Judegment Day At The High Court London

Judegment Day At The High Court London
Mengi v Hermitage: Libel Claim Successfully Defended

Friday, 24 October 2014

Tanzania: The Politics of Hypocrisy

With traditional energy markets embroiled in conflict and subsequent unreliability, world powers are turning to Africa to secure the natural resources required to fuel their economies. However, this new scramble for Africa brings further conflict, the conflict between civil society and profit.

In August, President Obama hosted the United States-Africa Leaders Summit’ in Washington DC: A summit, to provide an opportunity for the Obama administration to open a new chapter in U.S-Africa relations. Journalist Martin LeFevre states the Obama Administration had two aims. To change the narrative about Africa and open the Continent to American business providing an alternative to China’s extractive, no-strings-attached model. “We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources. We recognize Africa for its greatest resource which is its people and its talents and its potential,” President Obama intoned unconvincingly.

The problem however, as Helen Epstein points out in her piece entitled “Africa’s Slide Toward Disaster,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/02/opinion/africas-slide-toward-disaster.html?_r=0) is that whilst the summit sought to highlight Africa’s development successes and promote trade and investment on a continent rich in oil and natural resources, Justice and the rule of law weren’t on the agenda.  A view forcefully reiterated by Hassan Shire Executive Director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project who points out that some of the attending heads of state acquired or entrenched power by unconscionable means. Many have brutally repressed the rights of their own citizens and systematically targeted independent civil society voices that seeking to hold them to account.  It is these voice Epstein states, so vital to Africa’s development, that were largely excluded from the substantive discussions about America’s role in Africa’s future.

Whilst there is no shortage of corporates, donors and world leaders engaging in politics of the sieve with African leaders thereby nurturing a culture of impunity, the day will come when they will be faced with a choice between nepotistic interest and principles of civil society. This will be a serious choice.  As Epstein states, lavishing billions of dollars in military and development aid on African states while failing to promote justice, democracy and the rule of law, American policies have fostered a culture of abuse and rebellion which must change before the continent is so steeped in blood that there’s no way back.

With the rise of terror organisation such as ISIS and al shabaab in times when the United States and Western governments vehemently trumpet their commitment to the protection of human rights in countries where such organizations operate, how is this rhetoric consistent with their eagerness to do business with African regimes that abuse human rights on just about every level? How much will be too much if at all, for companies such as BG Group Tanzania to pay for gas or for Ophir Energy to pay for oil. More importantly when will governments such as the United Kingdom place their rhetorical concern for human rights above British business interests.

In a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce in March of this year, former British Foreign Secretary William Hague told business leaders that extra effort was required to maintain British prosperity, standards of living, and sources of jobs for the next generation. We are tackling our problems at home and using foreign policy to seek out new economic opportunity for our country he said. But at what cost?

In April Hague met President Kikwete in London commending him on Tanzania’s growing partnership with the UK on human rights and good governance. Yet due to the high levels of corruption in Tanzania, the administration of justice is not fit for purpose. The very institutions mandated to protect the rights of the people are, through a culture of corruption and impunity, used to deny them.  It is as if Justice is bought and sold on the open market. Those who don’t have access to power do not have access to justice. Importantly, Tanzania is not recorded as a country for concern in respect of human rights by the British government. This presents a clear dichotomy between the UK government's praise of the Kikwete regime and the reality on the ground in Tanzania.

In November 2012 UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper published an article written by its then Assistant City Editor Jonathan Russell claiming it had seen a letter sent to DFID by shareholders in UK-listed companies operating in Tanzania asking for part of its £151m aid budget to be used to tackle the growing corruption in the country in order to safeguard UK investments in Tanzania. The letter expressed serious concern for  the “….on-going trend towards deterioration of title, protection of companies basic rights, challenges to agreements made under Tanzania mining code with the Government and seemingly arbitrary demands for “windfall” payments.”  If true, this is a grave indictment indeed, not only on DFIDS development policy but on the Tanzanian government’s willingness and/or capacity to promote a conducive investor environment through the rule of law.

Simply, the UK government does all but lick the boots of Kikwete’s governance yet demonstrates no serious policy of holding said governance to account for its appalling governance and human rights record. Why?

Well a clue is in the remainder of Hague’s speech. He commended the growing partnership between the UK and Tanzania on trade and investment, defence and security and governance noting that it provided significant opportunities for British businesses.  He cited two projects in particular. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between BG Group, Ophir Energy and the Tanzanian Petroleum Development Corporation, on the potential development of a multi-billion pound onshore liquefied natural gas plant; and an agreement between UK company Aldwych International and the Tanzanian authorities on development of a £175 million wind farm.

Whilst the British government continues to lavish praise on Kikwete’s governance ignoring rising corruption and Tanzania’s appalling human rights record, it is nurturing a culture of impunity which will at some point have disastrous consequences upon civil society. As Epstein so aptly states, “the best guarantee of peace and prosperity is justice and indifference to it, for whatever reason creates the very disasters the West wishes to avoid. The West must use all means, including aid cuts, trade sanctions, travel bans and forceful public statements, to punish governments that abuse their own people — before it’s too late”. Her comments could not be more apt in the light of the sweep of organizations such as ISIS and Al Shabaab across the Middle East and Africa.

DFID states and clearly has a duty to show that it is achieving value for money in everything it does and promises the British tax payer results, transparency, accountability and value for money for every pound spent on development. However, research based evidence states that DFID is not meeting its purpose, is failing the British tax payer and the citizens of Tanzania in a manner that begs the question, what is the present quid pro quo in respect of British Aid to Tanzania as it continues to pour billions of dollars of tax payer’s money into a corrupt regime with an appalling human rights record.

Director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders America Hassan Shire, reminds us of the obvious, i.e. human rights, democracy, free and fair elections, and the rights to freedoms of expression, association, and assembly are not western constructs. They are universal human rights, belonging to Africans just as much as they belong to the West. Failing to hold corrupt governments to account in a manner demonstrated by British foreign policy in Tanzania i.e. by politics of hypocrisy, denies those rights and erodes civil society and the rule of law.

This is indefensible both in respect of the British Tax payer and the people of Tanzania.


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