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Journal ArticleDOI

‘National resources’?:The fragmented citizenship of gas extraction in Tanzania

06 Sep 2018-Journal of Eastern African Studies (Routledge)-Vol. 12, Iss: 4, pp 696-715

Abstract: Recent discoveries of oil and natural gas across East Africa have provoked a wave of political optimism fuelled by imaginaries of future development Tanzania is a paragon of this trend; its government having asserted its potential to become a globally significant natural gas producer within a decade Yet, this rhetorical promise has been countered by a series of violent confrontations that have taken place between state forces and residents of southern Tanzania Although these struggles are about various articulations of resource sovereignty, this paper argues that they should be located less in questions of resource control, than in a historical marginalisation of the south, or what has been called a ‘hidden agenda’, that privileges urban centres to the north Drawing on original qualitative data generated over three years in Mtwara and Lindi regions, it shows how gas discoveries reveal the fault lines in the construction of an inclusive ‘Tanzanian’ citizenship Protesters counter-narrate their sense of citizenship with insurgent strategies ranging from strike action to calls for secession In short, natural gas discoveries actually extend the fragmentation of an already ‘differentiated citizenship’ Studies of resource conflict and sovereignty, we conclude, should pay more attention to the contested nature of citizenship
Topics: Citizenship (56%), Sovereignty (52%), State (polity) (50%)

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • Between December 2012 and May 2013, a series of violent confrontations took place between state police, army forces and residents of Mtwara region in southern Tanzania.
  • While this has recently been estimated at more than 57 trillion cubic feet for Tanzania alone, the US Geological Survey estimates that coastal deposits across East Africa could reach 441tcf.
  • In doing so it offers one of the first critical analyses of the political contention around Tanzania’s ‘new’ gas and develops new arguments linking the country’s resource politics with its histories of citizenship.
  • Citizenship is not about equating citizens but about articulating, codifying and enacting their differences.

Research Methodology

  • The first period of fieldwork took place in 2012 and lasted for four months.
  • Interviews and focus groups were held with various groups affected directly incipient processes of gas extraction, including (but not limited to); political actors, port and gas industry workers, and groups of men, espeically at Mtwara fish market and adjacent to the redeveloped port.
  • Many other individual interviews and informal group conversations were held in Mtwara Town (the nexus of the process at the time), and ten kilometres away in Mikindani (where the researcher was based).
  • Other requests for interviews with government representatives to discuss these issues were rejected or ignored.
  • Overall, this has been a wide-ranging process of data gathering against which certain specific claims are made.

Citizenship in Tanzania

  • Taking resource sovereignty as a point of departure, this section interrogates the way in which citizenship is constructed and enacted in Tanzania.
  • This prominent sense of geographical injustice in ‘the south’ is noteworthy, especially given that Tanzania is often portrayed as a country not blighted by the ethnic tensions and political problems associated with other African states and especially those associated within neighbouring countries.
  • Mkapa then signed plans for an Mtwara Development Corridor (MDC) in 2004, a huge infrastructure project agreed to in conjunction with the leaders of Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi.

Gas, Citizenship and the ‘Hidden Agenda’ in Southern Tanzania

  • First, the region should benefit [from gas revenues].
  • (Hamisi Ali, Port worker, Interview, Mtwara Town, January 2014).
  • This has fomented a sense of unequal citizenship, wherein an urban elite is posited as superior and more Tanzanian, than a ‘backwards’ or ‘inferior’ south.
  • While the experiences in Kilwa might have forewarned of unrest in Mtwara, the size and scope of the 2013 protests were unheard of during the post-colonial era, likely a combination of the very ability to gather for protest, on one hand, and the magnitude of resentment at a failure to meet yet more expectations, on the other.
  • Given the widespread mistrust of the government in southern Tanzania and the belief in a ‘hidden agenda’, it is perhaps unsurprising that many assumed that the benefits of gas extraction would not remain in Mtwara.

Concluding Remarks

  • Discoveries of gas in Tanzania can be seen as only one of many examples of the ways in which the frontiers of extraction are changing across Africa.
  • Moreover, geographies of investment in resource extraction are also changing on account of governments renegotiating the terms of access to ‘national’ resources.
  • Concern over corruption has been witnessed across Tanzania for some time and was expressed in the context of the emergent gas industry throughout the fieldwork periods represented here: ‘the government agrees these contracts [with multinational companies] but the authors do not see them.
  • They develop themselves and the authors just suffer….
  • What the authors argue however, is that studies of resource conflict should pay more attention to the contested nature of citizenship and go beyond an uncritical national framing.

NOTES

  • 1 Deodatus Balile, “Protest over gas pipeline in Mtwara turn violent, military deployed,” 24 May 2013.
  • //allafrica.com/stories/201704190658.html 31 J.M. Kikwete, “Tanzania’s Transformation and Vision 2025”, 31 March 2014, also known as http.
  • 34 Kamat, “The Ocean”, 296. 35 Kaiser, “Structural Adjustment”.
  • Http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/Why-Mtwara--violence-is-beyond-gas-pipeline//1840392/1861170/-/ctbqen/-/index.html.

