Tackle social barriers in oil pipeline project

Friday February 23 2018

 

By TheCitizen

Some reported misunderstandings in villages where the 1,445 km Hoima-Tanga oil pipeline is earmarked to pass through should be fully addressed. Granted, complaints coming from these areas should not strike as a big surprise considering the magnitude of the project. It’s only a proactive approach that will prevent the hard-won multimillion dollar project from degenerating into a source of conflict.

The move by Total to dispatch an independent team of experts recently to investigate complaints over the $3.55 oil pipeline project is, therefore, commendable. This is an important step towards stemming some of the social problems associated with mega projects in the bud. A report by the team is expected to play a crucial role in how the project is going to be rolled out, vis-à-vis its social and environmental impact.

Total has said once the team is done with looking into all possible barriers that may stand in the way of smooth operations, a meeting will be scheduled with Tanzanian and Ugandan authorities. Already, the experts are said to have held meetings with some villagers, local government officials, the district commissioner and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

One of the most critical issues to be discussed is land – in itself a sensitive matter that the government needs to fully address. Total said it would be looking into how the country’s land policy influenced the process to compensate those affected. More so, to be investigated are the challenges that might have arose during the relocation and compensation processes. This is commendable – hopefully all the pending issues will be sorted out in time to allow the project’s speedy implementation.

At the laying of the foundation stone last year, President John Magufuli reiterated his commitment to seeing the project to an early completion. Targets can be met with minimal stumbling blocks.

Invest in voter education

Several political pundits have attempted in the past few days to explain the poor turnout in last weekend’s by-elections for the Kinondoni and Siha constituencies. There seems to be consensus among many observers that the apparent voter apathy is normal for a by-election – and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has also partly attributed the problem to the decision to field defectors.

However, commentators have urged the electoral body to consider investing more in voter education as a continuous process, as opposed to a once-off programme ahead of a general election. Concerns that this trend could go on and on are not misplaced. Tanzania is not the first, let alone only, country in the world to increasingly face the threat of voter apathy. It’s happening all over the continent, in the US and across Europe. Apparently, it’s a global trend. This is why NEC should think outside the box, and do things differently to ensure that all eligible Tanzanians exercise their constitutional right to choose their leaders, even at the ward level. This is important for stability in any country. Poor funding has been a major factor hindering voter education. The need to ensure that the electoral body is properly funded cannot be overstated.