EALA’s Transboundary Ecosystems Bill to be opposed by Tanzania

Another showdown with fellow EAC countries appears to be on the horizon, as it became known over the weekend that Tanzania intends to block the EALA passed law on transboundary eco systems, fearing that it would lead to being compelled to drop some of the most controversial projects ever designed under which a massive assault on bio diversity hotspots is foreseen. Passed in January this year by a large majority vote at the East African Legislative Assembly the bill now needs to be sanctioned by the next Head of State Summit to become law, but usually well informed sources from Dar es Salaam and Arusha have clearly indicated that Tanzania will object to it, claiming it touches on issues of land and which is not provided for under the EAC treaty. This bill does not directly impact on land issues but indirectly would compel Tanzania to have controversial projects like the Serengeti highway or the Lake Natron soda ash plant, or mining and logging in forest systems along borders with EAC member subject to a peer review about sustainability, and they do not like that one bit. They already blame Kenyans for the woes over the highway which is now in the East African court after ANEW, a Nairobi based NGO Africa Network for Endangered Wildlife has sued them. And our minister for EAC has all but conceded that it is the regional environmental controls and possible enforcement which scares them, saying it could impact on the way Tanzania intends to use their land. But that is the issue here, environmental issues affect many more portfolios and the claiming an impact on their right to land usage is really a weak attempt to escape reviews and promote best practice and sustainability. Here in Tanzania this has been brushed aside by this government in favour of what they call progress and development said an Arusha based regular contributor to this correspondents articles. Conservation sources are now reportedly using their lobbying mechanism to prevail upon the other EAC partners, in particular Rwanda which has an outstanding record on environmental protection, to lean on President Kikwete to drop the objections and agree to the bill becoming law, though knowing Tanzanias past stubborn refusal to remove non tariff barriers like inequitable treatment of airlines registered in the region or the imposition a few months ago of an unsanctioned fee on Kenyan vehicles entering Tanzania on business, would suggest that this will be just one more contentious issue, raising the overall questions few dare to ask in public just how deep Tanzania is truly part of the East African Community or if their archaic issues with neighbour Kenya will continue to dominate their agenda. Watch this space to learn what decisions the next Head of State Summit will take on this position, or if the decision as usual would be deferred to allow for continued consultations.

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