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Catholic Bishops Want Tanzania-Dubai Port Deal Cancelled: ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei’

The urges the government to let Tanzanians run and manage their resources for their benefit and those of future generations.

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Dar es Salaam. Thirty-seven Catholic Bishops in Tanzania issued a joint statement Friday over the controversial Tanzania-Dubai intergovernmental agreement, calling on the government to listen to people’s demands to cancel the deal, saying, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

The deal, which would allow an Emirati logistics company DP World to take over some operations at the Dar es Salaam port, continues to face criticisms from various sections of the public, with authorities appearing determined to proceed with it regardless.

Approved by the parliament on June 10, 2023, the agreement has put the government in a tight spot, forced to defend a deal that some have equated to an attempt to sell off the country to foreigners, a charge that those in power have vigorously rejected.

In their joint statement Friday, the clerics said they do not endorse the deal, calling on the government to create the necessary environment to allow Tanzanians to run and manage their resources for their benefit and those of future generations.

READ MORE: Tanzania Cries Foul Over Reports on the Arrest of DP World Port Deal Critics: ‘Gross Misrepresentation’

“It is a must that projects such as this one [on port development] are run and managed by Tanzanians themselves while inviting partnerships that they will themselves control,” the Bishops said in their statement.

“This is what citizens have been crying for so that we can improve our own capacity to manage critical investments,” they continued. “Because we have already analysed the shortcomings in how we run our ports, we can work on them while the means of the economy remain in our hands.”

The clerics said that Tanzania had made enough investments to ensure the maximum productivity of its ports. They warned that it would be unwise to hand them over to investors, thinking they can run them better than Tanzanians.

The government has consistently defended the deal, with President Samia Suluhu Hassan describing it as “a rare opportunity,” urging Tanzanians to stop “quarrelling” about it and instead rally behind her administration’s plans to transform the country’s economy.

READ MORE: Samia Defends Controversial Tanzania-DP World Deal: ‘A Rare Opportunity’

The government has been telling Tanzanians that it has “a clear vision” of delivering positive results to the country, saying the Emirati investment will decongest the Dar es Salaam port and improve its efficiency, complaining that the country was losing out on revenues due to the current inefficiency of the port.

This defence notwithstanding, criticisms over the deal have been piling up, with opposition parties, religious organisations, think tanks and other independent experts and analysts noting that should the deal go ahead, Tanzania will lose more than win.

The Catholic Bishops urged the government that it would be wise if it had listened to the citizens, warning that the price of doing otherwise would be too high to pay in future.

“The next generations of this nation would demand of their leaders to get rid of exploitative arrangements such as this one,” they noted, adding that the government risks taken to international tribunals on business because sometime it would be forced to terminate such a deal.

In another development related to the controversial deal, police Friday released the former ambassador to Sweden and a prominent voice in opposition to the deal Willibrod Peter Slaa after spending time in detention for almost a week over his remarks about the agreement.

He was among three people arrested for criticising the deal alongside advocate Boniface Mwabukusi and CHADEMA member Mpaluka Said Nyagali alias Mdude, who were also released Friday.

READ MORE: Crackdown on DP World Port Deal Critics Intensifies in Tanzania As Arrests Continue

Mr Slaa told a press conference in Dar es Salaam that he was out on bail. However, it is unclear how he could post bail on treason charges that his advocate informed the public earlier that police levelled against the 2010 CHADEMA presidential candidate.

Dr Slaa said he’d not be silenced, noting that he’d continue opposing the deal because it lacks the national interest. He urged authorities to stop interfering with people’s criticism of the deal, pointing out that expressing one’s opinions about any issue in the country has never been criminal.

“National issues concern to just the president and her cabinet but all Tanzanians who are the taxpayers,” Dr Slaa said. “We deserve an explanation, and that’s why we demand the government to provide us with answers.” You can read the full press release below or read The Chanzo’s unofficial translation of the press.


*Unofficial translation of the press by The Chanzo.





