East Africa: U.S. Opposed to Serengeti Road Project

Nairobi — The Obama administration is urging the Tanzanian government to reconsider plans to build a road through the Serengeti wildlife reserve that environmentalists say will threaten the wildebeest migration into Kenya.

Johnnie Carson, the top US diplomat for Africa, told reporters last week that he raised concerns about the road in meetings with Tanzanian officials in April.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may raise the issue again when she holds scheduled talks later this month in Tanzania with President Jakaya Kikwete, Mr Carson added.

He said in remarks in Washington that the Obama administration is “fully aware of the concerns that have been raised in this country and in other countries about the environmental impact that the trans-Serengeti road will have on the very large, spectacular and almost unique migration of animals from the Serengeti up to the game parks in Kenya.”

Mr Carson suggested, however, that Tanzanian officials were sensitive to the objections raised and were trying to address them “in the most appropriate fashion.”

“They know the value of the wildlife, the importance of the Serengeti,” the assistant secretary of state for African affairs added. “They have no desire to destroy that, but they also are looking for ways to stimulate economic development in other parts of the country.”

In response to a reporter’s question as to whether Mrs Clinton will press President Kikwete on the proposed road, Mr Carson did not answer directly and instead heaped praise on the Tanzania government.

He called the country “a model development partner.”

“Tanzania is a strong multi-party democratic state. It is one of our strongest partners — yes, sir — it is one of our strongest partners in the development field, and we are pleased to be going there,” said Mr Carson.