World Bank suspends Tanzania tourism funding after claims of killings and evictions

<span>US-based thinktank Oakland Institute said the expansion of the park will leave 21,000 people facing eviction.</span><span>Photograph: joSon/Getty Images</span>
US-based thinktank Oakland Institute said the expansion of the park will leave 21,000 people facing eviction.Photograph: joSon/Getty Images

The World Bank has suspended financing intended to develop tourism in southern Tanzania after allegations of killings, rape and forced evictions.

The bank began investigating last year after being accused of enabling abuses around Ruaha national park, which was due to double in size as part of a World Bank-supported programme.

“The World Bank is deeply concerned about the allegations of abuse and injustice related to the Resilient Natural Resources Management for Tourism and Growth (Regrow) project in Tanzania,” said a World Bank spokesperson.

“We have recently received information that suggests breaches of our policies in the implementation of the Regrow project. We have therefore decided to suspend further disbursement of funds with immediate effect.”

Tanzania was due to receive a further $50m, having already received $100m of the funding. Developments include building roads, viewing areas and visitor centres, and investing in wildlife monitoring and increased security.

The Guardian reported in September 2023 that the US-based thinktank the Oakland Institute had documented a range of abuses by Tanzanian rangers against villagers accused of encroaching on the national park, including the killing of cattle herders and fishers, the confiscation of livestock and the rape of women.

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The Oakland Institute welcomed the “long overdue” decision, which came a year after the World Bank was first informed of potential violations of its own policies on safeguarding in April 2023.

Anuradha Mittal, the thinktank’s executive director, said: “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. The days of impunity are finally coming to an end.”

The Oakland Institute said that despite the World Bank announcing an investigation, the Tanzanian government moved forward in October with plans to redraw the boundaries of the national park, which would result in 21,000 people facing eviction.

The institute said their research shows other abuses have also continued, including the killing of a 21-year-old cattle herder in October and seizure and sale of thousands of cattle this year.

“The government’s plan to expand the park cannot go forward against the will of local communities, who will lose everything from such an expansion,” said Mittal. “In addition to preventing forced evictions, the bank must focus on how to remedy the harms caused to the villagers who have lost loved ones to ranger violence or had their lives devastated by livelihood restrictions.”

The Tanzanian government had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.