Tanzania’s energy plan to improve the availability and reliability of electricity in rural areas could stall after the US pulled $470 million energy funding to the nation.
The United States government funding arm – the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)- announced on Tuesday that it had reached the decision citing the nullification of election results in Zanzibar and the need for a prompt, fair and peaceful conclusion of the electoral process.
MCC said the March 20, new election in Zanzibar “was neither inclusive nor representative.” This, MCC said was regardless of repeated concerns of the US government and the international community.
The main opposition party- the Civic United Front (CUF) boycotted the re-run in March which Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) declared incumbent Zanzibar President Mohamed Ali Shein winner with 91% of the vote.
The re-run polls were held following the cancellation of the October 25 elections, three days after the ballots.
The opposition maintained that they had won the October elections and called on its supporters not to vote in the March polls. On the other hand, the electoral commission argued that there had been widespread fraud.
The funds were expected to boost the government’s efforts in rural electrification which according to the Africa Development Bank was 11% as of last year.
Speaking to the BBC, the minister of foreign affairs Augustine Mahiga said he was astounded by the fact that the MCC had not taken into consideration the huge strides Tanzania had taken in democracy.
He added that the conclusion of the MCC will majorly affect the people in the rural areas who have no electricity.
The MCC also was concerned over the application of the Cybercrimes Act. According to MCC Tanzania’s government had not taken “measures to ensure freedom of expression and association are respected in the implementation of the Cybercrimes Act.”
The MCC said Tanzania's government had failed to guarantee that the newly passed Cybercrimes Act "would not be used to limit freedom of expression and association, in light of arrests made during the elections."
In a statement from Ambassador Mark Childress, Cybercrimes Act of 2015 was used “during the elections to arrest individuals accredited by the National Electoral Commission inhibited fundamental freedoms of expression and association.”
Mr Mahiga denied critics’ argument that the act was intended to silence those criticizing the government and the ruling party. He said that it was necessary to fight terrorism.
MCC said that the elections in Zanzibar and application of the Cybercrimes Act run counter to their commitment to democracy, free and fair elections.
While this is a blow to President John Magufuli's efforts to develop the East African nation, he has been critical of foreign aid ever since he got into power in November last year.
Speaking at an Easter mass at the Azania Front Lutheran Church, the head of state urged Tanzanians to work hard in order to lessen foreign donor dependence.
"Tanzanians can stop relying on conditional loans from foreign donors if they cultivate a culture of working hard," he said.
Since he took over, President Magufuli has taken a number of measures to curb government spending and redirect such monies towards development.
He banned foreign travels for civil servants and enhanced tax collection, with an aim of boosting the provision of social services like health and education as well as lessen donor dependence.
President Magufuli is also keen on eliminating corruption in the country.
Image credit: PA