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May 20, 2024
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Tanzania: World Bank to suspend funding for tourism project

According to a U.S.-based rights group. The World Bank has finally suspended funding for a tourism project in Tanzania that resulted in the displacement and hardship of numerous villagers numbering in the tens of thousands.

The World Bank’s decision to suspend the $150 million project, which aims to improve the management of natural resources and tourism assets in a remote part of southern Tanzanian, was “long overdue, at least $100 million has already been disbursed for the project, which started in 2017. The suspension of World Bank financing took effect April 18.

The Oakland Institute, a California-based rights watchdog whose work focuses on marginalized communities, for years led calls for the World Bank to stop funding the project known by the acronym REGROW, documenting serious rights abuses suffered by Indigenous communities in the area.

The group in a report released in November accused the World Bank of failing to hold Tanzanian authorities accountable for extrajudicial killings and sexual assaults relating to the expansion of Ruaha National Park.

The report said the Tanzanian government’s tactics to force communities away and increase tourism in Ruaha National Park, a goal of the REGROW project, were “inextricably tied to its financing by the World Bank.”

The World Bank said at the time that it “has zero tolerance for violence in the projects it finances,” adding that a panel of inspectors was reviewing a complaint related to REGROW “to determine whether a compliance audit into the concerns raised is warranted.”

Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, said the World Bank’s decision to suspend funding for “a dangerous project” is a victory for marginalized communities in the East African country.

“It sends a resounding message to the Tanzanian government that there are consequences for its rampant rights abuses taking place across the country to boost tourism,” Mittal said. “The days of impunity are finally coming to an end.”

The Oakland Institute documented at least 12 disappearances or extrajudicial killings allegedly carried out by rangers, in addition to multiple sexual assaults of women. Government agencies allegedly seized and auctioned large numbers of cattle, imposing a heavy financial strain aimed at pressuring herders to leave.

Tanzania relies heavily on tourism to finance its budget, and the country has long been trying to develop its extensive national parks to attract more visitors.

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