Jump to navigation


Samia's response to Emirati port deal critics prompts backlash

The president's commitment to free speech is being questioned after the arrest of opposition and civil society activists who criticised the deal with the UAE

The government's heavy-handed response to critics of a controversial port deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has prompted condemnation from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

In February 2022, the government and the UAE signed an agreement for logistics giant DP World to run the port of Dar es Salaam. The deal may be extended to cover other ports in mainland Tanzania. The contract is indefinite, and the intergovernmental agreement does not include a leasehold or concession arrangement. It is also unclear what remuneration, if any, will be paid by DP World.

DP World already has a foothold in East Africa, such as the Berbera port in Somaliland (AC Vol 59 No 5, Any port in a storm).

Opposition and rights activists warn the deal amounts to selling off a key strategic asset. Several dozen opponents of the agreement have been arrested while others have been threatened for criticising it, according to local civil society groups.

On 13 August, Willibrod Slaa, a former MP for the opposition Chadema party who later served as Tanzania's ambassador to Sweden and Finland under former president John Magufuli, became the latest high-profile figure to be arrested for criticising the deal. He could face treason charges.

Last week, the High Court threw out an appeal by a group of activists including lawyer Boniface Mwabukusi and opposition politician, Mdude Nyagali, both of whom were arrested after publicly condemning the inter-governmental agreement with the Emirati state as unconstitutional.

The response suggests that President Samia Suluhu Hassan's regime has not shaken off all the tools of repression used by her predecessor Magufuli. It raises questions over her commitment to allowing dissent and opposition parties to operate freely.

The government and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party officials insist that the ports agreement is not set in stone. Yet it was approved by parliament in June where CCM MPs insist the host government and lease agreement will ensure beneficial terms.

Related Articles

Any port in a storm

Both the structure and the timing of the deal between the United Arab Emirates' DP World and the Somaliland port of Berbera on 1 March raise big questions. The deal gives DP World ...

The bulldozer's light tread

President Magufuli is sweeping out corruption but there are some corners the new broom cannot reach

Many heads have rolled since President John Pombe Magufuli came to office just over a year ago. Those who have felt the new intolerance of waste and corruption include the Director...

Poisoning the atmosphere

President Kikwete remains aloof from party strife, so the anti-corruption faction and its enemies keep on fighting

Bitterness is growing in the disputes within the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi and government and CCM skeletons are refusing to stay in the closet. The latest row concerns the Depu...

Troubled isles

As the nation drifts quietly towards the polls, trouble looms offshore

As Tanzania this week celebrates 40 years of Union between the mainland and the islands of Zanzibar, the race to succeed President Benjamin Mkapa after next year's elections has be...

Tarnished halo

This once-favoured destination for aid and investment is now struggling with financial scandals and budget shortfalls

The sheen is wearing off Tanzania's image as the friendliest East African country for investors and foreign aid agencies. Politics in the lead up to next year's legislative and pre...