Saturday, February 27, 2010

Maasai must give wildlife freedom, insists UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has backed the government’s decision to relocate indigenous Maasai sharing the Ngorongoro Conservation Area ecosystem with wildlife. The government, the UN agency and conservationists see the move as the surest way to save the area from being deregistered as a world heritage site. A 2006 UNESCO-commissioned study conducted by the World Heritage Committee in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and Tanzanian stakeholders showed that NCA was losing the characteristics that would enable it to remain on the list of world heritage sites. Eric Tajiru, Programme Officer (Culture) with the UNESCO National Commission of Tanzania, said in a recent interview with The Guardian that moving the Maasai from the area would boost efforts to preserve the heritage site and thus continue to be internationally acclaimed tourist attraction. He said NCA was included in the list of world heritage sites principally because it had three out of the ten characteristics or attributes required, “and the Maasai were seen as an integral part of the system when they totalled no more than 8,000”. “NCA had a superlative natural phenomenon with exceptional natural beauty, a crater complete with a natural habitat invaluable for purposes of conserving biological diversity. This included endangered wildlife species of outstanding universal value,” explained Tajiru. However, he added that the Maasai have since turned NCA into a multicultural area because they practised pastoralism to such an extent that they have overgrazed the area.

Maasai in their traditional attire.

“The area is slowly but surely losing its natural beauty mainly following overgrazing, particularly on the rims of the crater. There has also been a boom in multi-tourism activities,” he noted. Tajiru further pointed out that when NCA was established fewer than 100 vehicles would visit it on a daily basis on average but the figure has since risen to about 400. He partly attributed the development to the government’s decision to lift a ban that prohibited the Maasai from engaging in agriculture, a practice prompted by the famine that the country experienced in 1992. “The NCA conservation board (of directors) took initiatives to introduce a voluntary relocation exercise for the immigrant population but not a single Maasai was ready to leave,” revealed Tajiru, adding: “The government’s plan was for them to be moved to a village some 70 kilometers from Ngorongoro. It also took initiatives to build a school, a dispensary and a police station for the purpose.” UNESCO declared Ngorongoro Crater a natural world heritage site way back in 1979, which was 20 years after Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) was set up. The idea was to protect an area covering 8,300 square kilometres. UNESCO has openly declared that it is far from happy with the massive development going on within the NCA, mainly agriculture but also including the construction of a string of tourist hotels. It says this leads to road traffic congestion, which it sees as unfriendly to wildlife, and also blames it partly on the country’s mass tourism policy. Statistics show that NCA is home to over 64, 842 people, 136, 550 heads of cattle and 193,056 goats and sheep, making it overpopulated. The area was part of the Serengeti National Park when it was created by the British colonialists in 1951. The Maasai continued to live in the newly created park until 1959, when repeated conflicts with park authorities over land use led the British to move the local residents to the newly declared NCA. NCAA Ordinance No. 14 of 1959 came into effect on July 1, 1959 when the NCA began as a pioneering experiment in multiple land use.


Remains of ancient Olduvai Gorge crocodile identified

Tanzanian and American scientists have identified the remains of a 7.5-metre-long man-eating crocodile in the Olduvai Gorge. They estimate its age to be 1.8 million years. They guess it could be the largest predator ancient humans in the region have ever encountered, adding that the remains are now subjected to advanced research in the US. Dr Fidelis Masao, a researcher in the world-famous gorge, said in an interview that the remains will be returned to Tanzania some three years from now “unlike our dinosaur skeletons that were taken to German but have not been returned”. “The dinosaur has not been brought back mainly following legal complications because Tanzania was under the German colonial rule when it was discovered but this is a completely different case,” he noted. The researcher explained that the discovery was impeccable proof the environment of those ancient times enabled such creatures to survive, while that would likely be very difficult now. “The discovery of the remains of the mammoth crocodile also means that more tourists will visit Tanzania after the researchers in the US are through with their analysis and the remains are back here,” he added. Chris Brochu, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Iowa in the US, argued in a recent article published in the New Scientist that he would not guarantee that the crocodiles in question killed ancient humans “only that they were certainly biting them”. Ancient hominid bones discovered by Mary and Louis Leakey in the same sediments bear distinct bite marks likely to have been inflicted by large crocodiles. Yet, most researchers have assumed that the gashes were delivered by the same species of crocodiles that prowl the banks of the Nile today. Not so, claims Brochu, who re-analysed numerous incomplete fossils, the most recent of which was unearthed in 2007 by his co-authors Robert Blumenschine at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Jackson Njau of the National Natural History Museum in Arusha, Tanzania. Though roughly the same size as the reptilian denizens of the Nile, the Olduvai crocodiles had thinner, more flared snouts and large horns more characteristic of Madagascan crocodiles that went extinct in the past few thousand years. “The discovery of C. anthropophagus points to far more diversity in African crocodiles in the past 2.5 million years than thought,” argues Brochu, adding: “People have always perceived crocodiles as these slowly evolving, living fossils. That’s just nonsense.”He says his team has not found many fossils belonging to C. anthropophagus, and none that is complete, “so it’s impossible to determine its precise relationship to modern Nile crocodiles or when the man-eaters went extinct”. But, Brochu has little doubt that C. anthropophagus threatened the ancient hominids who called Olduvai Gorge home and would have been drawn to a nearby source of fresh water.According to the palaeontologist’s team, larger crocodiles would be capable of consuming hominids completely, leaving no trace.


