TANZANIA is not aware of the ongoing discussions between Zambia and Burundi on plans to extend the TAZARA line to Bujumbura, the Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe has said.
Dr Mwakyembe told the 'Daily News' in an interview that the matter reported by media in Zambia had not been brought in the council of ministers which is the supreme policy organ of the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA). "I am not aware of that.
I am totally ignorant...I cannot comment on something I am ignorant about," he told 'Daily News' in an interview in Dar es Salaam yesterday. The 1,992-km rail line, owned by the governments of Tanzania and Zambia, runs from Dar es Salaam to the Zambian town of Kapiri Mposhi. It was constructed in the 1970s with the assistance of the Chinese government.
The Times of Zambia reported last week that plans were underway to extend TAZARA also known as the Great Uhuru Railway to Burundi through the port of Mpulungu to enhance trade between the two land-locked countries.
It quoted the Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Wylbur Simuusa as saying that deliberations by Zambia and Burundi governments over the project had advanced and soon, a budget would be tabled to pave way for a feasibility study and subsequent construction of the railway line.
The project would be funded on a 50 per cent basis by each of the two governments and the railway line will run from the port of Mpulungu to the port of Bujumbura.
Mr Simuusa said the railway link between Zambia and Burundi would be a catalyst for enhanced trade in products such as cement and sugar.
"The governments of Zambia and Burundi are pursuing this project actively as the lack of a direct trade link has created business gaps between the two countries. "The plan is to extend the TAZARA railway line through Mpulungu to the port of Bujumbura so that goods are exported by rail," Mr Simuusa said.
It was not clear where the extension would pass from the port of Mpulungu to the port of Bujumbura. TAZARA's Head of Public Relations, Conrad Simuchile declined to comment as the discussions were on the government to government level.
"Indeed, we have seen the news item in the Times of Zambia. However, these are government to government discussions. At this stage, we are not in a position to comment as TAZARA," he told the Daily News.
The Rukwa Regional Commissioner, Engineer Stella Manyanya said they had held discussions to explore possibilities of extending the Tazara railway line to Lake Tanganyika to create a link with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.
However, the discussions held at the regional level, had yet to be implemented. The idea to explore possibilities of extending the railway line was aimed at exploiting opportunities to enhance trade and investments in the region and the neighbouring countries, she said.
According to her, they had discussed the idea with Chinese investors who visited the region last year and they were impressed.