WIKILEAKS DOCUMENTS PROMPT ANGRY RESPONSES IN DAR ES SALAAM
A leaked cable from the then US Ambassador to Tanzania Michael Retzer to the State Department has produced angry reactions in Tanzania with denial chasing denial. The cables alleged a bribery scandal involving none other than President Kikwete and the owners of what used to be the Kempinski in Dar es Salaam, now under Hyatt management since the beginning of August. The company under the spotlight is the Albwardy Group, which also owns the Zawani Zanzibar Resort, the Bilila Serengeti Lodge and also reportedly the Saadani lodges, besides the Four Seasons in the Seychelles and the Desert Palm properties in Dubai. The cables allege the group gave inappropriate gifts, in other words bribes to top Tanzanian officials prompting Albwardys CEO to issue a statement denying any such gifts. The alleged source quoted by the former Ambassador in his secret cables has upon the publication of these hugely damaging documents also denied ever having given such information, calling it a load of rubbish and defamation of her personal character what else to say now that the stuff is out in the open.
State House sources in Dar es Salaam called for substantiation of the claims made while otherwise dismissing them as lazy gossip, falsehoods and innuendo, especially the claims that the ruling party CCM had received major campaign contributions again, what else to say now the Wikileaks has blown the lid off murky deals, not just in Tanzania but around the world.
Rumours have long existed over in particular the true ownership of the Bilila Serengeti Lodge, and unguarded remarks by a staff member at the launch of Safari Plus a few weeks ago, that Bilila Serengeti was the unofficial Camp David of Tanzania only fueled suspicions once more.
Conservationists however are putting their own two plus two together now and are launching additional investigations over just why President Kikwete seems so hellbent to have a highway, graveled or not, built across the Serengeti to earmarked gold mining areas between the Serengeti and Lake Victoria. Other inexplicable projects of the same controversial nature by the Kikwete government are a soda ash plant on the shores of Lake Natron, which would irreversibly destroy the sole breeding grounds for East Africas flamingo population, the withdrawal of the application to UNESCO for WHS recognition of the Eastern Arc Mountains, the plans for uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve or the building of a new mega port inside the marine national park at Mwambani where the Coelacanth prehistoric fish is found. Many questions yet few answer, for now that is. Considering that Wikileaks managed to obtain top secret cables between American embassies abroad and the State Department, is may only be a matter of time before more leaks from other sources within Tanzania may shed more light on the allegations and confirm either truth of falsehoods. Watch this space.