Focus on deadly diseases, medical researchers told

Health and Social Welfare minister Prof David Mwakyusa has challenged medical researchers to concentrate on diseases such as cancer, blood pressure and diabetes since they account for more than 60 per cent of deaths in the country. He threw the challenge in Dar es Salaam yesterday when launching a new council for the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR). He urged the centre to start giving priority to normal diseases instead of concentrating on researching infectious diseases. “There are so many deaths caused by cancer, blood pressure and diabetes. We want to get proper treatment for the diseases. Your research will enable us change the policy and medical treatment strategies towards ending the problems”, he said.He also urged NIMR to ensure that research on malaria vaccination was completed as soon as possible so that the disease was consigned to the heap of history.

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Professor David Mwakyusa.

Prof Mwakyusa said the government planned to increase funding for research due to its importance, adding that without concrete researches it would be difficult for the government to review health policies and ensure quality medical services for the people. NIMR Director General Dr Mwele Malecela said the institute had a six-year strategic plan to improve its services which includes construction of modern laboratories, improving the working environment and collaboration with international research institutes. Malecela said the institute was also striving to become one of the major medical institutes in the East African Community (EAC) region. Dr Malecela said the institute was facing an acute shortage of funds, whereby since the year 2007/08 it had been depending on donors. She said the last time the government provided it with funds amounting to 1.4bn/- was in financial year 2006/2007. Meanwhile, newly appointed council chairman Prof Samuel Masele promised to work hard to ensure sustainable medical research in the country is achieved.

Youths advocate empowerment to stem criminality

Youths in Mtwara Region have said that criminal incidents in the country can only end or be greatly curtailed if the government empowers them by providing capital and skills to establish income-generating activities. The remarks were made here on Thursday by youths who form Saidi Mwema New Generation group comprising youths who had decided to shun criminal activities and become loyal and productive citizens. The group is so called in honour of Inspector General of Police Saidi Mwema, who supported them in establishing the group and provided cement bags and other materials. The Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) has supported the group by providing 16.8m/- capital for the establishment of a brick-laying project to enable them get regular income. Speaking to reporters, the group's co-ordinator, Charles Haule, said the project had helped reduce criminality in the region. Haule said the idea to mobilize youths and later give them counselling on how they could become good members of the society came after there was increased insecurity in the municipality, especially after the cashew nuts harvesting season was over. “There was increased criminal incidents in town, especially when the cashew nuts harvesting season was over. Once the season ended, these youths had nothing to do to enable them sustain themselves,” he said.

The Inspector General of Tanzania Police Force, Mr. Said Mwema
“People called the group Tukale Wapi (where shall we get food). With the support we received from Tasaf and Inspector General of Police Saidi Mwema, the group has now been an icon in town, encouraging more other youths to join them,” said Haule. For his part, the group's secretary, Mshamu Ally, said the youth had decided to engage in criminal acts due to lack of activities to enable them generate income for sustaining life. “We are now happy. We thank Tasaf for saving us from that pathetic way of life as we are now economically empowered,” said Ally, adding: “The government must see empowerment of youths as a tool in addressing criminality in the society,”

