Published On: Mon, Oct 19th, 2015

TAWA launch speeches – taken with many grains of salt

Tanzania_Kikwete1_3259081bThe formal launch over the weekend by outgoing President Kikwete of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority has evoked more criticism than praise from conservationists it seems.

While the principle to have a strong authority dealing with a range of conservation and protection measures has been broadly welcomed did several regular contributors swiftly point out that launching TAWA was too little and too late.

‘So there we have our president in the dying days of his presidency launch a body to deal with poaching. Where was that body when tens of thousands of elephants were butchered under his watch. Let us not mince words, in conservation terms was his presidency a complete and utter failure. His government for too long concealed, denied, belittled and even tried to criminalize those who exposed what was going on. What does that tell you? Now that he is leaving office the questions will be asked was he just looking the other way or was he in any way in the know and therefore complicit? What did he do with Kagesheki’s list of 300 alleged top and high ranking government and party officials involved in the blood ivory trade? Trying to gain some credit at this stage is simply unbelievable but there you are, that is what politicians do!’ ranted a regular contributor from Arusha when passing the news.

Based in the town of Morogoro will TAWA begin to employ some 500 staff next year, or so it was suggested by both President Kikwete and his minister for natural resources and tourism Lazaro Nyalandu, a number considered far too few to effectively control and monitor the nearly 160.000 square kilometres the new authority is supposed to oversee.

It was learned that the Permanent Secretary in the ministry has meanwhile named a Mr. Martin Loiboki as interim Director General while at the same time confirming Major General (Rtd) Hamis Semfuko as TAWA Chairman.

Germany is already supporting conservation efforts in the Serengeti through the Frankfurt Zoological Society for the past half century. The ties were formed when the late Prof. Dr. Grzimek became friends with Tanzania’s founding father Julius Mwalimu Nyerere after the German’s extraordinary efforts to promote the park in his book and feature film series ‘Serengeti Must Not Die’.

Sadly has the present day administration lost all sight of the vision and commitments made by Nyerere as the rash plans for a highway across the most crucial migration routes of the Serengeti demonstrate. From there to Lake Victoria and down to the Coelacanth Marine National Park near Tanga has a veritable corridor of destruction emerged during the Kikwete presidency, leaving his legacy as far as conservation is concerned in absolute tatters.

Plans to construct a soda ash factory in the sole breeding grounds of the great East African flamingo populations is just one of many examples. So are plans to build a deep sea port in the shallow bay area of Mwambani threatening to make this fish extinct after 400 million years while not too far off a deep sea port already exists in Tanga, almost dormant for lack of maintenance and a vision to expand it. Dynamite fishing has accelerated over the years with little response by the authorities, damaging large sections of the country’s fragile reefs. When the application to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site was withdrawn after a presidential directive were the doors thrown wide open for illegal logging in the Eastern Arc Mountain forests. The documented damage after only four years is already almost irreversible. Uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve and attempts to destroy the core tourism area of the reserve by building a hydro-electric dam at the Stiegler’s Gorge are yet more examples where the Kikwete administration has utterly failed to appreciate the tourism resources the country has and protect them at all cost as a world heritage and for future generations of Tanzanians.