7 January 2013

Tanzania: Mtwara Leaders Under Fire Over Gas Pipeline Dispute

MEMBERS of the Cabinet who are also Members of Parliament hailing from Mtwara Region have broken their silence, saying that local leaders are to blame for not educating Mtwara residents on the decision to build a natural gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam.

Ms Hawa Ghasia, the MP for Mtwara Rural and Minister in the President's Office responsible for Public Service Management and Mr George Mkuchika, the Newala legislator and Minister responsible for Good Governance, said that local leaders were to blame for not enlightening people on the matter.

The two told the 'Daily News' that a lot of money was spent in the past to send a group of MPs and other leaders from Mtwara and Lindi regions abroad for a study tour but astonishingly they remained mum when they came back.

"The MPs were sent to Trinidad and Tobago and Thailand while the Lindi Regional Commissioner, his Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) and other leaders in the Local government were sent to Norway for a similar mission. "Why didn't they communicate back their findings?" asked Minister Ghasia.

According to her, all the political parties that persuade people to oppose plans to transport gas from Mtwara should bear in mind that they are misleading uninformed people on the matter. She added that these politicians have their own hidden agenda.

Minister Mkuchika said he was of the view that all government leaders in Lindi and Mtwara regions have to make sure they provide the education they acquired on gas investments to the people. He said that the leaders have been trained well and are expected to lead sensitization teams.

He added that it was not clear why Mtwara people believe that they will not benefit from the project while they have been told that the gas will benefit them for more than 200 years. "What will happen if every region that is home to a big national project demands 100 per cent project ownership?

I think all the leaders here should make sure they provide the required education on this issue," he stressed. However, Mr Mkuchika was quick to add that apart from supporting the gas project, he was also of the view that Mtwara should benefit fully from it.

He also went as far as saying that the gas issue should not be regarded as a conflict involving the whole region. He cited the example of his constituency (Newala) where people had not complained because they were already educated on the matter.

Mr Mkuchika cautioned some politicians with vested interests in the dispute to stop confusing people. He added that although some MPs who went on the study tours differed on the matter, consensus on the matter must be reached for the welfare of the nation.

The Mtwara and Lindi Regional Commissioners could not be available for comment when contacted as they were reportedly in long meetings throughout the day with their respective Regional Police Commanders. A couple of days ago, hundreds of Mtwara residents held a peaceful demonstration opposing the construction of a gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam.

Their demonstrations caused a heated public argument on the matter. However, President Jakaya Kikwete and the Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof. Sospeter Muhongo, offered clarification on the matter saying that the project will benefit all Tanzanians.

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