Take action on graft President Kikwete urged

President Jakaya Kikwete's strong condemnation of corruption on Thursday, has been welcomed by several commentators, but asked him to take concrete action to show his commitment to route out the vice. A cross section of political leaders and other analysts, said the President's stance would be strengthened and win support of pessimists if he links his words with swift action against anyone implicated in corruption. Mr Kikwete said on Thursday that the ongoing anti-corruption drive would remain high on the government's agenda if he will be re-elected in the forthcoming General Election in October.
The president was opening the annual conference of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau in Mwanza. He used the meeting to particularly emphasize his administration's resolve to adopt laws to combat electoral corruption and other practices that cost huge amounts in public funds at the expense of improving social services delivery. The president's tone was that of not tolerating any form of corruption in any sector and those linked to the vice, including the media, which he challenged not to use their power of the pen to defend their culpability. Yesterday, however, various interviewees explained that fighting corruption was not as simple as some people may think and that it was high time Mr Kikwete exercised his power by taking strong action against the suspects. The Karatu MP, Dr Willbroad Slaa, said it does not make sense for the President to condemn corrupt politicians and civil servants in the normal way that members of the public would. "I differ with President Kikwete because he holds power in his hands, but continues to condemn like any of us. Who will help Tanzanians to get out of this mess,"wondered Dr Slaa. According to Dr Slaa, Tanzanians do not trust the head of PCCB and that it will be difficult for the government to continue tolerating him. "I remember, the committee that was formed to investigate Richmond issue, had recommended that Dr Edward Hosea, be disciplined for the manner he handled the matter. But he is still enjoying the office," said Dr Slaa.
He said President Kikwete's words against corruption must reflect his action. "You can not convince people that you hate corruption while you fear to take action against corrupt government officials. I think the President must think twice on that," said Dr Slaa. The executive director of Twaweza, Mr Rajesh Rajan, commented that it was high time for President Kikwete to take action against corrupt officials. "I believe that action speak louder than words. We want to see him take action and not speaking like he did yesterday," said Mr Rajan. According to Mr Rajan, Tanzanians want a clear analysis on what PCCB has been doing and how the President is taking action to eliminate graft. "We need to know how much money PCCB has managed to recover from corrupt officials and how many people have been prosecuted in court for involving themselves in corruption scandals,"said Mr Rajan. He said Tanzanians want to evaluate what the President has said by connecting them with action and data. "We hear there are some politicians who have decided to start campaigning before the time, and some of them are even bribing people with khanga, money and other items, but still no one has been arrested, " he said. Commenting to the matter, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Mr Bashiru Ali, said President Kikwete is surrounded by �dirty� politicians and that his statements will never be trusted by the people. He said President Kikwete needs to clear up his government by arraigning in court some officials connected with Kagoda, Richmond, and Radar scandals. He explained that Mr Kikwete needs to strengthen leadership ethics in his government and avoid being surrounded by corrupt politicians if he really wanted to win back Tanzanians� confidence and trust. "PCCB must be clean, members of CCM National Executive Committee (NEC), must be clean and must be a good example in the society," insisted Mr Ali. The United Democratic Party (UDP) chairman and Bariadi West MP, John Cheyo, said he would like to see the president's words in action, adding that there laws and regulations for dealing with corruption in the country. "We make laws for the purpose of dealing with such matter and there are laws and procedures for addressing this problem,"said Mr Cheyo. But when reached for comment, CCM deputy chairman Pius Msekwa, dismissed the argument, saying it was not appropriate to discuss the President's remarks.

