World Bank suspends funding for Ruaha National Park project

The World Bank has stopped funding a $150 million tourism project in Tanzania following allegations of rape, evictions and killings.

The size of Ruaha National Park was reportedly to be doubled as part of the project, but critics say the expansion has led to widespread abuse.

The bank launched an investigation last year over allegations of complicity in fraud.

On Tuesday, the company said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

“We have therefore decided to suspend further disbursements of funds with immediate effect,” said a spokesperson for the bank, which provides loans to developing countries.

The Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (Regrow) project was launched in 2017 as an effort to improve the “management of natural resources and tourism assets” in southern Tanzania, which includes many national parks, the bank said. Stated.

At least $100 million has already been spent on the project, according to the Oakland Institute, a US-based think tank.

Efforts to expand the boundaries of Ruaha National Park, a 12,950 square kilometer (5,000 square mile) protected area home to lions and other wildlife, are under intense scrutiny.

For more than a year, the Auckland Institute has been reporting on alleged abuses related to bank-funded development carried out by Tanzanian authorities.

The Tanzanian government did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment.

Last September, the Oakland Institute announced that its research team had interviewed several villagers who said they had been raped by rangers funded by LiGrow.

In its publication, the Auckland Institute also pointed to reports from Tanzanian parliamentarians and community groups that rangers allegedly killed villagers.

The think tank said government agencies confiscated cattle en masse to force villagers off their land, and that the Tanzanian government planned to evict villagers without a formal resettlement plan, in “blatant” violation of banking procedures. said.

The bank “turned a blind eye to the horrific abuses unleashed on the community,” the report claims.

The following month, the bank announced an investigation into the allegations.

After the bank announced Tuesday that it would suspend funding to ReGrow, Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, said the “long overdue” decision was “an important step toward accountability and justice.” “This is an important step forward,” he said.

“This sends a resounding message to the Tanzanian government that it is affected by rampant rights abuses in many parts of the country aimed at promoting tourism.”

The think tank said villagers who were “victims of gross human rights violations” should now receive “appropriate” and “prompt” compensation.

He also said the bank must prevent the forced eviction of other villagers.

The bank said it had “robust policies” in place to prevent potential “adverse impacts” and to “ensure that all Bank-supported projects protect and improve the lives of Tanzanians. “We will continue to work with authorities and the local community.”

Allegations of abuse are not limited to tourism projects in the South. In recent years, groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the government of forcibly evicting thousands of Tanzanians from the Maasai tribe to develop a game reserve north of Ngorongoro. region.

The government had previously denied the allegations.

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