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December 2001 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 48, No. 12)
World Press Review Correspondent
In late December,
the purchase from the United Kingdom of a US$40-million radar
system for the Tanzanian air system sparked off a controversy
in the British Cabinet and drew criticism in Tanzania and beyond.
Experts questioned why Tanzania needed such an expensive system
when it was clear that a more efficient one, at least for the
civilian aviation industry, could be built for around a quarter
of the cost.
According to a joint report in Nairobis The East African
(Dec. 24-30), David Rider, the editor of Janes Air
Traffic Control, wondered why Tanzania needed a military
defense system when it has only eight military aircraft. The
BAE Air Traffic Control system was not suitable for civil aviation,
Putting $40 million into British government coffers...is
tantamount to throwing away half of the gains in debt relief
that this country would enjoy next year: $77 million. And more,
because the equipment is being purchased through a commercial
loan from a private British bankwhich will re-swell Tanzanias
external debt! read an editorial in Dar es Salaams
Business Times (Dec. 28). The paper observed: Some
of our more reliable supporters in the world and in developmentthe
World Bank and the International Monetary Fundare of the
view that the system being purchased has military capability
that Tanzania does not really need. According to these
institutions, noted Business Times, Tanzania could do
well with a $10 million system.
However, the Daily News (Dec. 19) had earlier quoted
President Benjamin Mkapa as affirming that he fully supported
the radar purchase because it would increase safety at Tanzanias
airports. In its Dec. 25 issue, Majira reported that the Tanzania
Labor Party had petitioned Prime Minister Tony Blair to stop
the radar deal, as it would give rise to severe economic implications
for ordinary Tanzanians. In a report in The East African
(Dec. 24-30) the Tanzanian government said the radar purchase
was purely an internal matter that had been blown out of proportion.
The debate in the U.K. Cabinet translates into typical
neo-colonialism, a senior government official told The
The row in the British Cabinet came after it was revealed that
the hardware had already been built at a British factory after
assurances came from the Ministry of Defense that the deal would
be nodded through. BAE Systems is said to have been privately
assured by British civil servants that the scheme would be approved
and, as a result, the system had already been assembled to go
out to Tanzania, which, according to The East African,
was said to have made a $5 million downpayment.
Before the Cabinet meeting took place, it became clear that
the deal had been okayed by Blair despite opposition from the
World Bank, British NGOs, and even members of his own Cabinet.
Not much has been disclosed about the... deal, said
political scientist Michael Okema in a column in The East
African (Jan. 7-13). What is clear is that every reason
given to justify it can easily be put to question.