Wikileaks’ cable publication confirmed last week what we already know: that the Obama Administration has reversed the Bush Administration’s questionable bribing policies and that Tanzania has not changed at all: business by bribes still prevails.
Corruption is hardly an African exclusive and hardly less a Tanzanian exclusive, but as countries throughout Africa increasingly move away from it, Tanzania seems to be moving closer towards it.
Tanzania’s mounds of corruption leak themselves, so they’re so enormous and so stunning. They include bribes to high public officials for buying an anti-defense missile system for Dar that was obviously not needed and never installed, and a pile of corrupt deals with its energy ministry which last week erupted again in Texas courts.
Corruption in Tanzania is like a fermented jar of unused jam that finally bursts its seal. Even so the details come slowly, from good local reporting that is usually suppressed by the government.
So it’s refreshing when something straight-forward like a Wikileaks’ cable simply tells the raw story.
The most recent such account was published last week in the New York Times.
Times’ readers may have been more interested in the top of the story about Arab kings’ interior decoration preoccupations of giant aircraft. And although the revelation about Air Tanzania was found pretty far down, it was big news in East Africa.
Not because it was news, but because local news sources could at last report it without fear of government reprisal. And what’s striking is that since the publication on January 3, not one word has been uttered by either Air Tanzania or the government that owns it, about the leak.
In a nutshell Boeing was trying to sell an aircraft or two to the constantly beleaguered, totally mismanaged Air Tanzania. Why not? No one flies Air Tanzania unless there’s absolutely no choice, and even when passengers want to fly Air Tanzania it usually doesn’t.
But the government of Tanzania said it was in the market for new aircraft, simultaneously with a limp wrist effort to find an international investor to turn the miserable company around.
There is a modicum of business truth to this. No investor in their right mind could turn around a company with the state of (or non state of) aircraft currently owned by Air Tanzania.
So Boeing aggressively started the sale.
The compilation by the Times of numerous, separate Wikileaks’ cables shows how aggressively the new Obama administration helps American companies, to the point that a side story to this is that Europeans are claiming some trade agreements might be jeopardized.
But when the Tanzania government showed interest and then told Boeing it better find an agent, and that the agent Boeing better find was a hotel executive in Tanzania, the U.S. embassy in Dar fired off cables more or less warning Boeing about going too far.
That was a major change from the Bush Administration, and Boeing then rightly towed the line:
A Boeing spokesman told the Times, “It is not just a matter of abiding by U.S. law and laws internationally but a general sense of business ethics.”
Air Tanzania bought an Airbus.
It really doesn’t matter if Air Tanzania buys an Airbus or a Space Shuttle, the company will never be solvent, and it’s truly sad that the business oligarchy in Tanzania profits from this.
The last several weeks in Tanzania suggest things might be turning around. That Tanzanians are getting fed up with a closed government notable most for its corruption.