World Bank probe rights violations in $150m Tanzania project

Saturday February 03 2024

Maasai herders in Ngorongoro Crater with their herds of cattle in Tanzania's famed Ngorongoro conservation area. PHOTO | AFP


The World Bank is investigating allegations of human rights violations raised in the implementation of Tanzania's $150 million tourism resource management project after authorities failed to settle dispute with communities the project affected.

The investigation was formally launched on December 14, 2023, following confirmation from the Bank's Accountability Mechanism department that the two complainants — who have not been named — rejected government proposal for negotiation for settlement of the dispute.

According to the Bank, the investigation is expected to be completed by June and the findings will be submitted to the Bank’s top management for further action.

Read: World Bank acts on abuse claims in Tanzania project

A major focus of the probe is the state-run Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa), one of the project’s main implementing agencies, which is accused of using violence and forceful seizure of cattle belonging to communities surrounding the Ruaha National Park, which is part of the project area, in a bid to force them out of the land.

The seven-year Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (Regrow) project is funded by the Bank in support of government’s efforts to develop national parks in Tanzania's southern tourism circuit. The project is meant to improve infrastructure and management systems and offer alternative livelihoods for affected communities. It is scheduled to end in February next year. According to Bank records, about $99 million of the project's financing package has already been disbursed.


The formal request for investigation is understood to have been submitted last June by "two individuals from Tanzania who also requested their identities to remain confidential for fear of retaliation."

It received Board endorsement on November 15 but with a caveat giving the Tanzanian government a 30-day grace period to explore dispute resolution mechanism.

The Bank's decision to intervene followed its direct implication in the complaints which are based on alleged violence and intimidation tactics being used by Tanapa rangers to forcibly evict communities from the project area.

Tanzania’s Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba told The EastAfrican in December that the government intended to take up the dispute resolution option and was "in the process of putting together a team to meet with the complainants and work things out.

Read: Loliondo: Tanzania stands ground on Maasai move

"But, in a December 11 notice, the Bank's Accountability Mechanism Secretary Orsolya Szekely said no agreement had been reached between the two parties and the "requesters have opted to proceed directly to an investigation."

"The AM Secretary has been informed in writing that the government of Tanzania would have wished to pursue dispute resolution. However, it understands that the other party does not and remains ready to be guided on the next steps available to resolve this matter." 
the notice stated.

The panel said it would use experts to assess rules of engagement and interface issues between security forces and local communities in relation to World Bank project financing policy and conduct a fact-finding field visit to "consult with the requesters, other community members, Bank staff, the implementing agency, relevant ministries, development partners, and other relevant stakeholders."