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It is with dismay that I have learned that President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania will be the recipient of a conservation award from the ICC Foundation.
Such an award demonstrates a profound ignorance of what is happening in Tanzania today.
Tanzania is losing its great natural heritage
President Kikwete inherited a rich legacy of conservation passed on from Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere. Tragically, since taking office, he has begun to systematically dismantle that legacy.
Serengeti on the brink
During his election campaign, President Kikwete promised backers a commercial highway across the Serengeti, the single greatest threat ever posed to this World Heritage Site. An international protest followed.
• More than three hundred scientists and conservationists from around the world agreed in a petition that such a road would devastate the great Serengeti migration. 1
• A legal case is currently being heard in the East African Court of Justice to stop any highway construction across the Serengeti. 2
• Construction of paved roads is now beginning on either side of the park in the path of the migration route. 3
• The government has ignored an offer from the German government and World Bank to build an alternate southern route around the Serengeti that would serve more people. 4
Tanzania’s massive blood ivory slaughter
Elephants in Tanzania are being slaughtered at an unprecedented rate. An extensive report just released by the UN shows that Tanzania leads the continent as the source of blood ivory. 5
In the four years after President Kikwete was elected in 2005, Tanzania’s elephant population declined by 30,000.
The Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators (TATO), normally reticent about controversy, recently presented these shocking figures:
- • Over the last ten years one third of Tanzania’s elephants have been slaughtered
- • 10,000 elephants are being killed annually in Tanzania.
- • One Tanzanian Game Reserve and a National Park have lost 42% of its elephant population over the last 10 years, amounting to a staggering count of 31,348 carcasses.
Assaults throughout the country
- The government of Tanzania is intent on building a soda ash factory on Lake Natron, the breeding ground of virtually all of Africa’s Lesser Flamingoes. 6
- A port is being planned for Mwambani Harbor, which will destroy a marine national park and displace thousands of locals for only marginal gain. 7
- There is corruption among officials, who have been implicated in the ivory trade and disappearance of climate change funds. 8
- A uranium mine was approved in Tanzania’s Selous Reserve, which has the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. There are plans for a dam on the Rufiji River, a critical water source for the reserve.
- UNESCO wanted to make the Eastern Arc Mountains a World Heritage Site. President Kikewte stopped the process.
China builds ties with Tanzania
Many of these threats are the result of China’s interest in developing Tanzania as the Indian Ocean portal for transferring raw materials from Africa’s interior. Plans for transport corridors throughout East Africa have been thrown about for years. Now these are coming off drawing boards. 9
President Obama focuses on wildlife trafficking in Tanzania
During his visit to Tanzania, President Obama highlighted the problem of poaching, leading him to issue an Executive Order for the control of Wildlife Trafficking, which he termed a threat to US national interest. 10
It is not a question of conservation vs. human development. It is a matter of finding leadership that can combine both in a creative and sustainable way. If the current path is not changed, it will lead to ruin for the Tanzanian people’s, remarkable natural heritage and history of conservation.
President Kikwete should be held accountable, not given awards, and should be pressured to change the dangerous path he has taken.