With energetic intervention on the exploding situation in Mtwara municipality and neighbouring districts by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and a host of other ministers, and detailed explanations by President Jakaya Kikwete in his end of the month address, we expect that level headedness shall return to the area, facilitating the continuation of normal investment and government business.
Various authorities have taken note of the destruction in the area, and law pursuits are being conducted on those who broke the law, and hopefully agitation against political authorities and representatives has ebbed. But it will not die a natural death unless concerned quarters take real affirmative action to ensure that wisdom and calm are the watchword.
There is plenty of reason to believe that some scaremongering took place in the municipality and nearby districts to believe that they were being shortchanged in the partaking of benefits from resources lying deep in their own part of the country.
This has now been clarified, in which case calm and putting aside all sorts of contentions will help facilitate everything that is on the drawing board or being implemented to continue as expected, without people having jitters as to their safety. This requires that some of those sections of the political market which seek to make careers or strike electoral affinities should seek to redirect their efforts to galvanizing speedier action towards what has been clarified or is being done on the ground, not pick new bones.
Norwegian Ambassador Ingunn Klepsvik advised political parties in an address at the Bishop Kolowa Memorial University in Lushoto that they should skip the gas issue in electoral platforms, picking the example of EU oil giant Norway that petroleum is left aside as a national issue, not included in party platforms.
The reason is that when each party tries to advice the public how best the resource should be used, and in the best interests of that party’s electoral strongholds, chances of consensus are few and chaos could easily be the result. The Mtwara disturbances have signaled just how bad intense disputes about gas could be.
Of course, everyone expects that the government will be filling its part of the bargain struck at Mtwara and reiterated by the President of the United Republic, but it is important that how the government conducts its work and executes the various programmes in the area be seen as part of routine government work, and not a special tender in the southern regions.
This means that loyalty to institutions and avoidance of agitation for its own sake is primary, knowing that there is fertile territory to plant bad weeds of intent to cheat the Mtwara people by all sorts of activists. Nothing can credibly be done unless institutions are respected, the public peace is assured and no one has to worry as to whether the burning will start again, or new sabotage acts.
As the president explained, activists in the region and elsewhere should not believe that they are sitting on gold and therefore the world and the country will come begging if disturbances start again, as there is plenty of gas in East Africa and beyond.
What will happen when security is not assured is that investors pull out, and not just of the pipeline which some people had sworn not to allow it to be built but all investments, and indeed all existing services, since no goods and services thrive in chaos, save the circulation of firearms and the traffic of narcotics.
So restarting agitation and placing investments in doubt will not do anyone any good, but as they say, ‘pride cometh before a fall;’ an indulgent sentiment of being shortchanged will ruin the zone.