1 February 2013

Tanzania: State Might Pay Gas Riot Victims

Dodoma — THE government has said it will look into the possibility of supporting some of the people who were affected in one way or another following the chaos that erupted in Mtwara Region recently, causing massive losses estimated at billions of shillings.

The Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, made the pledge in the National Assembly here when briefing MPs on the state of affairs following talks he held with various authorities in the wake of the chaos. He said that investigation was being carried out to determine the magnitude of the fracas and damage involved.

He hinted the possibility of compensating some of the victims depending on the findings of the study. "The government will compensate some of the people who lost their properties," he said.

Later on when responding to a question from Opposition leader, Mr Freeman Mbowe, on what could have been the root causes of the chaos, the premier said that the state would always make sure some of the contracts entered into between foreign investors and the government in various investments are open to the public to avoid false speculations. He, however, said during the question and answer session that the issue of secrecy in the contracts was not a big issue in the recent chaos in Mtwara Region.

He explained that not all contracts can be made public depending on their nature and contents, but transparency in many of them would in future be adhered in order to avoid distortion and public misinformation. Mr Mbowe challenged the government in connection with what he referred to as political mismanagement, secrecy in contracts and poor communication between the central government and local government authorities were root causes of recent chaos in Mtwara.

The opposition leader demanded tough action on all people and institutions who will be determined as being behind the fracas. "The government should hold accountable all institutions that delayed information to people on the gas project development before the eruption of the chaos," demanded Mr Mbowe.

The prime minister explained the government action on the saga so far, calling for patience while investigation was being carried out to unearth the actual causes. "We have learnt a lot from the chaos and I would suggest that we should stop blaming each other for the time being. What is important here is that timely public information on such sensitive issues is important," underscored the PM.

He said that political parties took a great role in fuelling the complexity of the whole issue while personal political interests dominated to the larger extent. However, the premier cautioned over using demonstrations in delivering messages to the government, saying some of them were harmful and cannot always solve problems as anticipated.

Meanwhile, Rose Athuman reports that the Muslim Information Council of Tanzania (BAHAKITA) has commended the government for addressing conflicts over benefits from the natural gas in Mtwara. Addressing journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday, BAHAKITA chairperson Sheikh Said Mwaipopo said Mr Pinda's timely move has averted chaos that would have plunged the whole country into a crisis.

"The wisdom employed by prime minister has helped avoid the country's revered peace from violation, because the chaos in Mtwara would have spread to other regions, demanding that their natural resources benefit them only," he explained. Sheikh Mwaipopo said natural resources that God has abundantly bestowed on Tanzania should be used to bring development benefits to all Tanzanians including people from where the natural resource originates.

Reading the council's declaration, BAHAKITA Secretary General Chief Hussein Msopa said it is urging politicians, religious leaders and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to stop using natural gas in Mtwara to gain publicity in a quest to further their interests.

The council urged the Southern people, especially in Mtwara, to be patient and have faith in the government in implementing the outlined development plans it has for Mtwara and the Southern corridor. "We condemn politicians, religious leaders and NGOs who fuelled the conflicts in Mtwara Region to further their ambitions with little regard to violence, damages of property and loss of life," Chief Msopa stressed.

The Muslim Information Council of Tanzania has also urged the government to provide enough public knowledge on how natural resources in the country will benefit those living around them and the whole country, to avoid plunging the country into conflicts.

BAHAKITA spokesperson, Mr Sadiki Godi Godi, said discovery of natural resources should benefit the regions where the reserves are found and the whole nation in general. He noted that politicians, religious leaders and NGOs taking advantage of such situations should be stopped and if necessary legal steps be taken against them for endangering the security of the nation.

Premier Pinda spent three days in Mtwara from Sunday, where he held several meetings with religious, political, business and civic leaders and it was resolved that among other things; communication should be improved so people can understand what is going on in the natural gas projects.

Mtwara residents have been protesting against the government's move to construct a pipeline from the area to Dar es Salaam without telling them how the project would benefit them. The protests degenerated into violent clashes culminating in the death of at least four people and injuring twelve, including a police officer. In the violence, eleven motor vehicles and other properties belonging to the Masasi District Council were set on fire.

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