Tanzania’s Catholic Bishops have strongly criticised and cautioned the Government of Tanzania against going ahead with the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between Tanzania and Dubai, giving exclusive port rights to the Dubai-based DP World company.
Over the weekend, the Secretary General of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, Fr Charles Kitima, read a Pastoral Statement at a Press Conference he addressed in Dar es Salaam. The Pastoral statement outlining the position of the Bishops is co-signed by 37 of the country’s Bishops. The Statement resulted from a closed-door meeting held in Dar es Salaam last week, by the Bishops..
The controversial agreeement started with an MoU, followed in October 2022 by the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on economic and social partnership for the development and improving performance of sea and lake ports in Tanzania. On 10 June 2023, the country’s parliament ratified the Agreement against a backdrop of a hugely divisive and heated debate among citizens.
In making public the Bishops’ position, the Secretary General of TEC, Fr. Charles Kitima, presented the Statement of the Bishops to local media. In it, the Bishops insist they are only responding to the cries of most Tanzanians who want the Agreement cancelled.
“We have carefully monitored the discussions, opinions, suggestions and cries of the majority of citizens, who are the owners of all ports and resources, and we have realised that the majority of citizens do not want this Agreement which gives the foreign investor the authority and right to own the main economic routes as specified on this Agreement,” said the Bishops.
Making reference to the Latin maxim, Vox populi, vox Dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God, the Bishops’ Statement continued,
“Now that the majority of citizens do not want investments with such bad conditions in all our ports; and since the Government is accountable to the people, the leaders must listen to the voice of the people because their voice is the voice of God.”
On several occasions, the Bishops said that they tried to give advice regarding the Agreeement. They cited the 12 and 26 June meetings. However, their advice and recommendation to the Government seem to have gone unheard.
The Bishops say they are saddened to see that the Port Agreement dividing the nation. The Agreement, the Bishops say, has divided the nation into two parties, namely those who agree with the Agreement and those who do not agree. The also said there was a climate of intimidation whereby some who support the Agreeement are doing so out of fear for their Government jobs.
According to the Bishops, this is not the first time that the Government is ignoring the people’s concerns.
In the same Pastoral Statement, the Bishops allude to another thorny and emotive issue in Tanzania, where the Maasai community have been repeatedly evicted from their traditional pastoral lands by the Government.
“Ignoring the voice of the people on investments that do not hear their voice has also brought suffering to the people of the areas where they live, as seen in the Maasai communities of Loliondo, whose cultural and social rights have been violated. Investments have been given unproductive priority, and the Maasai people have been left to suffer,” reads the Bishops’ Statement.
A 6 June 2023 Amnesty International report, says Tanzanian authorities have forcibly evicted the Maasai community from Loliondo, a division in Tanzania’s northern Ngorongoro district in the Arusha region. Amnesty International also said the Government of Tanzania repeatedly resorted to ill-treatment, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and forced evictions against members of the Maasai Indigenous community.