Tanzania urged to release critics of UAE ports deal


Tanzania has come under scrutiny from human rights groups and campaigners who are calling for the immediate release of critics of the government’s deal with the United Arab Emirates to manage the country’s ports.

This call comes amidst growing concerns over the increasing influence of Abu Dhabi in East Africa.

The deal, signed by Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan last October, grants the Dubai-run logistics company, DP World, the authority to manage all ports in Tanzania in consultation with the government. Despite being ratified by Parliament in June, the agreement has faced criticism from various quarters.

However, the Tanzanian government has responded to the critics in a heavy-handed manner. Over the weekend, Tanzanian authorities arrested three prominent critics of the ports deal, including former parliamentarian and diplomat, Willibrod Slaa. These individuals had publicly expressed their discontent with the deal.

Amnesty International, in a statement, highlighted that the detained critics are likely to face treason charges, potentially leading to the death penalty. The group’s east and southern Africa director, Tigere Chagutah, stressed the need for the Tanzanian government to cease arbitrarily detaining activists who peacefully express their views and to release these activists immediately and unconditionally. Chagutah further expressed concern over the growing intolerance to dissent, as evidenced by the crackdown on critics of the UAE port deal.

Tanzania urged to release critics of UAE ports deal
The port of Dar es Salaam is a crucial gateway to Tanzania and its landlocked neighbours such as Uganda © Alamy

The arrest and potential prosecution of individuals who are critical of the UAE’s involvement in managing Tanzania’s ports raises serious concerns about freedom of expression and human rights in the country. Critics argue that the Tanzanian government’s actions demonstrate a lack of tolerance for differing opinions and a disregard for democratic principles.

The harsh crackdown on criticism of the port agreement by the authorities has been widely condemned by various groups, including the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition. In a joint statement, they emphasized that human rights defenders have every right to express their opinions, even regarding the port agreement. They strongly believe that these critics should not face intimidation or arrest for exercising their freedom of speech.

One of the main arguments against this deal is that it poses a potential threat to Tanzanian sovereignty and security. Under this agreement, DP World is granted exclusive rights for 12 months to negotiate with the government on how to effectively manage Tanzania’s 80 ports.

On the other hand, the government maintains that this agreement will greatly benefit both the country and its ports. They argue that it will enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and increase revenues. The Transport Minister, Makame Mbarawa, stated in Parliament that DP World’s investment will lead to improved performance and allow more ships to dock. He also mentioned that transit cargo costs are expected to decrease by nearly half as a result of this partnership.

Ericson Mangoli
Ericson Mangoli is the founder and Managing Editor of Who Owns Africa, a platform for African journalism that focuses on politics, governance, and business. With a passion for truth and a dedication to highlighting pressing issues in Africa, Mangoli has become a significant voice in the field. He embarked on this journey after graduating with a degree in communications and realizing his true calling was in investigative reporting and shedding light on untold stories.  Who Owns Africa provides thought-provoking articles, in-depth analyses, and incisive commentary to help people understand the complexities of the region. Mangoli is committed to impartiality and ethical reporting, setting high standards for his team. His vision for the platform is to foster critical thinking and promote informed discussions that have a positive impact on African society. Mangoli is known for his eloquent and insightful writing which tackles pressing issues in Africa. His articles cover a range of topics including political corruption, economic development, fostering international partnerships, and African governance. He sheds light on the complexities of these subjects and empowers readers to engage in conversations for positive change. Mangoli's coverage of African politics analyzes the factors that drive change and hinder progress, while his reporting on governance advocates for stronger institutions and policies. Additionally, he explores the challenges and opportunities facing African businesses and inspires readers to contribute to Africa's economic growth.


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