February 18, 2012

Zanzibar MPs protest Tanzania bid for more sea

Tanzania’s plan to seek an extension of continental shelf outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is facing renewed resistance, as the Zanzibar Parliament prepares to petition the UN to block the move. A section of MPs in Zanzibar House of Representatives are claiming that the Isles was not involved in the decision to extend the EEZ and sharing of marine resources. The MPs plan to send a delegation to the UN to ask for the withdrawal of the application by the Mainland government. The extension would give Tanzania the right to explore and exploit non-living and mineral resources on the seabed and sub-soil of the extended continental shelf adjacent to the EEZ in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is expected that the area will increase the potential for oil and gas exploration as well as fishing activities.

Anna Tibaijuka, the Minister for Lands, Housing and Settlements Development, said the decision to apply for the extension of Extended Continental Shelf (ECS), which lies 150 miles beyond the current 200 miles, was reached by the Cabinet and the process involved both parts of the Union. “The extension of ECS will benefit both parts of the Union and it is not wise to be at odds before the UN has even deliberated on and approved the application,” said Prof Tibaijuka.

The consideration of the submission made by the United Republic of Tanzania will be included in the provisional agenda of the 13th session of the Commission scheduled to be held in New York from July 30 to 10 August 2012. “The Union government is wrong to go to the UN without consulting the Zanzibar government. The move is also against our April 2009 resolution demanding that oil and natural gas as well as EEZ be removed from Union matters,” said Ismail Jussa of the Civil United Front (CUF). “Years back, the Zanzibar House of Representatives had decided that marine and oil issues should be the preserve of Zanzibar, therefore Tanzania mainland had no reason to undertake such sensitive matters on behalf of Zanzibar,” he added.

Early last month, the United Republic of Tanzania submitted an application to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) of the UN, in accordance with Article 76 paragraph 8 of UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Kenya has also applied to acquire an additional 103,000 square kilometres and has already secured a maritime agreement with Tanzania, its neighbour to the south. The UN requires that countries that share the ocean must reach an agreement on the border issue. (The East African)

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