Why the so-called Mtwara gas fiasco is of our own making
25th May 2013
As bloody skirmishes rocked Mtwara region this week, some government officials as well as lawmakers claimed that there were foreign forces behind the so called gas fiasco.
Some Members of Parliament were quoted by sections of the media as saying these foreign forces were mainly from the Western World whose main motive was to tame the growing Chinese investments in the gas-rich regions.
Within the government, there are also those who believe that what is happening in Mtwara is the creation of the same foreign forces, which are said to have hidden motives.
However, no one has so far provided any evidence to prove that Western countries, including United States of America were behind the on-going Mtwara gas fiasco.
What we hear are simple, if just sweeping statements or mere accusations, which are not backed with facts. Since we haven’t seen any water-tight evidence connecting Western countries with the current riots in Mtwara, we would like to call these allegations what they really are: baseless and outrageous.
For instance, those who claimed that Western countries were not happy with the massive Chinese investments in Mtwara region are naïve. The reality is that it’s indeed the Western World, mainly Europe, that has the big investors in gas-rich regions of Mtwara and Lindi.
China has just loaned Tanzania the $1.3 billion it needs to construct the 524km gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam. To put things into perspective, the so called Chinese investment is indeed the investment by the United Republic of Tanzania.
The biggest investment by the Chinese will be in Bagamoyo where they would spend about $11 billion to construct the biggest port in East Africa, which would then be managed by the Chinese for about 50 years in order to recover the monies.
Fortunately, Bagamoyo is calm, but Mtwara, where China has little investments is bleeding. Though those within the government circles may know more than what they are telling the public, their allegations still lack credible evidence.
What is happening in Mtwara is a fiasco of our own making. There is no such thing as “mkono wa nje” -- loosely translate as foreign influence – which some elements within us are suggesting.
We are our own country, and to suggest that some foreign forces could be behind skirmishes in our southern regions which have just been established to be rich in oil and gas is to beg our very sovereignty.
What we need in Mtwara is leadership, not partisan politics. What we should also recognize is that some politicians are out there making cheap political gain out of cheap politicking.
Mtwara isn’t going to be the first extractive region in this great nation of equally great riches; we have had gold and diamonds aplenty elsewhere – so what’s so particular about this nonsense of gas in Mtwara? Didn’t the people of Mtwara go through primary and secondary education – and others through university as well – for free not long ago on revenues from gold and diamonds from Shinyanga? And, aren’t they eating meat from animals they do not even know to keep?
We have to have our perspectives right; revenues from the Serengeti National Park, to mention gains from just one national resource have sent boys and girls without regional discrimination; we may also talk of Mwadui diamonds which built a secondary school for all Tanzanians. We are then left to wonder: what’s so special about this Mtwara fiasco?
Our government leaders should stop complaining about what is happening down south; we did not put them in positions of leadership to complain; we put them there to lead this country.
For sure, Mtwara isn’t suffering from any foreign interference; and even if there could be some foreign idiots meddling in our affairs down south we sure have the means to deal with them.
Anyone in leadership – including Parliament -- should not tell us there is something beyond the pipeline; it should be dealt at source.
And, here is the whole point: there’s no such thing as anything being beyond our control; because this is a sovereign nation, and Mtwara is just one small part of it.
The rampage in Mtwara was said to have been a direct resentment from the residents of the government’s plan to construct a giant natural gas pipeline from the region to Dar es Salaam.
In this, we do not expect excuses; this natural resource belongs to all Tanzanians, as do the Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti; we do not need anyone, least of all our leaders, to tell us the obvious.
But, when all is said and done, it’s also high time we reviewed our investment policies especially in regions, which have huge natural resources. It will be a shame to have a makeshift school in an area that is just surrounded with huge natural resources.
Today, Ogoniland in Delta region makes Nigeria the 9th in oil production globally, but the area is the poorest in the Western African country. We are not here to imitate what happened in other resource-rich countries especially in Africa.
What if we have a policy that states clearly that in all revues collected by the government let say from gas, just one percent of it would be returned back to the area where the exploration and exploitation was done to invest in social and economic development. Will we be a cursed nation for doing that? Preliminary reports show that the government would earn about $3.5 billion as revenues from gas.
Our investment policies are not the Holy Bible or Holy Quran, which can’t be amended. These are man-made rules, which can be amended to accommodate our social and economic needs. Yes in 1970s and 80s, cotton, coffee and sisal benefited all, but let us not forget that those regions, which grew the cash crops had more advantage than those that didn’t.
They have the biggest cooperative societies, which invested in secondary schools in Kilimanjaro, Kagera, Shinyanga and Mwanza. In gas business, what are our social and economic investment policies to the people especially in those areas with huge natural resources?.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
BBC News Africa
Tanzania Mtwara gas riots: 'Pregnant woman killed'
Schools and businesses in Mtwara are closed because of the tensions
A pregnant woman has been shot dead in Tanzania during a security operation after protests in Mtwara, a journalist in the southern town has told the BBC.
The security forces were hunting for those thought to be behind the violent riots that erupted two days ago.
Residents were angered that the budget, presented in parliament on Wednesday, confirmed the construction of a gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam.
They want a gas processing plant to be built in Mtwara instead.
The 500km (310-mile) pipeline is part of a $1.22bn (£807m) project which will also see the construction of a gas processing plant in Dar es Salaam, the main city of the East African nation.
Journalist Abdallah Bakari, who works for Tanzania's privately owned Mwananchi newspaper, told the BBC Swahili service that the woman was shot in her home on Thursday.
The security forces were going house-to-house to search for people they thought had been involved in the clashes with police.
Dr Mohamed Kodi at Mtwara's Ligula Referral Hospital told Mwananchi that the woman who died was shot in the stomach. She was seven months pregnant, he said. Her shooting was also reported in the Kiswahili-language paper Nipache.
The local police commander has refused to comment on the incident.
Correspondents say many men have fled the town because of the crackdown and some women and children have sought shelter in the grounds of Ligula Hospital for safety.
The riots began on Wednesday when the budget confirmed the gas project was going ahead.
Many people in Mtwara feel they are going to miss out on jobs and want a gas processing plant built in the their region.
There is a now a heavy security presence in Mtwara and police are escorting buses travelling into the town.
When the riots broke out on Wednesday, some buildings and vehicles were set alight, cars were stoned and a bridge blocked to stop traffic.
Riot police were deployed and soldiers can now be seen patrolling the streets. Police have been escorting buses travelling into Mtwara to stop them being attacked. Shops, schools and other businesses in the town remain closed because of the tensions.
There were similar protests in January about the proposed pipeline when the houses of several governing party politicians were burnt down. Parliament has been temporarily suspended because of the latest trouble. But President Jakaya Kikwete has said the government will continue with the project despite the protests.
Their demands are not valid because resources belong to the whole country, not one geographical area, he said.