SOURCE: Citizen newspaper

Government to enact law for plant varieties

A new law to protect new plant varieties and give local researchers a leeway to patent their discoveries is in the offing. The minister for agriculture, food security and Cooperatives, Mr Stephen Wassira, said the process to enact the law and repeal outdated ones was underway. Mr Wassira revealed this yesterday when opening a one week international seminar on Plant Variety Protection. The meeting was held at a Dar es Salaam hotel. "We have started the process to amend our Plant Breeders' Rights Act, 2002. We shall soon have a new law to allow our breeders register within the international system new varieties for protection," he said. The meeting comes amid reports that Tanzania was planning to go to court to stop the US and Brazilian governments, jointly with two multinational firms, from patenting a sorghum gene isolated from Tanzanian farms. The report further mentioned researchers from the US department of agriculture, Brazil's Agricultural Research Corporation and Texas A&M University to have patented the gene with the US Patent Office in September 2009.
If allowed, the multinational corporations would then seek to exploit their patent to boost profits by selling sorghum seeds at a high price at the expense of the of the locals where the gene was extracted. According to Dr Rolf Jordens, the Vice Secretary General of the Geneva based International Union for the Protection of Plants (Upov), joining the organization was the best way for the country to give incentive to breeders as it would trigger more public and private investment in research and breeding while enjoying intellectual property rights.
"This of course encourages breeders to come up with better varieties that are commercially potential to both innovators and growers," he said. The expert elaborated that once the country becomes a member and having opened the national registration office for local breeders, unlike patenting system, the Upov convention allows them to use breeding materials from other registered breeders to obtain a more improved variety. Early this month, the Parliament of Tanzania made a declaration allowing the country to comply with the UPOV Convention, 1991. And the government has now initiated a process of amending the Plant Breeders Act of 2002 before submitting formal application for Upov-membership. Mr Wassira explained that the move would be a milestone in protecting the rights of the local breeders, whose works have been, for many years, published unnoticed and that it was a high time for them to reap from their innovations.

SOURCE Citizen newspaper

PCCB saves Sh7.6bn public fund from being stolen

The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), has saved over Sh7.6 billion in public funds from being embezzled, PCCB director general Dr Edward Hosea, revealed recently in Mwanza. Dr Hosea told President Jakaya Kikwete shortly before the latter opened the PCCB annual general meeting, that the funds were saved through the ongoing investigations and audit of development projects being by local government authorities countrywide. "We also suggested disciplinary measures be taken against 40 civil servants implicated in corruption practices during the implementation of projects,” he said.
The graft watchdog investigation and prosecution directorate, had between last January and this month, investigated five grand corruption cases at the headquarters and at least one such case at each region each month, he said. The PCCB headquarters investigated 16 grand corruption cases during the 2009/10, he said, explaining that investigation of seven cases was accomplished and that files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). PCCB had until this month, filed 222 cases at the courts countrywide to register an increase of 51 per cent compared to 147 cases filed at the courts in 2008, he said.

"We received 5,930 complaints at PCCB offices countrywide last year,"he said, adding that PCCB won 49 cases in which sentences were meted out, making the bureau registered an increase of 32 per cent cases compared to 37 won in 2008. Dr Hosea, however, enumerated a number of challenges facing the bureau as belated availability of evidence and documents from abroad for grand corruption cases, due to costs involved. The bureau was in dire need of district offices countrywide and a training college for grooming its officials in the anti-corruption skills. Tracking down corruption during elections was a daunting task that called for a big budget, he noted. He said the bureau was continuing with coordination of National Governance and Corruption Survey (NGCS), the first baseline survey aimed at gauging good governance and corruption situation in the country. Statistics to be obtained from the survey would be used for devising and implementing good governance and anti-corruption drive in the country, he said. Preliminary findings of the survey indicated that corruption practices abound in health, judiciary, Police Force, education, Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (Tanesco), water and public procurement sectors, he observed. Dr Hosea attributed achievements registered by the bureau to the government's support, including a permission to recruit 747 officials between 2006 and last year. In addition to the newly built PCCB headquarters in Dar es Salaam, the graft watchdog had accomplished construction of regional headquarters in Temeke and Maswa districts, he said. The bureau also envisaged accomplishment in the construction of buildings to house regional and district headquarters in Lindi and Mtwara regions and in Iramba and Mpanda districts, this fiscal year.

