Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Sunday, 6 January 2013

I have empathy for the residents of Mtwara, just that

The recent demonstrations by Mtwara's residents demanding tangible benefits from the natural gas discovered off Mtwara's coast, and protesting plans to transport the gas to Dar es Salaam for electricity production has focused the spotlight on how Tanzania's natural resources should be utilised for its citizen's welfare.

A single incident, the demonstration, could produce a multifaceted scenario that can lead to catastrophic ramifications.

In rather plain language, the protesters in Mtwara said: "this is our gas and we want to benefit from our natural resource." This is a first; Tanzanians have rarely made such public pronouncements claiming ownership of the natural resources that are discovered in their neighbourhoods.

Mtwara's residents have taken a leaf from Zanzibar (the Zanzibaris having successfully negotiated a specific share of the petroleum that is believed to be underneath the Zanzibar Channel to be set aside for the exclusive use of Zanzibar) and are demanding the planned gas to electricity production production planned for Dar es Salaam should be carried out in Mtwara. Rather than transport the gas by pipeline to Dar es Salaam Mtwarans demand the plant should be based in Mtwara where its residents will benefit from employment and other associated perks.

Reacting to those demands, Dr. Antipas Massawe, a mining engineer at the University of Dar es Salaam, made two basic points:

1. the gas is ours (every Tanzanians) and not the property of Mtwara's residents
2. only economic parameters should determine whether the production of electricity should be carried out in Mtwara or in Dar es Salaam

So while agreeing with the Government of Tanzania that every Tanzanian has a stake in the natural resources of this country (add, in theory), he might not necessarily agree that Dar es Salaam should be the location of the planned gas to electricity production. There are many economic factors that may, in his estimation, provide strong arguments for locating the plant in Mtwara. He is saying to Mtwara;s residents: "It is not your gas and should never be but there could very well by economic justifications for producing the electricity in Mtwara.

I agree. Preferential policies aimed at favouring particular residents of Tanzania regions on account of the natural resources found in those regions is the best recipe for fomenting discrimination along ethnic and regional lines. Coincidentally, one of the cornerstones of the policies of Tanzania's opposition political party, CHADEMA, is a federal structure that will provide concessions to Tanzania's regional governments and allow greater autonomy on natural resource use on a regional basis. It is not surprising that its leaders have issued statements in support of the demonstrators in Mtwara.

CHADEMA might have seen an opportunity to further erode CCM's support among not only Mtwara's residents but among Tanzanians in general but my fear is that while the demand for direct benefits from "their" natural resources by all Tanzanians throughout the country might provide immediate political mileage for any opposition political party today, in the long run those parochial demands will prove the demon that unhinges any semblance of social order that remains in Tanzania today.

The difficulty cannot be in convincing Tanzanians that they deserve a share of the natural resources that happens to be under their village, rather it will become how much should be shared and with whom. It has taken an extremely long time for a handful of politicians on the Mainland and those in Zanzibar agree on sharing the oil revenues between Zanzibar and Tanganyika. If Mtwara's residents will successfully push forth their demands, we are inviting thousands of communities throughout the country to demand to sit with the government in power to demand a share of "their" natural resources.

And when those concessions are granted I believe that the next logical step will be every Tanzanian will ask every other Tanzanian to 'go back home' to their native region for employment, investments, and every other activity that we take for granted as Tanzanians. It happens in nations; there is no reason why it cannot happen on a regional level within our borders.

This is the monster that those accepting that the natural gas off Mtwara is the property of Mtwara's residents want to unleash. When it gets out of the pen it will prove difficult  to tame.

To say CHADEMA may be toying with a dangerous animal is not to say that CCM is blameless. At Mtwara CCM has reaped the outcome of natural resource policies that elevated the importance of the investor to royalty and the Tanzanian citizen to serfdom. Those policies conceded a ton of perks and incentives to the investor because we need "their technology, their business acumen, their capital," and we need to remain in the good books of our 'development partners'; in turn, the Tanzanian will was granted employment, a 4 percent royalty from the investor's export proceeds, and other insignificant outcomes. And I suspect whenever we demonstrated we were good students of this lopsided arrangement, our president received an invitation to attend a G8 summit.

Not only CHADEMA saw how lopsided this arrangement has been; they were only clever to take it up as their mantle to stoke the existing ill-feelings against the already bad name associated with foreign investments, particularly in the extractive industries.

The anger and the frustration that has boiled over onto the streets of Mtwara is the result of policies that have taken its citizens for granted. They have nowhere to go, and will swallow decades of neglect without reacting. They have begun to react and it is the duty of both CCM and those who want to replace CCM to replace partisan politics with leadership to prevent this monster from wreaking havoc throughout the country.

I have empathy for Mtwara's residents. That's all.


Gerald Nyerere said...

My beloved cousin, Madaraka!
Very well drafted opinion for the betterment and cohesion of our Tanzania and the region.

Economically, it is not feasible for this massive gas project not to reach the vast market of Dar es salaam and its proximity to competitive exporting.

However, it has been better these discontents of people in Mtwara and neighbouring districts have early evolved. The issue here as I see is how these resources of us all have been managed as we have seen recently. We have seen how dubious mining contracts been done even that meager corporate and other mining taxes not being properly paid. That's why now we have seen in Mererani, Arusha on Tanzanite resource local miners and people nearby benefitting due these forms and other discontents.

Problem of Mtwara is economic problem rather than being seen as being cynical to gas that mainly is within the territory. There is absolutely few opportunities from activities that could bring the 'multiplier' effect to the well-being there than would be seeing large pipeline passing the area transporting gas. In my opinion these gas projects could bit used as source for the gas operative activities benefitting the area even establishing a sizeable LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) plant for local consumption as the home use of LNG gas is very important and growing and more market could be obtained if sensitization programs can also be of importance. Not everything should be in Dar and this also could prevent the youth migration from rural to urban searching for economic opportunities.

Even in Lake Victoria fish fillet exporting industry, if factories were not in the area and also local fishermen not benefitting, and people there just saw 'samaki' boarding the planes and heavy duty vehicles for exporting, we would have heard the same sentiments.

I recently read in the news that Mr Dangote, a business tycoon of Nigeria was planning to build two cement factories in Mtwara. I hope Mr Dangote's factories may have been powered by gas. These and other opportunities is what people in Mtwara and surroundings would like to hear other than our politicians' rhetoric.

Keeping people of Mtwara quiet of their discontents without addressing them properly for the betterment of the nation would spark more chaos in the future as was happening in Nigeria's Niger Delta after several local and international NGOs fueled the discontents as a result of environmental issues, that even we saw the bloody revolt and Nigeria government brutal response.

Your naration of G7 as may exploiting the grievances if I well understood you, is not that well conceived these days Madaraka as the rising China, also the countries of BRICS, G20 and other multilateral institutions with developing leaning vision have for the larger extent countered the exploitative self interests of the G8 countries.

Today, I also read that the former prime minister, Mzee Malecela also vowed his opinion for people in Mtwara to be heard of their grievances crediting them also being benefited with the gas projects. And I humbly honour his opinion for our peaceful and prosperous United Republic of Tanzania.

Anonymous said...

Once electricity is produced in MTWARA than you will see Mtwara will be more developed than so called DAR-ES-SALAAM.