Dodoma — THE government has strongly refuted allegation by a United States-based Nongovernmental Organisation (NGO) that alleged some Chinese officials sneaked out of the country illegal ivory during the visit by President Xi Jinping of China in Tanzania last year.
Media reports (both local and international) on Friday quoted a report by the NGO namely Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA), alleging that the Chinese buyers took advantage of insecurity checks during that diplomatic visit.
“We should ask ourselves as to why these allegations are surfacing few weeks after President Jakaya Kikwete’s visit to China, after which he revealed major deals sealed in Beijing during the trip,” Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe told the National Assembly on Friday.
He said Tanzania is an independent country and no one can either choose friends to work with or hate another country just because it is a perceived enemy of another country.
The minister explained that the reports were aimed at tarnishing cordial bilateral Tanzania-Sino relations, stressing that the two countries have been sharing intelligence reports which have enabled interception of ivory destined to China from Tanzania by some unscrupulous traders.
“It is obvious that perpetrators of these allegations are people who do not wish to see our country attain development.
The false reports were made out of jealously seeing that Tanzania enjoys cordial relations with China.
“There are people out there who are irked by the fact that the Chinese have pledged to support us to modernise the Tazara and Central railway networks as well as development of the Bagamoyo Port and Special Economic Zone,” he said while presenting the government position in regard to the allegations.
Tanzania is among beneficiaries of soft loans from the Chinese governments and institutions and this, Mr Membe noted, is not going well with prophets of dooms, who do not wish the best for the country.
He also noted of a fact that China is among countries that attended the illegal wildlife trade conference in London in February, this year and committed to cooperate with the international community in ending the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horns.
During the recent visit, Tanzania and China signed a pact to assist the former fight poaching. It is called the China Aided Equipment for Forest Resources and Wildlife Conservation.
Despite the false reports, the minister said the government would intensify the anti-poaching campaign and illegal wildlife trade in partnerships with friendly countries.
He admitted that while China remained the major market for illegal ivory mainly from Africa, the trade involved some individuals from the two countries.
On Thursday, this week, local and international media were awash with reports indicating that Chinese officials travelling to Tanzania with President Jinping went on a buying spree for illegal ivory.
Last year’s trip of President Jinping’s to Tanzania was his first foreign tour as head of state. The ivory trade was banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
Both China and Tanzania are signatories. Earlier this year China for the first time destroyed a large quantity of confiscated ivory, in a public event described by conservation groups as a landmark move.
Meanwhile, Marc Nkwame reports from Arusha that the government is investigating the source of recently published reports which were purporting that the official visit made by the Chinese President, Mr Jinping to Tanzania in March, last year was also used to ferry out consignments of elephant ivories from Dar es Salaam to Beijing.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu described the reports as serious attempts to sabotage.