Few issues concerning Tanzania in recent years have received as much publicity in Britain as the air traffic control saga following massive coverage on the front page of the London GUARDIAN for three successive days (December 18-20). The banner headlines read: JUST WHAT THEY NEED ~ A £28 MILLION AIR DEFENCE SYSTEM; CABINET RIFT OVER SUPPORT FOR BAE SALE TO ONE OF WORLD’S POOREST COUNTRIES; RIFT OVER AGREEMENT WITH TANZANIA; SHORT LOSES IN AID ROW: £28 MILLION MILITARY DEAL TO GO AHEAD;

The London TIMES (March 29) said that last year Clare Short infuriated Cabinet colleagues by taking a high-profile stand against the decision to grant an export licence for an air-traffic control system being sold to Tanzania. Now, in what was seen as an open act of rebellion against her Cabinet colleagues, Ms Short had suspended a £10 million aid package to the country because of the sale. But the article went on to say that the international development secretary was generally regarded as ‘unsackable’, with one minister describing her as a ‘loose cannon that does not sink’.

The GARDIAN (March 20) said that Clare Short saw the issue as a cornerstone of her policy to persuade poverty-stricken and debt-ridden countries to stop wasting their cash on expensive toys so they could spend more on health, education and clean water. She saw her decision to block the project as essential but it had now emerged, following questioning by Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat MP, that when the deal came to the Cabinet committee it had already gone ahead. Most of the equipment had been built at BAE systems and £11 million had been paid as early as September 2000. The article linked the Barclays Bank loan at the low interest rate of 4.9 per cent with the decision of Tanzania on October 10 2000 to grant Barclays a lucrative banking licence to operate in Tanzania. The result had been a huge row at the Cabinet committee meeting with Ms Short demanding that the export licence be refused and the Ministers of Trade and Defence saying it should not. Ms Short was pressing the World Bank to tell Tanzania it was not going to get more help if it persisted with the scheme. The GUARDIAN reported that Ms Short’s action was causing consternation and embarrassment among some of her less independently minded Cabinet colleagues.

A letter in THE LANCET (5th January) quoted OXFAM as saying that the system would cost one quarter of Tanzania’s health budget. The funds could provide basic health care for 2 million people and pay school fees for 3.5 million children. The writer said that Prime Minister Tony Blair should be ashamed to have added to the burdens of Tanzania.

According to the EAST AFRICAN, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was due in Tanzania early in April to review the BEA System. DfID and the World Bank believed that a civil aviation type of air-traffic control system could have been procured for around $10 million. The cost of the system would be about half the country’s annual debt relief. The European Investment Bank was said to have been prepared to give Tanzania a cheaper loan but only for a different type of air traffic control system. Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete was quoted as saying that it was insulting to be told that they had to wait for the World Bank to prescribe what was best for Tanzania.

The SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST (21st December) quoted the MP for the Isle of Wight stating that the system had already been built, Prime Minister Tony Blair saying that he would not oppose the deal and President Mkapa as saying that the new radar was needed to replace obsolete technology and that he could not leave air safety “in the hands of God”. (Thank you Ran Blanche for sending this item from Hong Kong ­Editor)

On 23rd March the London GUARDIAN came back again to the issue under the headline ISLANDERS PUT JOBS AHEAD OF SCRUPLES: The Tanzania deal posed an ethical dilemma on the Isle of Wight. The article explained that the factory in which the control system was made was in Cowes in the Isle of Wight. What did the workers at the factory think about the controversy? Most were reluctant to give their views and none wished to be named. Peter, who seemed to a represent the majority, said there were qualms about selling defence equipment to Third World countries but someone would always sell it to them. Another, David, a committed Christian and supporter of the Jubilee 2000 Debt Relief Campaign, said he almost quit his job. “I wanted to distance myself from gaining at the expense of one of the poorest countries”. He had written to the Prime Minister and to Clare Short demanding that the export licence be withheld. His faith and politics led to sleepless nights as he wrestled with his conscience.

THE TIMES reported that Ahmed Brahim (57), the alleged financial brains behind her Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network in Spain was arrested on 14th April. He has been linked to the financing of the car bomb attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.

An article by James Meek headed “How aid took Tanzania to the classroom” in the London GUARDIAN (March 22) described how British and other foreign aid is being put directly into Tanzania’s central government budget, the only condition being that the budget goes towards reducing poverty. Extracts from the article (which explained the effect of aid on one primary school): ‘Once, Britain would have insisted that a Union flag waved over every pound it spent on aid. Now the cash is pooled with money from nine other European countries and the Tanzanian’s own revenue, losing its British identity….. The old way, grants to specific projects determined by donors made Tanzanians and their government passive, dependent, aid junkies -but it was easy to keep track of how the money was being spent. …The passionate belief of Clare Short is that when a poor country has followed the advice of rich countries by becoming more democratic and liberalising its economy -as Tanzania has done -its government and people deserve to be trusted with the responsibility of distributing aid by themselves …. .In the 1960s, foreigners in short-sleeved shirts came talking of “progress”; in the 1990’s they came in suits and ties talking of “reform”. Now aid givers and Tanzanians talk of many small changes -more modest, more cautious and more real.’

The EAST AFRICAN (March 25) reported that the 51-year-old Muhimbili hospital would soon undergo a $23 million rehabilitation programme being financed with help from the African Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for Development and BADEA. The rehabilitation would include expansion and construction of a new mortuary, new operating theatres, a new incinerator and remodelling of the in-patient wards to accommodate more patients in a clean environment.

THE TIMES (4th January) wrote that a woman who was brought up with a herd of wild elephants was the new face of BBC natural history programmes. Sarah Douglas-Hamilton had been chosen to succeed David Attenborough as the nation’s foremost wildlife presenter. She was born in Tanzania and her first encounter with elephants came when she was just six weeks old. (Thank you Christine Lawrence for sending this item ­Editor).

The LAW ADVOCATE reported in its winter 2002 issue that residents in Dar es Salaam were threatening court action against a cement company that was alleged to be releasing dangerous quantities of cement dust and sulphur dioxide. Residents living near the factory were said to be suffering from respiratory disorders and burning eyes. US E-Law Advocates in the Lawyer’s Environmental Action Team (LEAT) were representing over 5000 affected residents. (Thank you Corletta Johnson for sending this item -Editor)

‘There are plenty of coffee choices in the stores these days but starting today there’s another blend on the shelves. It tastes just as good as the others but it has a very different story’. So began an article in the Jacksonville (Florida) TIMES-UNION featuring “Sweet Unity Farms Coffee” which comes in 12-ounce bags, sells for about $4 and is from Tanzania. The article continued: ‘The new coffee is being brought to the United States by David Robinson (son of the sports great Jackie Robinson) who has lived in Tanzania for 20 years and has formed a farming co­operative which allows small farmers to combine their harvest and manufacture a product that is bringing electricity to their homes and money to their pockets. Starting with 48 farms in 1994 some 350 farms are now participating’. (Thank you Elsbeth Court for this item -Editor)

A new Imax film entitled “Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa” is now showing in selected North American cities. The enormous screen on which it is projected measures some 15 metres in height and 21 metres in width and creates an overwhelming visual experience wrote the EAST AFRICAN (March 25). Audiences are made to feel they are actually ascending the mountain along with a six-member climbing team (including two Tanzanians). The DALLAS MORNING NEWS had described the film as “sublimely photographed, it’s almost a religious experience”.

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