The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Dar es Salaam has last week reacted angrily over the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) rejection of their application to sell “legal” ivory stocks and launched a scathing attack on the secretariat and Kenya neighbors, whom he accused of having spearheaded a campaign of negative propaganda. He also accused the secretariat of CITES in Lusaka of “misinformation” before adamantly adding, “We were right,” and then accusing Kenya of misleading the rest of the world when he said: ‘…but what happened is that Kenya spearheaded a negative campaign, and all other nations relied on wrong information from Kenya, and that is why the conclusions were not in our favor,” clearly being in denial over the obvious facts presented by the secretariat to the plenary session and failing to see that the proposal was bad in the first place.
Even his minister recently let the proverbial cat out of the bag when saying that “only part of the proceeds” would go to conservation, giving opponents of the application ample time to publicize this lapse of judgement, even if made in an impromptu speech, as one source in Tanzania pointed out to this correspondent.
The hardline position of “all or nothing” taken by Tanzania in the run up to the global CITES meeting left them little room to maneuver and clearly made it impossible for them to accept a compromise, especially after snubbing their Kenyan counterparts who had attempted to seek a solution under East African Community (EAC) auspices.
A source in Dar es Salaam already promised that Tanzania would file a fresh application to sell their ivory stocks very soon, but had to concede to a follow-up question that it was only Japan and China wanting to buy the ivory, two nations notorious for their greed and hunger for the “white gold” at the expense of the elephant population in Africa. Having failed, however, again in the closing plenary session in Doha, to which the Tanzanian delegation referred the earlier refusal for re-consideration and was once more turned down, this does not speak well of the capacity of the delegation to absorb and learn from these developments and will leave them upon their return home to lick their wounds and having to seek a new strategy to come out of the self-created isolation in which Tanzania now finds herself vis-a-vis the members of the elephant coalition countries.
Meanwhile, conservationists and NGOs linked to conservation have expressed their relief over the secretariat’s recommendation to the plenary session to reject the application, and in private, several of them softened their stand on the secretariat staff over previous allegations made of “bias,” confirming to this correspondent that the staff there had conducted themselves beyond reproach and gave a fair and balanced report to the member state delegations.
There was no immediate official comment available from Kenya over the allegations made by their Tanzanian counterparts, although one source in Nairobi, insisting on not being named said: “This will go to the EAC for talks there. It is a matter of concern to other EAC members, and it is best not to respond to this kind of talk in kind in public but discuss it at the right forum. There are also other issues which need sorting out, and we will pursue solutions through direct talks, not the media.”
For the benefit of readers, we are also publishing a separate link from the Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, online edition, which reflects on the various issues related to this ongoing debate including quotations from the CITES secretariat’s report recently published following a visit to Tanzania a few weeks ago: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000006025&cid=4&ttl=Declining%20elephant%20population%20worries%20countries .