WILL 122 BILLION AID PACKAGE MAKE THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY PLANS GO AWAY?
(Posted 18th December 2013)
Tanzania and Germany signed bilateral aid agreements worth nearly 122 billion Tanzania Shillings in the form of grants, for a range of water and electricity related projects but notably also over some 45 billion for the Serengeti National Park. Germany, and in particular the Frankfurt Zoological Society, have a long standing relationship with Tanzania in supporting the Serengeti and other national parks, since the days when Germany’s wildlife wizard, aka Prof. Grzimek, immortalized the Serengeti with his books and TV series ‘Serengeti Must Not Die’. The late Prof. Grzimek struck a lifelong friendship with Tanzania’s founder president and ardent conservationist Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, which paved the way for subsequent governments to continue this strong conservation cooperation.
When plans therefore became known of a highway being proposed to cut across the vital great heards’ migration routes, German government and private conservation sources made their displeasure known but went one further by offering to finance a study for an alternative route around the Southern edges of the Serengeti National Park, which by consensus will reach a multiple of populations compared to the proposed cross park highway and is therefore thought to be much more viable in the long term.
Tanzania’s president Kikwete initially rejected such overtures, including similar offers from the World Bank, seemingly hellbent to push his ill conceived plans through but global opposition grew to such levels that the government in Dar es Salaam simply could no longer afford to ignore the protests. While a case is presently pending before the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, seeking to obtain a permanent injunction against the Tanzanian government to ever build a road or highway across the Serengeti, hope was rekindled when news broke about this massive aid package, all in form of grants by the way, that it will have built in provisions to irrevocably compel the Tanzanian government to shelve the highway plans. Regular sources within the German diplomatic establishment in Eastern Africa were unable to comment on any such ‘hidden’ riders on the grants, which would prohibit the highway to go ahead, and Tanzanian government sources are notorious NOT to answer to such enquiries.
TANAPA, through which the grant for the ‘Sustainable Management and Conservation of Biodiversity’ project is being channeled, has been overtly and covertly opposed to the highway plans, aware of the devastating impact on the great migration, and efforts are being made to ascertain through them too if any conditionalities were set by the German government vis a vis the highway project. Watch this space for future updates, as and when available.