February 8, 2008

Prime Minister Lowassa to resign over graft / Mizengo Pinda new prime minister

Tanzania's Prime Minister Edward Lowassa has resigned after being implicated in an energy deal corruption scandal. He has denied that his office was involved in improperly awarding a contract to US-based electricity company Richmond Development in 2006. The firm failed to provide emergency power during a power crisis in 2006. Following Lowassa's announcement to parliament, Energy and Minerals Minister Nazir Karamagi and Ibrahim Msabaha - a former energy minister and now in the East African Community ministry - resigned as well. The resigns are also followed by the sacking of the governor of the central bank in December, after the disappearance of public funds from the bank.
A committee which has been investigating a contract awarded to U.S.-based Richmond Development Company LLC since November, handed its report to parliament. The report questions the transparency with which Richmond won the 172.9 billion Tanzania shilling tender in 2006, and Lowassa's influence in the choice. "We are encouraged ... parliament has been able to uphold its mandate ... by handling this sensitive matter in a manner that has made it possible for the prime minister to offer his resignation," said an editorial in the privately owned Guardian newspaper. "We wish to commend all Members of Parliament and those of the select committee for living up to public expectations by saying ... that the country's corridors of power should not be seen to be immersed in vice." Lowassa tendered his resignation, saying he had not been given a chance to defend himself before the parliamentary committee. Richmond officials were not available for comment.
Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete has in the meantime named a new prime minister - a day after dissolving his entire cabinet: Mizengo Pinda is to replace Edward Lowassa. The 59-year old lawyer was minister of state for regional affairs and local government in the cabinet which was dissolved. "We have a herculean task ahead. We must work together to overcome the problem of corruption and other evils in the society. It is a task that must not be left to one or a few individuals," Pinda said in his acceptance speech. (Daily Nation, Kenya)

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