“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them for such people…….. are serving their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of the simple.” (Romans 16:17-18)

We the Bishops of the Catholic Church of Tanzania,

  1. Recognizes that according to the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania (1977), “The United Republic of Tanzania is a state which adheres to the principles of democracy and social justice and accordingly – (a) sovereignty resides in the people and it is from the people that the Government through this Constitution shall derive all its power and authority;(b) the primary objective of the Government shall be the welfare of the people; (c) the Government shall be accountable to the people; and; (d) the people shall participate in the affairs of their Government in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution” (Refer to Article 8, subsection 1); so the Government must listen to the people.
  2. Recognizing that the authority of the Government comes from the people, we, the Bishops of the Catholic Church of Tanzania, have listened to their voices, we have listened to the Government and other development stakeholders, we have prayed and reflected, and this is our proclamation:
  • 2.1.Considering the ongoing events and developments since this Agreement was made public, confusion ensued due to public debates, debates that have divided the Nation.
  • 2.2.And considering that it is not the first time we have made statements like this about issues that affect our society;
  • 2.3.And referring to the articles of the Agreement mentioned above which are controversial with regard to a beneficial investment to the Tanzanians for now and the coming generations;
  • 2.4.And while we are witnessing the pressures to amend the law with the intention of protecting this Agreement which the Parliament of Tanzania has ratified, we are seeing a violation of the rule of law.


3.Driven by a conscience aimed at protecting resources, solidarity, peace, freedom, and national unity; we dare to say that after 63 years of the independence of this country, the people have not accepted to allow the port of Dar es Salaam to be given to one investor to run it, because Tanzanians themselves have the experience to do it.

4.We see that it is important to continue building our national capacity, for Tanzanian public and private sectors, by establishing partnerships with technologically advanced companies from various parts of the world, and not partnerships from just one country, using productive agreements that we have prepared ourselves for our commercial enterprises.

5.We acknowledge that the Government’s practice of only inviting external investors on the major means of the economy has made us lose the sustainability of our resources, especially when those investors leave. Thus, since the port is one of the main and natural pathways of the economy, that enables us to do significant business with various countries, it must continue to be the business of Tanzanians and remain in our hands even when we enter into beneficial partnerships.

6.Looking back at the efforts we undertook to understand this Agreement and provide our advice, the advice that has not borne fruit so far, and referring back to our meetings with the Government at the highest levels, on the 12th and 26th of June this year 2023:

    • 6.1.We have thoroughly followed the discussions, opinions, suggestions, and cries of the majority of citizens, who are the owners of ports and all resources, and we have realized that the majority of citizens do not accept this Agreement which gives the foreign investor the authority and the right to own the main economic routes as specified in this Agreement.
    • 6.2.We have realized that as a country we have invested in, and developed ports, railways, and dry ports while running them ourselves. This is the desire of the people, that we can continue building our capacity. Moreover, we have learned about our shortcomings in the port operation; we still have the opportunity of correcting and improving ourselves, while ensuring the major means of economy remain in our hands.
    • 6.3.There are ample examples of how Tanzanians were able to build capacity in running Banks like NMB and CRDB and other key private and public institutions e.t.c

7.That the majority of citizens do not want investments with exploitative terms like this for all of our ports; and since the Government is accountable to the people, the leaders must listen to the voice of the people, because their voice is the voice of God.

8.History has taught us that ignoring the voice of the people regarding contracts in the past has caused this country great economic losses, unemployment, and the lack of important revenues to run key services such as health, water, and education. We are now witnessing the Government’s inability to hire and pay enough workers in the education and health sectors, even though graduates of those fields are on the streets without jobs. This is because major sources of income, such as mines, have been owned and operated by external investors through bad contracts.

9.Ignoring the voice of the people on investment projects that do not regard their situation has also brought suffering to the people of the areas where they live. As seen in the Maasai communities of Loliondo, whose cultural and social rights have been violated. Investment has been provided with unproductive priority and the Maasai people have been left to suffer.

