Tanzanian government accused of dilly dallying over fate of MV Liemba


(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Tourism stakeholders, keen to promote Lake Tanganyika as an additional natural resource area beyond the traditional national parks and coastal beaches, have expressed dismay over reports that the Tanzanian government has failed to respond to an offer from Germany to refurbish and modernize MV Liemba.

The lake steamer has a history of nearly 100 years, when it was brought by the German colonial administration to Lake Tanganyika as part of a fleet, meant to defend the lake from incursions launched via the Belgian Congo. Mentioned here in previous feature articles, alongside the Imperial German Navy’s Indian Ocean exploits vis a vis the Koenigsberg and her support vessels, MV Liemba back in those days was known as the Graf von Goetzen. Scuttled in 1916, her engineers took great care prior to the sinking to grease and cover essential engine and other installations and when the ship was salvaged in 1924 it was relatively easy to restore functionality and she resumed service in 1927 as MV Liemba, operating to this day along the Tanzanian shoreline of Lake Tanganyika.

Last year proposals were floated to turn the ship into a maritime museum but later on an offer was received from the German government to fully refurbish and modernize the ship, some say with the 100th anniversary of World War 1 now less than two years away as part of a wider initiative to commemorate this event.

With the cost fully underwritten by Germany, tourism sources question the wisdom of the Tanzanian government’s failure to respond and take up the offer, although it is known that Germany’s offer to assist in financing the Southern bypass of a planned trans-Serengeti highway has also been snubbed by the powers that be in Dar es Salaam.

Lake Tanganyika is literally unexplored by mainstream tourists up to now. When TTB talks about diversifying our products, this is the way to go. There are national parks also not too far from the lake, there are now scheduled flights to Kigoma and Sumbawanga, so this opportunity must not be missed. If this boat is modernized we can get tourists to take trips on the lake, explore the nearby parks and open a completely new circuit. There is opportunity for investments in tourist class lodges or camps, job opportunities for locals. Can we know why this offer is still pending after many months since we read about it in the papers and your article? I think Kagesheki [Amb. Khamis Kagesheki,
Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism] should get involved here because if anyone can it is him to make the government act’ ranted a regular source from Arusha when asked to comment.

Eastern Africa is thought to be featuring prominently with history and WW1 buffs come August 1914, as Tanzania, back then known as Tanganyika while under German colonial rule and Kenya were on opposing sides when the war broke out. The war lead to a series of naval battles in the Indian Ocean and naval engagements on Lake Tanganyika involving the Koenigsberg and the Graf von Goetzen and their supply ships. The land war, briefly described here in an article ‘Battlefield East Africa’ (https://atcnews.org/2012/06/24/battlefield-east-africa) too will be remembered come the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1, along the border in the Taita Taveta area but also as far as the Kenyan’s Kisii region, where German forces fought skirmishes before being repelled. A number of fortifications and sites have been found and identified by one James Willson and are well described in his book ‘Guerillas of Tsavo’ which was only recently published and details of which can be found via these links http://www.guerrillasoftsavo.com https://www.facebook.com/GuerrillasOfTsavo.

There is hopeful speculation within tourism circles that the German government may avail some funding to have key sites in Kenya preserved and readied to become tourism sites, similar to the memorial sites now maintained in the greater Taita Taveta area by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Meanwhile though will Tanzania’s tourism fraternity hope that their government in Dar es Salaam will step up and make sure that the pending offer to refurbish and modernize the MV Liemba is taken up so that the lake steamer can one day soon be at the centre of a new tourism circuit in Western Tanzania. Watch this space.

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