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‘National Resources’? The Fragmented Citizenship of Gas Extraction
in Tanzania
Robert Ahearne
International Development, Department of Social Sciences, University of East London,
London, UK
Email: r.m.ahearne@uel.ac.uk;
Twitter: @rob_ahearne
4-6 University Way, Docklands Campus, University of East London, London, E16 2RD
John Childs
Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK
j.childs@lancaster.ac.uk
Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ

‘National Resources’? The Fragmented Citizenship of Gas Extraction
in Tanzania
Recent discoveries of oil and natural gas across East Africa have provoked a
wave of political optimism fuelled by imaginaries of future development.
Tanzania is a paragon of this trend; its government having asserted its potential to
become a globally significant natural gas producer within a decade. Yet, this
rhetorical promise has been countered by a series of violent confrontations that
have taken place between state forces and residents of southern Tanzania.
Although these struggles are about various articulations of resource sovereignty,
this paper argues that they should be located less in questions of resource control,
than in a historical marginalisation of the south, or what has been called a ‘hidden
agenda’, that privileges urban centres to the north. Drawing on original
qualitative data generated over three years in Mtwara and Lindi regions, it shows
how gas discoveries reveal the fault lines in the construction of an inclusive
‘Tanzanian’ citizenship. Protesters counter-narrate their sense of citizenship with
insurgent strategies ranging from strike action to calls for secession. In short,
natural gas discoveries actually extend the fragmentation of an already
‘differentiated citizenship’. Studies of resource conflict and sovereignty, we
conclude, should pay more attention to the contested nature of citizenship.
Keywords: Tanzania; Mtwara; citizenship; gas; differentiated citizenship;
Word Count: 10188

‘It is something unacceptable that national resources can be restricted only to the place
where they are found’ (Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania)
1
‘Here in the south we are different and we need to be respected and to get a good deal
with this gas’ (Basana Saidi, bar owner, Mtwara town, June 2012)
Introduction
Between December 2012 and May 2013, a series of violent confrontations took place
between state police, army forces and residents of Mtwara region in southern Tanzania.
These globally reported clashes, in which 8 people were killed, dozens injured and
hundreds arrested, concerned the new construction of a 512km gas pipeline connecting
Mtwara to Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital. They are central to contemporary
debates over the meaning of Tanzanian citizenship, brought into view by the vast recent
discovery of recoverable reserves of natural gas. While this has recently been estimated
at more than 57 trillion cubic feet for Tanzania alone, the US Geological Survey estimates
that coastal deposits across East Africa could reach 441tcf.
2
Despite the potential for
record investment in Tanzania the IMF recently estimated this somewhere between
$20bn and $40bn these discoveries are significant beyond transforming the country into
a major natural gas producer.
3
Natural gas also serves to reveal the tensions around the
construction of an inclusive ‘Tanzanian’ citizenship predicated on the equitable
distribution of its benefits across the nation-state. Protesters in Mtwara interpret
government decision to overlook the region as a promised site for the development of a
gas processing plant, as a direct echo of decades of marginalisation from development
writ large. From this perspective, a longstanding ‘hidden agenda’ is understood to both
discursively and substantively distinguish between Tanzania’s north as a locus of

economic development and its south as a ‘location of passivity and apathy’.
4
Thus, the
discovery of offshore gas in contemporary Tanzania has served to reveal the fault lines
of inequitable development, citizenship, cultural change or, more simply, what it means
to be ‘Tanzanian’.
Against this background, this paper views the ensuing gas protests as a catalyst
for interrogating the ways in which Tanzanian citizenship is discursively framed and
contested more broadly. It presents and analyses original interview data generated over
three periods between 2012 and 2014 in order to understand the ways in which competing
political imaginaries of gas extraction produce particular kinds of citizenship. In doing so
it offers one of the first critical analyses of the political contention around Tanzania’s
‘new’ gas and develops new arguments linking the countrys resource politics with its
histories of citizenship. Theoretically, it draws upon the notion of ‘differentiated
citizenship’ defined as ‘the differential treatment of populations in relation to ethno-racial
differences, and the dictates of development programs’.
5
In this formulation, citizenship
is not about equating citizens but about articulating, codifying and enacting their
differences. Here it is used to explain how the contentious politics of natural gas
extraction in Southern Tanzania can be located less in questions of resource control and
more in terms of the historical inequities of Tanzanian national membership. We assert
that by understanding the fragmented iterations of Tanzanian citizenship in the past, the
contemporary processes of Tanzania’s gas politics can be better understood. Moreover,
this paper is one of the first to demonstrate how specific extractive resources (in this case,
gas) actually extend the fragmentation of citizenship in an African context. Gas extraction
does not only shape narratives of resource nationalism, but is used to ‘rationalize local
geographies of dispossession’.
6
By highlighting these processes in the context of the

Tanzanian gas riots, we thus begin to answer Huber’s call to show how ‘energy extraction
is an active moment in the construction of specific geopolitical imaginaries’.
7
Framing Tanzania’s contentious gas politics in this way also invites a novel
engagement with the socio-cultural aspects of resource politics and sovereignty.
Notwithstanding Must’s spatial analysis of anti-gas activism in Mtwara,
8
and the valuable
body of established political economic and natural resource management critiques of
extraction in Tanzania, empirical analyses which foreground the links between extractive
resources and identity formation remain largely absent. Thus, in order to address this, we
show how gas discovery is used to produce a series of competing framings by the state
and by protesters (themselves holding differing perspectives). As we will show, these are
firstly articulated by the state in terms of the ‘national’ but with a negotiated sense of
place that speaks to the imperatives of global capitalist investment. At odds with this
framing, the protesters express their sense of citizenship in terms of the ‘regional’, with
a discourse ranging from the insurgent to the silent and strategies varying between strike
action and calls for secession. We focus on the clashes which these competing positions
have provoked, hence reinforcing the view that resources only ‘become through the
triumph of one imaginary over others’.
9
Resource discoveries are by their very nature
forward facing and invite a series of imagined political futures. These may not fully
determine the policies of resource extraction, yet they do shape them and they are based
on different ontologies and imagined geographies. In this paper, different understandings
of Tanzanian political identity produce the conditions for the formation of an emergent
gas politics.
Section 2 details the paper’s methodology, before proceeding, in section 3, to a
critical review of the literature surrounding citizenship. This section goes beyond work
from political geography that has highlighted the differentiated aspects of resource

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