Dar es Salaam. A High Court in Mbeya Thursday dismissed a case challenging the intergovernmental agreement between Tanzania and Dubai, which would allow the latter’s logistics company, DP World, to improve, develop and operate several sections of the Dar es Salaam port.
The case was filed on July 3, 2023, by four Tanzanians – Alphonce Lusako, Emmanuel Kalikenya Chengula, Raphael Japhet Ngonde and Frank John Nyalus – against Attorney General Eliezer Feleshi, Minister for Works and Transport Makame Mbarawa and his permanent secretary as well as the Clerk of the National Assembly Nenelwa Mwihambi.
In their petition, the applicants put forward four arguments against the agreement approved by the parliament on June 10, 2023, for the court’s consideration, which included the agreement’s illegality, unconstitutionality and a threat to Tanzania’s sovereignty and national security.
The government fielded opposition to the petition, arguing that no sovereignty and laws have been violated, noting that much of the petitioners’ concerns will be addressed in the Host Government Agreements (HGAs), which are yet to be signed.
The petitioners were represented by lawyers Mpale Mpoki, Boniphace Mwabukusi, Phillip Mwakilima and Levino Ngalimitumba. In contrast, the respondents were represented by state attorneys Mark Mulwambo, Edson Mweyunge, Hangi Chang’a, Alice Mtulo, Stanley Kalokola and Edwin Webiro.
After hearing submissions from both sides, judges presiding over the case, Dunstan Ndunguru, Mustafa Ismail, and Abdi Kagomba, took on to determine whether the petition was meritorious or not, concluding that it was “barren of fruits.”
“Accordingly, the [petition] is hereby dismissed,” the judges ruled. “Since this is a public interest matter, we do not find any justification for granting costs. We, therefore, make no order as to costs.”
In their ruling, the judges rejected the petitioners’ prayer to declare the Tanzania-Dubai agreement null and void, arguing that “it is only through the process initiated by the National Assembly that an arrangement or agreement may be declared by a resolution to be unconscionable.”
The court also found that the signing of the IGA “was not shrouded in any irregularity which would render it invalid or illegal.”
It also found that no “plausible and convincing argument” was presented by petitioners to show that Tanzania’s sovereign power to dispose of, use and exploit its natural resources freely would be threatened if the deal goes ahead.
Mr Lusako, one of the petitioners in the case, told The Chanzo that they were displeased by the judgement, pointing out that they were contemplating to appeal the ruling made in the government’s favour.
“We have sixty days of appealing the decision, and we are planning to do just that,” Mr Lusako, a lawyer, said during an interview. “Today’s judgment was disappointing, but we are not bowing down. We will continue using the litigation path in defending our country.”
Mwabukusi, one of the lawyers who represented the petitioners in the case, reiterated Lusako’s position on the judgment, telling journalists that they have heard the court but “disagree with it on legal foundations.”
The Tanzania-Dubai deal remains the most controversial issue in Tanzania, as the government has been forced into the defensive position to clarify the agreement that some sections remain very critical about.
On July 14, 2023, President Samia Suluhu Hassan spoke for the first in defence of the deal, where she described the debates around it as “quarrels” threatening to deny Tanzanians “a rare opportunity” to grow their country’s economy.
Samia’s defence of the deal notwithstanding, opposition parties, activists, independent observers and sections of the general public remain very opposed to it.
Mwabukusi, who has been very vocal against the deal, told supporters outside the court Thursday that another front of struggle against the deal must be opened, saying that nationwide mass protests will be organised to express people’s opposition to the deal.
“Defending our natural resources is not treasonous,” Mr Mwabukusi said. “We will defend our country by any means. Eras of allowing unscrupulous people to play with our natural wealth are over.”
Additional reporting by Hadija Said.