Mwambani evictions denounced by residents and human rights groups

THE ADVANCE OF THE CORRIDOR OF DESTRUCTION DISPLACES MWAMBANI RESIDENTS

These evictions are illegal but legalities have never stopped this government from doing something. Land acquisition procedures under the current law, the Land Act of 1999, have been ignored because no ESIA has been conducted. It is also illegal because the value government has put on the land and buildings is completely unrealistic and a small fraction of the true value. The compensation forced on these people who are now going to be evicted, and we are talking at least 600 homesteads, will not allow them to rebuild a life elsewhere. They will become destitute, fall into poverty and instead of being productive self-sustaining members of our society will become a burden on society’ said a source from Tanzania yesterday when discussing the unfolding events near the planned Mwambani port area. Human rights activists in Tanzania, as well as the affected residents, have denounced the attempts to remove them from their ancestral land and vowed to fight back using all avenues open to them to pursue the matter in competent courts, while not leaving voluntarily and resisting peacefully any force evictions the government may have planned for them.

Executing the paperwork for the evictions, in what has been called an evil scheme of government sanctioned land grabbing, is according to the source the Reli Assets Holding Company, which has handed cheques worth 1 million Tanzania Shillings to owners of ‘shambas’, aka small holdings farms, and up to 3 million Tanzania Shillings for land with homesteads on it. A previous similar exercise of eviction happened nearby at Ndumi some time ago, with evicted residents indeed having been turned from self sustaining fishermen and farmers to the proverbial basket case beggars.

To make matters worse, the cheques reportedly have a validity until 19th May only, after which they will lapse and as a result people may be forced off their ancestral land without any compensation at all, as has previously been alleged from the Ndumi evictions.

A conservation source in regular contact from Arusha, who is also involved in the ongoing court case to permanently stop the Tanzanian government from constructing a road across the migration routes of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras in the Serengeti, added his own voice when he wrote: ‘We have gone to court with our grievance. All attempts by the Tanzanian government to stop the case from proceeding have been thrown out and in fact the East African Court of Justice registrar has made very public comments that they welcome any similar cases to be brought to them. What has happened is that our domestic legal system has failed us, so we went to the East African level. Our case is directly linked with Mwambani. As you wrote in your article, that corridor comes from Tanga / Mwambani to Musoma at Lake Victoria and the most direct route is through the Serengeti. The big mining interests need these highways and railways to export ore and soda ash. They need it to export timber from the forests of the Eastern Arc mountains and other forest systems along this route. Poaching of timber is even worse than poaching of elephant now. We know that law offices at the coast have been leaned on to reject taking the cases of those evicted. Besides, these villagers are poor and unable to afford good legal representation, that is another reason they have not been able to take matters to court. It is worth considering going straight to the EACJ for their case. You need to highlight the connection between the Serengeti highway and the railway link from Tanga to Musoma and how it impacts on conservation and biodiversity hotspots. Impacts on the Serengeti, the Lake Natron ecosystem and the Coelacanth Marine Park near Tanga. How can anyone seriously want to build a port in that marine park. Besides being too shallow, all the experts talk of better options to improve the Tanga port and not waste a lot of money to build a port in Mwambani just a few miles away. The number of berths I have found out, will make that harbour incapable to expand a lot but Tanga could be expanded more easily. There is a lot of corruption and external influence going on. When they hear billions of dollars, the sharks come out from the deep and a few hundred or thousand villagers are no obstacle for our government. This has to be stopped’.

The East African Community has only recently endorsed the transport corridor between Tanga and Musoma, ostensibly following intense lobbying by the Ugandan and Tanzanian delegations at the EAC in Arusha, but in the face of railway experts which doubt the viability of too many railway routes from the Indian Ocean to Lake Victoria and beyond. While in Kenya the LAPSSET project is due to connect a new deep sea port to be built in Lamu with South Sudan and Ethiopia, by railway, highway and pipeline – the latter to export South Sudan’s oil – the present route from Mombasa via Nairobi to the Ugandan border is due to be upgraded to the international standard gauge format, as the current narrow gauge format limits both speed and weight carried.

Considering there are only these two main rail routes in Kenya – one existing and one planned – and Kenya being a much larger economy for that matter at present, it has been suggested for Tanzania to concentrate on rehabilitating the TAZARA line which connects Dar es Salaam to Zambia, and to speedily upgrade the two main rail lines connecting Dar es Salaam with the current lake port city of Mwanza and the central line up to Isaka, from where Rwanda intends to establish a rail link to Kigali and beyond. Establishing a third main line, as suggested from Tanga to Musoma, where incidentally no sufficient port facilities exist at present and which would require a new harbour to be built at considerable cost, is therefore seen by many as one too many, and international lenders will be reluctant to help finance all the proposed new routes.

Government sources in periodic contact with this correspondent have however dismissed these fears and pointed to the planned establishment of a BRICS development bank, to be set up by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, aimed to rival in scope and size the World Bank and International Finance Corporation. ‘If World Bank does not finance our projects, the BRICS bank will when it is launched. After all, it will be Chinese firms building the railways and harbours and highways and Brazil’s Odebrecht will build a new mega power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge, financed by the BRICS development bank too. And Russia wants our Uranium, so they will be willing to finance whatever roads and rail is needed to get to the mining sites. [sic: over 200 sq km’s located inside the Selous Game Reserve
but due to be degazetted to permit for mining to commence] We expect the conditions attached to the BRICS loans to be much more in favour of our needs and with no political strings to them like we are getting from the West’, comments made under condition of anonymity and signaling a new strategy how to pursue highly controversial projects without years of arguments ‘inflicted on them’ by the Western conservation and green lobbies.

These and related issues have previously been discussed in widely read articles, the links of which are inserted here for ease of access, resulting at the time in outraged protests of government mouthpieces and sycophants, but which have stood the test of time as ongoing developments only strengthen the case made two years ago, when publishing http://wolfganghthome.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/tanzania-conservation-breaking-news-the-corridor-of-destruction-from-the-coast-to-the-lake/

Additional articles then followed in January 2012 via http://wolfganghthome.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/tanzanias-corridor-of-destruction-set-to-extend-into-uganda-too/ and in July 2012 via http://wolfganghthome.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/tanzanias-corridor-of-destruction-set-to-extend-into-uganda-too/

For more information on this complex and complicated issue readers can also access the following websites and contributions by others. 
http://www.tnrf.org/files/E_INFO_MWAMBANI_DOSSIER_November.pdf
http://www.tnrf.org/node/7066 "Does Tanga need a new port?"
http://www.tnrf.org/node/10390 SWARA article