Mystery of Tanzania's expulsion of UNDP boss

A google map showing the location of UNDP's office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. PHOTO | GOOGLE MAPS
A google map showing the location of UNDP's office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. PHOTO | GOOGLE MAPS 

The Tanzanian government’s expulsion of a top UN diplomat continues to raise questions and criticism as the reasons for her exit still remain unclear.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tuesday said Ms Awa Dabo was expelled over sour relations with members of staff of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) where she was the Country Director.

A statement from the ministry indicated that Ms Dabo’s stay was also untenable over her management and leadership which affected UNDP’s work in Tanzania.

The government explanation came as reports began to circulate over the expulsion of the Gambian national, who was posted to the role towards the end of 2015.

“The government has directed the UNDP office in Tanzania to remove the country director Ms Awa Dabo. The decision was arrived at following misunderstanding between her and other staff and management of the organisation which has led to deterioration of its work,” read the statement released by the Foreign ministry’s information department.

According to the government, Ms Babo’s continued stay in Tanzania would have impacted the work of UNDP to help develop the country.

There was no immediate reaction from the UNDP office and it was also not clear when exactly the diplomat was asked to leave.

24 hours to leave

Tuesday media reports suggested Ms Dabo was given 24 hours to leave the country.

Speculations have intensified with some quarters quick to link the move to UNDP’s role in the Zanzibar political impasse since the botched General Election in 2015 and the subsequent re-run that was boycotted by the main opposition party, CUF.

The opposition claimed it had won the elections before authorities annulled the outcome and ordered a repeat.

The government’s relation with development partners who funded a significant part of Zanzibar’s development budget has deteriorated since the elections, with several Western countries openly criticising the manner in which the elections were handled.

Ruaha Catholic University Prof Gaudence Mpangala said it would be questionable if the reason given by the government bordered on indiscipline charges against the UNDP boss.

“This issue may lead to soured relations between the government and the UN body. I believe UNDP would be the right organisation to take disciplinary action if what the government is saying is to be believed,” said Prof Mpangala.

The executive director of the Legal and Human Right Centre, Dr Hellen Kijo-Bisimba, said the government should have reported Ms Dabo to her superiors instead of opening a case for strained diplomatic relations through the expulsion.

“May be there is a reason but in her position as a representative of the UN body in the country she would stand for justice and not keep quiet should things not go well,” Dr Kijo-Bisimba said.

“I would wish for my government not to expel her but report her to the UN because this matter will spoil for us because last year the same thing applied to the representative of UNWOMEN,” she said.

Political problem?

In Zanzibar, Mr Ismael Jussa who is CUF’s foreign affairs director told The Citizen he would not be surprised should the reason for Ms Dabo’s expulsion be the political problem in Zanzibar.

“It is not a secret that development partners took a particular stand against what happened in Zanzibar but that move would not be the solution,” said Mr Jussa.

The matter also found its way to Parliament when an MP raised it but was quickly stopped from tabling it for debate.

Mbozi MP Pascal Haonga wanted the government to explain the action.

Mr Haonga asked for guidance of the Chairperson, Mr Andrew Chenge, on why the government issued a persona non grata against Ms Dabo over the weekend.

Mr Chenge, however, told the House the executive had full autonomy on diplomatic relations and the parliament would not question the decision.