SOURCE Citizen newspaper

'Date-rape' drugs on the rise, UN warns

A UN report is warning of a growing danger in the unchecked abuse of prescription drugs that it said could get worse in countries that lack appropriate monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. The United Nations drug control agency's annual report shows that there is widespread abuse of drugs such as morphine, codeine and methadone, calling it a "hidden problem". The report calls on individual governments to take appropriate action to prevent the misuse of modern communication technology that has made it easier to circumvent detection in the supply of such drugs. In some countries, more people are abusing these drugs than the combined number of people taking heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, it says. In the US alone, this amounts to 6.2 million people. According to the agency, the use of the so-called date-rape drugs, which are used by sexual abusers to target women, is rampant in some countries, mostly in the West, where they are easily available. Recently, a Dar es Salaam-based physician told The Citizen that the local medical fraternity was aware of the abuse of the strictly "prescription only" drugs. The extent of the abuse is, however, still undocumented. The doctor said although such drugs were available and used in hospitals, their accessibility was restricted for special use only. "They are only used on patients in intensive pain or preparing for surgery," he said. He hinted that even when such drugs are used, attendants are supposed to keep the empty bottles for record and other approvals. But the doctor admitted that the misuse of such drugs was also a matter of concern in the country. "I cannot confirm who uses them, and how they get them, but I have many times heard such reports,” he said. The UN Narcotics Control Board says tough measures against the best-known date-rape drug, Rohypnol, have worked. But sexual abusers are turning to alternative substances subject to less stringent international controls.
It wants these placed on governments' controlled substances lists and for manufacturers to develop safety features such as dyes and flavourings. Prof Hamid Ghodse, of the International Narcotics Control Board, said: "These drugs are used so as to tremendously reduce people's resistance to unwanted sexual activity and then subsequently they might not even remember what happened." In the UK, ketamine, an anaesthetic, has been a class-C drug since January 2006, while the solvent GBL, or gamma-butyrolactone, was one of a number of "legal highs" that became class-C drugs last year. But both substances also have legitimate uses, making it harder to keep them out of the hands of criminals. In March 2009, London taxi driver John Worboys was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a series of female passengers in the back of his cab. Worboys gave his victims drinks laced with sedatives. Many of the women could only recall falling asleep in his taxi before waking up at home. Others were left with flashbacks and vague memories of Worboys sitting beside them. Drug traffickers are also increasingly using illegal pharmacies based overseas, the report says. Orders are placed via the Internet or telephone call centres, with no prescription or other authorisation required. India is identified as one of the main sources of these transactions.

SOURCE: Citizen newspaper

Donors pledge to build z'bar power project

The UK, Sweden and Norway will build a 25-megawatt emergency backup power facility in Zanzibar to ease electricity shortages.
The British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Ms Diane Corner, told an annual party of the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors recently that power woes were affecting businesses and the overall economy.
However, she did not say when the project would be implemented and how much it would cost. “I know from talking to you [Zati members] and talking to the large number of British investors in Tanzania that it can be hard to run a business here, in a developing country with all the challenges of infrastructure, of levels of health and education, and the overall level of development,” she said. However, Zanzibar said last week that it would tackle the power blackout by the end of this month after failing to do so by February 20 had it had initially promised. The power crisis has reduced government revenue collections, and increased household, corporate and government spending. Tourism is one of the most affected industries and Zati members have been forced to buy generators to ensure power supplies. Zati members fear that they will be forced to shed labour if the power problem persists. Power woes have worsened the performance of the industry, which also suffered from the global economic crisis. “Over the last year Tanzania has not done too badly in weathering the global economic storm. While tourist numbers are down slightly, they are still healthy,” Ms Corner said.
According to the Zanzibar Tourism Commission, out of 54,000 British tourists who visited Tanzania last year 32,377 went to Zanzibar.

SOURCE: Citizen newspaper

Former ATCL Staff seek PM intervention

Former Air Tanzania staff have asked the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, to intervene and help them get their retrenchment payments.
The workers who called at the PM's office at around 8.00 in the morning last Friday were however unable not meet the Premier and they were forced to channel their complaints through a complains' committee. According to their secretary, Mr Afrika Kagema, the committee promised it would forward their complaints to the permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's office. "The committee has promised to work on our problems and have been asked to come back later for the feedback on the matter,"said Mr Kagema. According to Mr Kagema, the retrenched workers had reached the decision to meet the Prime Minister after the Ministry of Infrastructure Development failed to solve their problems. "We are demanding for our pensions but we are told that our former employee did not remit the deductions to PPF for 16 months from May 2008 to November 2009,said Mr Kagema. He said after approaching the ATCL over the matter, the management agreed to remit 12 months' deductions to PPF and therefore four-months' pay remains. Other payments include Sh101 million in health insurance and long-serving payments that are provided to workers who have served for more than 10 years. "We had talked to the Ministry of Infrastructure Development permanent secretary, Mr Omar Chambo, and he promised to work on our demands, but when we went there the other day, we were informed that the PS was attending parliamentary sessions in Dodoma," said Mr Kagema. According to Mr Kagema, the deputy PS, Mr Kalinga told them that they were free to sue the ATCL and the government if they were not satisfied with the way the government was handling their matter. "We were very much provoked by this statement, this is why we have decided to face the Prime Minister hoping he will solve our problems, he added.

SOURCE: Citizen newspaper