But, for all it is worth, I am still glad I am Nigerian and not Kenyan. The only Kenyans who did well in my Uni were those who aligned with Nigerians. The rest were too lily-livered to stand for their rights and to forge ahead against all odds to achieve their goals. Add to that a good dose of low self esteem....

If fellow suffering African Nations can rank us with Bangladesh and statless people,....mmm.
I wonder what the visa requirements for Tanzanians, Swazis and Kenyans to Nigeria is. Although not many of them would even think of stepping into the lion's den they perceive Nigeria to be.

Anonymous said...

In response to Ayoke, there is no one to blame but ourselves. Imagine, the Nigerian government sanctioning an "investigative reporter" to come to Lagos and do a story on 419 without realising that the journalist will edit his story at his own discretion. End result, Nigerians are disrespected on U.S. national tv (as usual) and not a peep from the Nigerian government. It is just a never ending story. Our government needs to treat other nationals the way their governments treat Nigerians. Parity is obviously necessary. Check out discussion re: ABC news' investigation on 419 at nigeriancuriosity.blogspot.com.

Sorry UKNaija for the disrespect received from 'madam'. At least you weren't in South Africa were I understand that there are posters warning visitors to beware of Nigerians! And, did you know that for years, every Nigerian who worked for the government 'gave' a portion of their earnings to the ANC in support of brotherhood and the achievement of freedom. So much for African unity and the dream of pan africanism.

Anonymous said...

There is no smoke without fire. What have our brothers done?

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem with the same Tanzanian embassy in London. After a few days trying and getting a message that they were closed, they said the same thing but I might have dropped the phone just a split second before she hung up on me :)

The visa was for my dad and in the end he had to fax the pages of the passport that had his UK residency and his photo to the WHO in Tanzania and the sent it to the embassy there with all the invitation bits. They then arrange for the visa to be issued at the point of entry. I guess the company inviting you know the score and should be able to sort it out. Hope you get to see another African country soon

Anonymous said...

Hmm, Oga UKNaija, I decided to keep your comment guarded so as to protect my "territorial integrity":)

I wonder how...

t said...

I started reading the post and was going to write to say Congratulations, because I feel your excitement. I've also NEVER travelled without visa D-rama. Then I read to the end...

I've never been to Tanzania, but according to reports, it'll be so worth the visa hassle.

uknaija said...

Thanks for all your messages...

I did wonder what atrocities my Nigerian brethren and sistren had committed in Tanzania to warrant this kind of scrutiny- I mean not even the US demands this kind of wahala...Or is it to with our Nollywood films which I hear sell like hot cakes in Tanzania?

I remember contributing money to the ANC when I was in primary school in Naija- there were these fight apartheid drives that we were encouraged to contribute our ten kobo to...I wish I'd kept the receipts then maybe I could claim some kind of exemption in South Africa...fat chance

Yes, Tanzania looks lovely and I've heard great reports too...

Reading some of the comments I couldn't help thinking that this is probably how US citizens feel when they hear/read about their country being dissed by people from "inconsequential" states :-)

The struggle continues, I'll fax my passport to the office in Tanzania on Monday

Jeremy said...

Message back to you (re: the comment you left on my blog) - yes I am, I dey for London: 07896 480 614. gimme a call. J

Anonymous said...

..."This type of visa is required for nationals of Lebanon, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Somalia"...uhm,isnt it strange that almost all the countries listed are also listed in the "top 20 corrupt countries of the world?;-)just sayn!luvvn ur blog oh jare!

Anonymous said...

Interesting...
"Our" reputation is really showing us pepper.

My Talking Beginnings said...

Na wa for tanzania o! My tanzanian friends told me that Nigerians were not welcome in their country but i had no idea that it was that bad! Sigh, it is well...as you say, so much for African brotherhood!

Belle said...

that was hilarious.

ahh the sting of owning a green passport. lol

Anonymous said...

UKnaija, to answer your question about what we as Nigerians have done to deserve this, I will tell you a story of an incident that occured in Kenya where I lived. Our fellow citizen 419 crew decided to make Nairobi their base, they invited a pastor to Kenya (believe it!!) on the usual, come and claim this for your church. The pastor arrived Nairobi and was held captive while they asked him to call home for more funds. He did the first time and I am not sure where their greed failed them, but they kept demanding more and the US relatives of the pastor finally called in the Secret Service who asked them to send the money while the western union location in Nairobi where the money was to be picked was watched. (An aside- they put the pastor in CHAINS!!! I guess it was their version of insult upon injury) Anyway, the guard at home realized that his friend had not come back from WU and guessed rightly that something was up. He absconded while his cronies were captured and displayed on TV and newspapers in Kenya.
Suffice to say, the Nigerian High Commission in Nairobi saw it fit to call a meeting of all Nigerians and were essentially told "if you dont have any business doing in Kenya - not school, not work, not missionary etc- then you best be taking your leave and get out of the country and stop giving the country a bad name. It still goes on but the visa issue is the same as the rest of East Africa.

Having said that, if I were the president of Nigeria, or even just the foreign minister, I will impose retaliatory actions. You want to come to Nigeria to prospect for oil or do business, vacation maybe, well apply to Abuja for a visa!!! You all know how long that would take!

We have taken mounds of rubbish from the oblong head idiots who frankly are only threatened by our dominance of the continent albeit in positive and negative ways.

In any case, Nairobi is fast turning into a worse than Lagos city, people are now getting car jacked in broad day light. Two weeks ago, a US Embassy official's wife was shot dead with her mother while being car jacked. It has become a mess.

Joy said...

Hi, I am a British citizen living in the UK. I have Nigerian relatives in Nigeria, who wish to visit me for the first time. They believe that they need a letter of invitation from me, but I think they just need a Visa like any other tourist from Nigeria. Who is correct? I thought a letter of invitation is only needed if you are visiting on business! Any advice would be welcome and I hope you dont take offense at me asking this here. Your blog is fascinating!

uknaija said...

@Joy- your relatives are right they do need a letter from a "sponsor". See this http://snipurl.com/1i7ux for details or google british high commission nigeria visa requirements. Hope that helps and thanks for your comments

Anonymous said...

Singapore is one of the few places we can go without a visa.

Check out http://www.Retire-Asia.com
They have a visa page and another one on scams which highlights our brothers' carryings on. It's no wonder we have become international pariahs!

Anonymous said...

iam a tanzanian living with a nigerian girl we never had such aproblem when we went to visit home but must admit its not that we being dis respectful just that the nigerians that came earlier did some damage to our country but if you u have good grounds in tanzania its never had getting avisa.i actual got her visa within s day there was no such thing as ref....visa was just aletter from my home attached wit mine