World Bank Suspends Funding for Tanzania's Ruaha National Park Project Amid Human Rights Concerns

The World Bank suspends funding for a $150 million tourism project in Tanzania's Ruaha National Park due to allegations of human rights abuses against local communities, highlighting the need for accountability in the country's tourism sector.

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Ebenezer Mensah
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World Bank Suspends Funding for Tanzania's Ruaha National Park Project Amid Human Rights Concerns

World Bank Suspends Funding for Tanzania's Ruaha National Park Project Amid Human Rights Concerns

The World Bank has suspended funding for a $150 million tourism and conservation project in Tanzania's Ruaha National Park following allegations of human rights abuses against local communities. The Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth Project (REGROW) aimed to improve the management of natural resources and tourism assets in southern Tanzania. However, the Oakland Institute, a US-based think tank, raised allegations last year of forced evictions and rights abuses against communities living near the park, which the government planned to expand as part of the scheme.

The World Bank said it was "deeply concerned about the allegations of abuse and injustice" and has decided to suspend further disbursement of funds with immediate effect. "The World Bank has zero tolerance for violence in the projects it finances and is reviewing the complaint to determine if a compliance audit is warranted," a World Bank spokesperson stated. At least $100 million has already been disbursed for the project, according to the Oakland Institute.

The Oakland Institute documented numerous rights violations linked to the project's expansion of Ruaha National Park, including extrajudicial killings, sexual assaults, and the seizure and auctioning of cattle to force communities out of the area and boost tourism. The institute stated that the project impacted tens of thousands of villagers and that the World Bank's funding had "paved the way for widespread human rights abuses" against communities living near Ruaha.

Why this matters: The suspension of funding for the Ruaha National Park project reflects growing accountability concerning human rights in Tanzania's tourism sector. It sends a message to the Tanzanian government that there will be consequences for rights abuses in the aggressive development of national parks, which has often come at the expense of local communities.

The Tanzanian government has denied the allegations of human rights violations but said it is investigating the matter. A government spokesperson stated that anyone relocated due to the project would be accorded all their rights. Several Tanzanian government initiatives to expand tourism have faced criticism from human rights advocates, including the eviction of thousands of Maasai people from their traditional homelands. The World Bank project was approved in 2017 and was expected to end in February 2025.

Key Takeaways

  • World Bank suspended $150M tourism project in Tanzania over rights abuse claims.
  • Project aimed to improve natural resource management and tourism in Ruaha National Park.
  • Allegations include forced evictions, killings, and sexual assaults against local communities.
  • World Bank has "zero tolerance for violence" and is reviewing the project for compliance.
  • Suspension reflects growing accountability for human rights in Tanzania's tourism sector.