30 January 2013

Tanzania: PM Explains Gas Row Factors

Photo: Heipmann
The Tanzanian government plans to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam.

POLITICAL selfishness and a rift among the leadership in Mtwara have been described as among the major factors that have contributed to ignorance among the region's population regarding the construction of a natural gas pipeline to Dar es Salaam.

Prime Minister Mr Mizengo Pinda said after a series of meetings with various communities in Mtwara that it is such shortfall that has led to the misunderstanding between the government and the residents, leading to violent street demonstrations. He decried divisions among the region's leaders, which he said was a matter of grave concern.

He took a swipe at the ruling CCM's leadership in the region for failure to "reach out to the masses" as far as the project is concerned. "There are opposing groups within the region's leadership and this is a big problem since it does not augur well for the nation's development. I even wonder how MPs from the same region can go to the National Assembly without a common agenda," he said.

The prime minister vowed that he will report such MPs to the party. I have always put the people's interests first before advancing my own. We should not leave the rift caused during the elections to persist for the sake of selfish interests. I am so saddened with this affair and I will deal with it in the best interests of the people," he stressed.

In the wrap-up meeting, which included all leaders at all levels, whom he had been meeting since he arrived here on Sunday, it was agreed that the pipeline project should go on as planned since it will not have negative effects on other development programmes arranged for Mtwara. One of opposition leaders in the region, Mr Saidi Kulaga, who together with other leaders was in the forefront in the campaign to oppose the project, said it was high time the hatchet was buried.

"Let bygones be bygones, " he quipped. He, however, pleaded with the government to release all people arrested in connection to the disorder that erupted in different parts of the region contesting construction of the gas pipeline. It was learnt during the meetings that the region's residents had hardly been adequately informed and educated on the natural gas development project as well as the Mtwara Development Corridor.

Meanwhile, KILASA MTAMBALIKE reports from Dodoma that the National Assembly is to form a special team of inquiry that would be named soon to travel to Mtwara on a fact-finding mission about the gas saga that has wreaked havoc in the region.

Speaker Anne Makinda told Parliament here the team will report back to the after completion of their mission and the House will come up with its position on the matter before the end this session. Ms Makinda said that the Mtwara issue was a very serious one and MPs have an important role to play in ensuring that the country maintains its peace and stability.

"It is imperative that we discuss and deliberate on the matter and come up with our position as representatives of the people," she said. Ms Makinda added that the team will spend time in the region and get the views of the people in Mtwara and will also meet with government officials on the matter to get to the bottom of the matter.

"The team's findings will help shade light on what really is the problem in the region and upon deliberations we will come up with a sober and informed position," she added. Residents of Mtwara have been protesting against what they termed as the government's decision to construct a pipeline to pump natural gas to Dar es Salaam without making it clear as to how the people there would benefit from the project.

They would prefer that the gas be used to produce electricity in Mtwara and not Dar es Salaam before it is distributed countrywide. As a result of the protests which degenerated into violence, houses of some prominent politicians in the region were torched and there have even been reports on loss of life.

Some members of parliament have accused certain individuals for taking advantage of the situation in Mtwara for personal gains, hinting that the issue is being politicized. Proceedings in the House yesterday had to end earlier than planned because of the Mtwara saga and it has been reported that later in the day during party caucus meeting the matter took centre stage.

Parliament resumes on Wednesday here in Dodoma and proceedings are expected to continue as earlier scheduled.

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