Tanzania High Court dismisses lawsuit challenging DP World ports agreement

Tanzania High Court Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Dp World Ports Agreement

High Court of Tanzania Rejects Petition Challenging Ports Management Deal with UAE

A ship has recently docked at the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, marking a significant development in the ongoing controversy surrounding the government’s new ports management deal with the United Arab Emirates. On Thursday, Tanzania’s High Court dismissed a petition filed by four private citizens, who had sought to declare the agreement unconstitutional and void. The three-judge panel concluded that the petition lacked merit and failed to provide substantial evidence of constitutional violations or threats to national sovereignty and security.

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The agreement in question was signed by Tanzania and the UAE in February 2022, allowing DP World, a Dubai-based multinational logistics company, to take over the operations of the port of Dar es Salaam. The memorandum of understanding was followed by an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA), which aimed to foster economic and social partnership for the development and improvement of Tanzania’s sea and lake ports. The IGA, endorsed by parliament in June, has been met with public skepticism, particularly regarding its long-term implications and the exclusion of ports in Zanzibar.

Critics, including opposition leaders, religious clerics, and legal experts, have voiced concerns over the lack of an end date for the agreement and its potential impact on Tanzania’s control over its ports. However, government officials, as well as the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, have refuted claims that the deal represents a sell-off of national assets. They emphasize that the IGA is not final and will be followed by a Host Government Agreement (HGA) and Lease/Concession Agreement, which can be modified if necessary.

In the case before the High Court, the petitioners, who are lawyers, argued that the IGA violated Tanzania’s constitution and relevant laws safeguarding the country’s natural resources. They also alleged that proper legal procedures were not followed during parliament’s approval of the agreement, lacking sufficient public participation. The court, however, rejected these claims and upheld the IGA as a valid framework document for future binding agreements.

The judges clarified that concerns and specific issues related to the IGA would be addressed in subsequent agreements, such as the HGA and lease/concession agreements. They dismissed the notion that trade and investment matters, including ports management, fall under the purview of constitutional provisions concerning sovereignty, which primarily focus on defense and security.

While the court acknowledged the short notice provided for public input on the agreement, they concluded that the public opinion was not binding on parliament’s decision. They highlighted that the National Assembly has the authority to review such arrangements concerning natural wealth and resources, rectifying any unconscionable terms if necessary.

In response to the court’s ruling, the lead counsel for the petitioners expressed their intention to appeal to the Court of Appeal. This signals that the legal battle regarding the ports management deal is far from over, as the petitioners seek further review and potential reconsideration of the decision.

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