HUNDREDS of Mtwara residents held a peaceful demonstration opposing the construction of gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam.
The protest began from Mtawanya village, 9 kilometres to Mtwara town through Msimbati road where the natural gas is being extracted. The demo which drew public interest from several districts including Tandahimba and Newala, were peaceful under tight police security.
According to coordinators of the demonstration, the Mtwara Regional Commissioner, Mr Joseph Simbakalia, was supposed to be the guest of honour, but he declined the offer and instead the procession was received by the Chairman of Union of political parties, Mr Hussein Mussa Amiri.
The Union is made up of Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), NCCR-Mageuzi, SAU, TLP, APPT Maendeleo, ADC, UDP and DP. The parties had one motto 'Gesi kwanza, vyama baadaye, hapa hakitoki kitu' (literally meaning, gas first political parties later, nothing will be taken away from here).
The main market and some roads in Mtwara town were temporarily closed down, to allow business people attend the demonstrations that passsed through Nanga Heroes grounds. Some of the placards that were carried by the demonstrators carried messages that oppose the government's move to extract the natural gas and transport it to Dar es Salaam through the pipeline.
"Harbour in Bagamoyo, Industries in Bagamoyo, Gas in Dar es Salaam, Mtwara we must be stupid. The gas will not leave Mtwara even though we are illiterate. Gas first, political parties later", read one of the placards. Another one carried the following message: "We have been ignored and this must stop now".
Reading a joint report prepared by the Union of Political Parities, Mr Seleman Litope said the southern part of the country is often ignored. He cited the removal of a railway line, poor governance of cashew price, poor infrastructure and now the natural gas as some indicators of neglecting the southern area.
He explained that the union of eight political parties focused on ensuring their natural resource is not transported out of Mtwara to benefit others. "Construction of the pipeline should stop. The government is not open on how Mtwara residents will benefit.
President Jakaya Kikwete's decision goes against his own promise to the people of Mtwara in 2009, during one of his official tours that the region should be prepared to run industries," he noted. The two-page report questions the need to construct gas turbines to produce electricity in Dar es Salaam when there is an area already in Mtwara readily available for construction of such turbines.
Neither the Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, nor his Permanent Secretary Eliakim Maswi could be reached for comments. However, reliable information from the ministry had it that the ministry is aware of the concerns and some officials led by Maswi are expected to visit Mtwara and Lindi regions early January next year.
President Kikwete launched the construction of Mnazi Bay and Songosongo Natural Gas processing plant and a transportation pipeline last month, where he directed the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) to also start building power processing plants. He said that Tanesco should start building the power plants at designated centres, so when the project is completed may be able to produce 840 megawatts.