I have had trouble in the last couple of days reconciling my mind to the fact that Stone Town Representative, Honourable Ismail Jussa Ladhu, wants the United Nations (UN) to throw overboard Tanzania’s application for an extension of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Indian Ocean lodged in New York on January 18, this year, because Zanzibar was allegedly not taken on board in the whole process.
The Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Professor Anna Tibaijuka, has repeatedly explained how the whole exercise was approached ever since she joined the ministry two years ago. In the first place, the application for extension of the EEZ from the present 200 to 350 nautical miles was a dormant project at the ministry and Tanzania was about to be time barred for lodging any claims to its continental shelf.
What Professor Tibaijuka did first was to apply for extension of time to lodge the application as a technical proposal was being written and other evidence gathered to make a solid case before the UN so that the country does not lose its marine resources to the rest of the world by what would have amounted to a shameful case of negligence. It is one thing to lodge an application and quite another to defend the claim for the rest of the world to recognise and respect the block as bonafide Tanzanian territorial area. If someone making the proposal to throw out that application was not a lawyer, and a UK-trained lawyer for that matter like Mr Ladhu is, many probably would have understood it.
But Mr Ladhu should be the first person to know that matters involving international treaties are governed by procedures and relevant schedules outside of which a country automatically loses its rights, otherwise conferred to anyone through an open and transparent system of negotiations. Issues of maritime boundaries are currently negotiated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The body doesn’t just have Tanzania to entertain but has the whole world to look at. If Tanzania does not want that area in the Indian Ocean, then there are many countries out there with the financial resources and technology that would be more than happy to exploit the deep sea riches such as oil and gas as unclaimed global resources.
Honestly, is that what Mr Ladhu wants to happen? Let us also assume that Zanzibar was not consulted as he claims. Is going to the UN with an injunction plea against the application the only remedy that Tanzanians have to deal with the matter as family visa- viz outsiders? And, does Mr Ladhu honestly believe that Zanzibar has the right of standing before the UN and makes a contrary application? Luckily, former Premier Judge Joseph Sinde Warioba was for a long time the country’s envoy to the Law of the Sea negations. That was not a kitchen party.
We negotiated the law of the sea as a nation. We did not negotiate that law as tribes or as Zanzibar or Tanganyika. Another Tanzanian, Ambassador James Kateka is currently a Judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) based in Hamburg, Germany. He was elected to the post on June 22, 2005 in New York by member states of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for a nine-year term beginning October 2005. The Tribunal is composed of 21 members. Every three years, seven new members must be elected. ITLOS would probably be the best place where Mr Ladhu could take his case to, Ambassador Kateka would undoubtedly be happy to hear, or at least follow up, a case involving his own country.
But I also doubt the chances of such a case also seeing the light of the day. Article 2(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania (1977) states: “The territory of the United Republic consists of the whole of the area of Mainland Tanzania and the whole of the area of Tanzania Zanzibar, and includes the territorial waters.” Paragraph 2 states: “For the purpose of the efficient discharge of the functions of the Government of the United Republic or the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, the President may, in accordance with the procedures prescribed by law or provisions of such law as may be enacted by Parliament, divide the United Republic into regions, districts and other areas:
Provided that the President shall first consult with the President of Zanzibar before dividing Tanzania Zanzibar into regions, districts or other areas.” It would appear that the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania does not need to consult Tanzania Zanzibar when expanding the borders of the United Republic of Tanzania except when the exercise at hand is subdividing land. Professor Tibaijuka explained in detail how the ministry involved politicians and experts from Zanzibar in the entire exercise to seek expansion of Tanzania’s territorial area. Zanzibaris automatically have their cut in that expanded area.
I fail to see how, under any stretch of the imagination that becomes disadvantageous to Zanzibar-such that Mr Ladhu should
think about opposing the application for the extension of the EEZ, which is for the benefit of the present and future generations of Tanzanians. I think we have to come to a point where we have to think and act like mature people. It would appear Mr Ladhu’s real intension is not about Zanzibar’s exclusion from a process that, in any case, the Union Government is not contractually duty bound to consult them.
His real intension was another jibe at the Union. Implied in his statement is a desire to break up the Union. If that is the case, it would have been better for him to come out clean and say so openly instead of hiding behind some façade of being sidelined – which does not hold water. Also, it would appear that some people in Zanzibar do not actually understand the responsibilities and limits of the Government of Tanzania Zanzibar. If they do, then they deliberately seek to distort the truth. The Government of Zanzibar is not at par with the Union Government. It is needless to remind “learned brothers” like Ladhu that international relations are not part of the issues that any government of internal autonomy handles.
That is why, perhaps, Tanzanians should approach the next constitution writing debate and process with a very candid and open heart and mind so that Tanzania becomes a well understood partnership. In any case, the partnership will remain problematic for a long time until the United Republic of Tanzania grows to include other countries such as the Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. Meanwhile, Tanzanians should refuse to be used as mere tools for the political adventurism of a few individuals, who I believe, have never taken enough time to appreciate the unique nature of our union but waste no time to rock the boat.
Mwalimu Nyerere once said he would understand it if “Tanganyikans” cried to have been dealt a raw deal in the setup and structure of our Union. But he would have a very hard time, he said, to understand what Zanzibaris were complaining about. Zanzibaris only need to look at who has been given a blank cheque in this union and who actually pays the bill. If that is not enough mutual understanding between brothers and sisters, probably no one would ever understand what else it is.