Tanzanians will never let any invader occupy part of their territory, President Jakaya Kikwete said Thursday at a military ceremony marking the country’s National Heroes Day.
“Our defence forces are all the time and every hour prepared to safeguard our territorial integrity. We shall never allow anybody to cut off an area of this territory,” the president told a public rally at Kaboya military base, which was established after the 1978 invasion of Tanzania by Ugandan troops under dictator Idi Amin.
In a terse statement, President Kikwete said the country’s defence and security forces would deal with any invader in the same way they did with Amin’s army.
“When the Ugandan troops invaded Tanzania, they damaged our properties and resources. The Commander-in-Chief (then President Julius Nyerere) vowed to rout them from our territory and ordered a retaliation on Masaka and Mbarara towns (on the Ugandan side) so that they too could understand the bitterness of reconstruction,” said Kikwete who, at that time, was an army officer.
However, the Tanzanian troops ran through other towns till they reached Uganda’s northern border because Nyerere had directed them “to keep the invaders under fire as long as Amin remained stubborn, he recalled.
“Defending a country is a tough job. Ensuring the nation’s security has its costs including loss of lives and properties as well as sustaining permanent injuries. But we shall always defend the country and its people at all cost,” he added.
Tanzania’s top leadership, including Vice President Mohammed Gharib Bilal, Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein, Chief Justice Mohammed Chande and Chief of Defence Forces Gen. Davis Mwamunyange, attended the commemoration, held beside the graveyard for soldiers who fought the Kagera War against Amin’s forces.
The cemetery is located at Kaboya on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania’s northwestern Kagera Region.