31 January 2013

Tanzania: Mtwara Protests Cause Sh1.5 Billion Loss

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

Dodoma — THE recent protests in Mtwara Region have caused a loss of over 1.5bn/- and more than 750m/- is needed to restore government structures as initial probe findings show that the mobs that took part in the acts were hired.

Home Affairs Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi said on Wednesday that preliminary investigations indicate that the people who took part in the protests in Masasi were not from the area but had been hired to carry out acts of violence and vandalism.

Mr Nchimbi had accompanied the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, at a press briefing held at the PM's residence n Wednesday. He said that at the moment, they are still working on establishing the actual loss in monetary terms.

He said that they have started investigations to establish who exactly was behind the chaos and what the motives were. Mr Nchimbi cautioned the public against attacking security officers and vandalizing government property, saying that such destruction of public property did not do anyone any good.

Four people are reported to have died and another 26, including a police officer, injured during the protests. Among the properties that were destroyed were shops, houses belonging to some prominent politicians in the region, government and private vehicles, including two ambulances, and a court building which was torched along with all the documents in it.

"We have an obligation to serve and protect people and their properties and we will not hesitate to do our jobs. We will not go easy on people bent on disrupting the peace," he said. He called on the people to respect and tolerate each other's different opinions "for it is such freedom of expression that makes our society live in peace".

Earlier, Mr Pinda said that the situation in Mtwara is back to normal as order has been re- stored and called on the people in the region to ensure that they maintain peace, law and order."It will be foolhardy to continue with violent acts that will only scare away investors.

Mtwara is headed for great things; over 51 companies have expressed interest to invest in the region," he said.He blamed the recent events to poor communication and lack of sensitisation among people at the grassroots level, which was used by certain individuals to distort facts and misinform the public.

While winding up his tour in Mtwara on Tuesday, the prime minister cited political selfishness and a rift among the leadership in Mtwara 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.

Mr 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 leader- ship 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.

National Assembly Speaker Ms Anna Makinda has already announced her decision to form an ad hoc Parliamentary Committee to defuse the Mtwara gas crisis. The crisis is also expected to dominate today's Prime Minis- ter's question-and-answer ses- sion in the House.

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