10.We have carefully reviewed this Agreement. This agreement has caused division among the people in fighting against serious violations of the rule of law, disregard for the independence of democratic institutions, and the interaction of the pillars of the state, especially the Government and the Parliament and now the Court is being stalked. As Tanzanians, we would like to say that without the independence of these institutions and the rule of law, we will destroy this nation.

11.It should be noted that due to the wide discussion on this issue of having one investor in Tanzania ports, citizens with different ideas do not know where to go so that their positions can be heard and considered; because the Members of Parliament who are their representatives have abandoned them by aligning themselves with one investor, following the Parliament ratification of this Agreement on the 10th of June, 2023.

12.Thus, we the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania who are responsible for managing the welfare of every human are asking the Honorable President of the United Republic of Tanzania, with the authority she has, to stop the submission of this ratified contract to the other party, and also the Parliament to cancel their consent to this frowned upon Agreement.

  1. This Inter-Governmental Agreement-IGA has the following dangers to our country:
    • 13.1.Destroying the unity and peace of our country. Let’s remember that when peace is lost, it will need the efforts of many generations to mend it. Several neighboring countries have confirmed this assertion.
    • 13.2.The resources of the country collectively owned can end up benefiting some citizens and thus bring economic discrimination against the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, Article 27 Sub-Article 1, which states, “Every person has the duty to protect the natural resources of the United Republic, the property of the state authority, all property collectively owned by the people…”
  2. The following articles in this agreement have flaws that can impede the country from attaining economic independence
    • 14.1.Article 2 (1) concerning the objective of the contract which is to put terms that legally bind Tanzania from developing, improving, and operating all sea and lake ports, special economic zones, logistic parks, and other economic areas
    • 14.2. Article 4 regarding implementation and cooperation wants the Tanzania government to inform Dubai of all available investment opportunities. This is contrary to several laws in our country for example the procurement law and fair competition law
    • 14.3.Article 5 Gives the exclusive right to DP World to develop, operate and manage projects while Tanzania remains only with the responsibility of ensuring the enjoyment of that right
    • 14.4.Article 6 wants Tanzania to ensure it grants DP World permits and investment incentives in the implementation of the projects. This is contrary to several laws on procedures
    • 14.5.Article 7 Which wants the government to be accountable in granting all authorizations required by the investor without delays
    • 14.6.Article 8: The right to use land, here the Agreement cause the violation of land laws and laws related to land issues
    • 14.7.Article 10: Confidentiality of the agreement which denies other institutions such as the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and Parliament to monitor contracts
    • 14.8.Article 23 and 24: Makes it difficult to withdraw from the contract


  1. It is good, wise, and prudent for the Government to listen to the people because not listening to them is to bring about bigger problems in the near future because these same people will want future generations to get rid of this exploitation, as we now see in many ongoing cases at the international commercial courts regarding contracts which were terminated by the Government of Tanzania. Let’s remember the bad mining contracts entered in the ’90s, religious leaders and civil organizations opposed this kind of investment, and the Government used its powers to ratify these contracts and right now we are witnessing them being terminated making the country pay huge amounts of compensation.
  2. We emphasize that the VOICE OF THE PEOPLE IS THE VOICE OF GOD, so listening to the people and making decisions as much as they want will bring the government great honor for being responsive to the people. Contrary to this, God warns us through his prophet Jeremiah when he said: “Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor.” (Jeremiah 5:27-28)
  3. Therefore, holding ourselves morally responsible, we see it as the responsibility of the government to listen to the people who want this contract to be canceled. Since we have shown that in Tanzania we have invested and developed ports, railways, and land ports; It’s up to Tanzanians to run these projects themselves while we welcome ventures that we control ourselves. This is what the people are crying for so that we can build our own capacity. Now that we have identified our port operating deficiencies, we can work to correct those deficiencies while the economic means remain in our hands. For those reasons and all the information above, we the Council of Catholic Bishops of Tanzania do not support this Agreement.
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