GOVERNMENT INTIMIDATION BLAMED ON LOW TURNOUT FOR CONSULTATIONS
The present regionwide consultations for the new proposed East African Community Ecosystems Bill also took to Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, but in contrast to a good turnout elsewhere in the region attendance was reported to have been low, when the meeting kicked off.
Many outspoken critics of the Tanzanian government’s plans to build a highway across the Serengeti, permit a soda ash extraction plant amidst the sole breeding grounds of the lesser flamingo on the shores of Lake Natron, the revival of plans to build a hydro electric dam and power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous or the latest revelations that the Tanga Marine Park was to be the site for a major harbour development, opted to stay away from the meeting. Two regular sources from Arusha and Dar es Salaam cited fears, pointing to the government’s campaign to silence the local media and intimidate opponents of their plans who have been called ‘traitors to development’, often a precursor for trumped up criminal charges to get rid of ‘problem people’ alleged to be against the government. It has in the past been repeatedly alleged that TANAPA and SENAPA staff, but also others from different government departments involved, were given gagging orders not to publicly comment and express their disagreement to the Serengeti project in particular, under the threat of losing their jobs if not worse.
‘Some of us cannot afford to be seen. We know that government is shadowing these consultations and may identify us when we speak up in public. Right now we might submit written feedback to the EAC in Arusha about the bill. The new bill is good because even Tanzanian government must obey it when it has been passed and they can then no longer just decide on their own to cut the Serengeti into two or destroy the flamingo breeding grounds on which all of East Africa depends’ said one source using the phone of a third party to avoid tracing the call back to his own number.
Another source also hailed the new EAC draft bill as big progress and then added: ‘we are using the EAC institutions to fight against such projects. Tanzanian courts are not likely to give us hearings but the East African Court will be independent when we take government to court to block the highway, to block the soda ash plant location, to block the Tanga project. Our government thinks it is not accountable to the people but when we have our day in court in Arusha they will see that they cannot act in total isolation and ignore pleas and petitions from all over the world.’
Watch this space to get regular updates on these most controversial issues surrounding a number of planned major projects driven by the Tanzanian government with big global financial and mining interests hiding in the background.