24 May 2018

Tanzania: We've Abandoned Palestinians, MPs Say During Debate

Dodoma — Some MPs said yesterday that Tanzania has diverted from its stance of siding with Palestinians, but the government maintained that its position has not changed.

Debating the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation's 2018/19 budget proposals, some opposition lawmakers said Tanzania had veered from the course set by Mwalimu Nyerere.

Mr Joseph Mbilinyi (Mbeya Urban-Chadema), who was the first to debate the budget, said Tanzania recently opened an embassy in Israel at a time when Palestinians were going through a difficult time.

"Palestinians are dying every day, and yet Tanzania is opening an embassy in Israel without even bothering to condemn the killings. This is contrary to what Mwalimu Nyerere stood for, and he must be turning in his grave," he said.

"We've also decided to embrace Morocco, which illegally lays claim to the Republic of Western Sahara, after being promised a stadium."

However, Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation minister Augustine Mahiga said Tanzania's position on Israel and Palestine had never changed. He told the National Assembly that Tanzania backs the United Nations, which favours the two-state solution.

"Tanzania understands that Israel has a right to remain independent and secure, and this also applies to Palestine," Dr Mahiga said.

"I opened Tanzania's embassy in Tel Aviv around the same time when the US was opening its new embassy in Jerusalem. I knew that Jerusalem is a contentious area."

Dr Mahiga said that Tanzania needed to shift from just siding with the oppressed to creating relationships with countries that would support the country's industrialisation agenda.

Mr Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma Urban-ACT Wazalendo) said Tanzania's recent decision to open an embassy in Israel and supporting Morocco's return to the African Union was a sign that the country was changing its position as a defender of oppressed people all over the world.

"If you look at Tanzania's trend of voting on major international issues since 2016, it's either we abstain or vote in favour of countries that oppress people," he said.

"We have been respected all over the world for defending humanity, but since 2016 things have been slowly changing. Your recent visit to Israel to open Tanzania's embassy was shameful and a blot on your image as a respected diplomat. You went to Israel at the most difficult time for Palestinians, and did not even condemn the killings. While South Africa was kicking out the Israeli ambassador, you were enjoying wine with the Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) - the butcher," Mr Kabwe said.

Dr Mahiga asked Parliament to endorse Sh177 billion for the ministry's expenditure next financial year, up from the docket's current budget of Sh157.98 billion. The proposed development allocation has been increased to Sh10.4 billion from Sh8 billion currently.

Parliament passed the budget.

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