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Dubai faces legal hurdles with port plan

DP World's port plans on pause after Dar es Salaam withdraws legal changes that would have facilitated the deal

President Samia Suluhu Hassan appears to have backed down following a damaging row over a controversial agreement signed in February with the United Arab Emirates for logistics giant DP World to run the port of Dar es Salaam.

Although the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between Arusha and Dubai was approved by the National Assembly in June, that prompted a major backlash from opposition politicians and civil society who warned that the pact amounted to a cut-price sell-off of a key state asset. The IGA specified a contract of indefinite length and with little clarity on the financial terms. It also leaves the way clear for DP World's operations to expand to run other ports in mainland Tanzania. 

Last month, 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 criticising the agreement as unconstitutional (Dispatches 22/8/23, Samia's response to Emirati port deal critics prompts backlash).

Last week, Attorney General Eliezer Feleshi said that the government had withdrawn proposed modifications to two laws designed to 'enable Tanzania's ports to operate at international standards level and attract more countries, more ships, and larger cargoes', both important requirements set out in the IGA with Dubai. Putting these amendments on the back burner means the port contract cannot progress.

National Assembly speaker Tulia Ackson has since stated that there will be no further parliamentary debates on the DP World deal until the government presents any new agreements or provisions. 

Minister for Works, Makame Mbarawa, insisted last week that the commercial terms had not been worked out with DP World but that the agreement would expand Tanzania's trade links.

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