(eTN) – Tanzania’s no-nonsense Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagesheki, announced today the sacking of several top officials in his ministry for their involvement in the illegal export of wildlife to Qatar in November 2010. This was following information leaked into the public domain by a number of aviation personnel, who watched in person how a Qatari airforce aircraft was being loaded with the animals before taking off, following the presentation of forged and falsified documents clearing the cargo and the flight.
The biggest casualty of the affair for now is Mr. Obeid Mbangwa, until now Director of Wildlife in the Ministry, alongside two other personnel based in Arusha. The Deputy Director for Wildlife was reportedly demoted to a lower rank, while other officials alleged to have been involved in the scandal, to a lesser extent, were given warning letters, a career stopper for all purposes.
Other government personnel are still said to be under investigation, however, together with the “facilitators” from the private sector, after a parliamentary report raised the alarm and, among several other reasons, then claimed the scalp of Kagesheki’s hapless predecessor, Ezekiel Maige, who was sacked earlier in the year by President Kikwete.
According to a regular and reliable source, the sacking of the three will pave the way now to start the process of prosecuting them and others for the role they played in the illegal export of game and birds. Although Qatar has been reportedly reluctant to cooperate with investigations initiated via the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka, Tanzanian personnel is expected to travel to Qatar in due course to collect further evidence to be used during the anticipated trial of the culprits.
The development comes hot on the heels of a new report submitted in parliament over massive commercial style poaching of as many as 30 elephant a day. Both reports were picked up internationally by the media and conservation organizations, bringing Tanzania into some serious disrepute and denting the legacy left by founding father Nyerere as a conservation-minded nation.