Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan Friday defended the controversial Tanzania-Dubai intergovernmental agreement, describing the ongoing debates around it as “quarrels” threatening to deny Tanzanians “a rare opportunity” to grow their country’s economy.
The Head of State issued the analysis during a ceremony to swear in newly appointed officials to her administration at the State House in Dar es Salaam amidst an intense debate around the deal that would see DP World, an Emirati multinational logistics company, take control of the operations of the Dar es Salaam’s port.
“While we are quarrelling here about whom we should give our ports to, on whether we should privatise it or not, our colleagues, having observed our quarrels, have approached the same people we have approached, with the same tower that displayed our flag also displaying theirs,” President Samia said.
While she didn’t name a country, President Samia referred to neighbouring Kenya, whose flag was displayed on Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world and one of Dubai’s top attractions. Tanzania displayed its flag in March 2022 during the East African country’s exhibition at the Expo 2020 Dubai, a global event in Dubai from October 2021 to March 2022.
Samia’s comments also come amidst reports that Kenya’s government plans to sign an agreement with DP World to develop, operate and manage Kenya’s port terminals, the plan that is receiving much criticism from the Kenyan public.
“[Critics] in Tanzania say we are selling off the ports, then what are our neighbours there for?” President Samia said, addressing the criticism some commentators have made regarding the deal that continues to be a thorn in her administration’s flesh.
“The day our parliament approved the deal that would allow [the Dar es Salaam] port to be operated by both the government and the private sector, our colleagues [in Kenya] decided to privatise all of their ports and went to the same place we did to outpace us,” she explained.
“[Kenyans] are telling [DP World] that if Tanzanians quarrel about this issue, please come to us. I’m saying this so that you can see how opportunities come and quickly evaporate. Only those willing to tap into them quickly will eventually benefit,” President Samia added.
This is the first time the Tanzanian leader has expressed her opinions about the issue, almost three weeks since the debate started following the supposed leak of the agreement on social media.
On June 13, 2023, Samia told a rally in Mwanza that “Tanzania is one and indivisible,” a statement many interpreted as a response to criticism she was receiving for the deal, but she did not mention the deal directly.
Friday’s comments by President Samia made her the latest senior official from her administration to defend the controversial deal after clarifications shared by her top aides – including Minister for Works and Transport Prof Makame Mbarawa – have proved ineffective in ending opposition to the deal.
Earlier in the morning, Mbarawa, accompanied by senior government lawyers, addressed a conference of senior editors from the country’s media outlets to clarify some issues raised since the saga started.
Among other clarifications, Mbarawa pointed out that the Tanzania-DP World deal will not cover Tanga, Mtwara and Bagamoyo ports. He added that Dar es Salaam port’s berth eight to eleven, Kurasini oil Jetty (KOJ) one and two, and oil storage facility are also not part of the deal.
This clarification notwithstanding, the opposition CHADEMA party, which has been vocal in its opposition to the deal, said Friday it is going to launch a special operation to force the government to abandon the deal, which the party thinks does not have the national interests at heart.
Addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam Friday, CHADEMA national chairperson Freeman Mbowe said the party would use various means to block the deal, a mission he called urgent to protect Tanzania and future generations.
“Our party will support any investment effort that a scientific study will inform,” Mr Mbowe said while presenting CHADEMA’s resolutions. “We’ll support any investment that does not threaten our national security, which benefits both parties.”
Nshala’s office searched
In another development, lawyers representing Rugemeleza Nshala, whose remarks about the DP World deal are investigated by the police, reported Friday that law enforcers arrived at the renowned lawyer’s office and searched it unaccompanied and without a warrant.
Nanyoro Kicheere, one of the lawyers, told a press conference that three police officers arrived at Dr Nshala’s office, one wearing civilian clothes, who questioned Nshala’s aide at the office, with the remaining officers searching the office.
“They searched the office unallowed and unsupervised,” Kicheere said. “Police’s actions are unconstitutional as they invade our client’s privacy. It is also illegal and violates established procedures on police conduct.”
Nshala, who doubles as the Executive Director of the environmental group Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT), was supposed to report to the Office of the Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) on July 11, 2023, but his lawyers said he couldn’t do so as he’s outside the country.
Police summoned Nshala, who once served as the president of Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), as part of their investigation into statements he made during a discussion on the social audio app Clubhouse on July 3, 2023.
During the discussion, Nshala described the controversial deal as equivalent to “selling the country off to foreigners,” pointing out that the decision to sign such a deal constituted “betrayal and treason” against Tanzania.