Tanzanian port privatisation dissenters arrested

Tanzanian port privatisation dissenters arrested

August 15, 2023

Tanzanian police have arrested three people for criticising a port deal whereby Dubai logistics multinational, DP World, has received the green light to operate and manage the Port of Dar es Salaam.

The arrests come after 22 people, who had criticised the government for approving the public-private partnership, were initially threatened with arrest.

That is according to Human Rights Watch which has been monitoring developments about the port’s mooted privatisation, criticised by activists and opposition politicians regarding the deal as Tanzania selling off sovereign assets to the UAE.

Critics are particularly concerned that the agreement failed to specify when the Emirati management of the ports would end.

Tanzanian activist Maria Sarungi-Tseha said that the human rights situation in the country had been worsening.

She emphasised that there had been much pushback from citizens over the port deal, which has led to crackdowns.

Sarungi-Tseha said the arrested activists – Willibrod Slaa, Boniface Mwabukusi and Mdude Nyagali – had been involved in a case at a regional court seeking to stop DP World.

After a judge ruled against them, they moved their case to a higher court for an appeal, prompting their arrest.

Alleged intimidation by the government of President Samia Suluhu Hassan has revealed growing intolerance for dissent in opposition to the port deal, said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa.

Speaking after initial arrests and threats of arrests started in July, Chagutah said: “The authorities must stop arbitrarily detaining activists simply for peacefully expressing their views and immediately and unconditionally release these activists to ensure the respect of the right to freedom of expression.”

According to Amnesty International, Slaa is a former parliamentarian and Tanzanian ambassador to Sweden; Mwabukusi, a lawyer and activist; and Mdude Nyagali, a political activis.

Mwabukusi led a court petition arguing that the port accord contains clauses that violate Tanzania’s Constitution and endanger national sovereignty and security.

According to The Exchange, DP World will take control of at least three berths at the port, regarded as one of the fastest-growing East African ports by the World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index.

“Under the management of DP World, berths five to seven will see a growth in number of large carriers arriving at the port and effectively increase cargo handling.”

Revenue at the port is expected to grow 233.7% over the next ten years under DP World.

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