3 February 2013

Tanzania: Mtwara Gas Row - Authorities Tackle Communication Gap

Mtwara — MTWARA Regional authority is charting out a comprehensive communication strategy that will educate people on the direct benefits that they will get from the natural gas to be produced there.

The Regional Commissioner, Col Joseph Simbakalia, said here that the move was in compliance with a directive issued by the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, during his last week's tour of the region. During his tour the Premier mentioned poor communication among the regional leaders as one of the causes of the gas row.

"We are developing a communication strategy that will be people centred and friendly to them. We want to have a system in place where social welfare and development officers will play a vital role in disseminating correct and timely information to the people," he said.

Col. Simbakalia admitted that people's comprehension of the gas exploration issue was still wanting and attributed the prevailing situation to failure of the previous communication strategy. "Initially we had meetings with elected political leaders from the region whom we educated extensively on the said benefits.

However, the understanding was that they would convey the message to people in their areas which was not the case, as some of them distorted the information deliberately," he said. For example, he said, some of the leaders did not even bother to tell the people about the success stories including construction of a natural gas processing unit at Madimba area in Mtwara rural.

The RC said lack of information left people convinced that the entire raw gas would be transported to Dar es Salaam and that Mtwara would remain dormant, which was a serious misconception when the truth is that most of the economic activities will take place in the region.

He reiterated that people ought to know that Mtwara residents have so much to benefit from various activities that will take place here such as the construction of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as well as cement and fertilizer factories. Hinting further on the way forward in bridging the information gap, Col Simbakalia noted that they would exactly do what the PM has directed by forming a committee that will be meeting quarterly and thereafter transmit the information to the people.

"We need to put in place a sustainable system of sending information to people and get feedback from time to time on people's reactions," he said. In another development, Col Simbakalia warned that it was increasingly alarming that some sections of media were indulging in fuelling chaos and disputes in the society.

"As we go towards 2015's General Elections we need to be keen on the role of the media in order to avoid plunging the country into chaos, reminding the nation of what had happened in Rwanda during the genocide," he said. Meanwhile, Col Simbakalia made a tour of Masasi District on Friday to console the people following a recent incident where mob justice left several people killed and some properties destroyed.

"I was in Dodoma when the incident occurred; I came back and was briefed about the incident. Yesterday I decided to visit people in Masasi to console them and to have firsthand information on the extent of the destruction," he said. He warned that any move by people to take to the streets, burn people's homes and destroy public properties was highly condemned and intolerable.

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