Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ikulu refutes WikiLeaks claims on JK

Dar es Salaam. State House has categorically refuted claims by leaked US embassy confidential diplomatic communication indicating that President Jakaya Kikwete accepted gifts from the owner of the Kempinski Hotel chain, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates.

The US confidential diplomatic communication alleges that, the hotel owner, Mr Ali Albwardy, flew President Kikwete to London when he was the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, for a “subsidised shopping expedition”.The communication further alleges that Mr Albwardy made a $1 million (about Sh1.5 billion) contribution to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

This, however, the cable appreciates is a “legal contribution under current Tanzanian law”. In addition, so claim the leaks, the President authorised Albwardy to construct two new hotels on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and another on the Serengeti Plains, overlooking the main animal migration routes, purports the communication seen by The Citizen yesterday.

The confidential information was allegedly filed in 2006 by the then US Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Michael Retzer, and was published at the weekend through WikiLeaks, a web-based organisation that has released in the Internet over 300,000 secret diplomatic files from US missions around the world.

WikiLeaks was founded by Australian national, Mr Julian Assange, at the end of 2010.

But the Director of State House Communication, Mr Salva Rweyemamu, yesterday denied the allegations, dismissing them as outright lies.

He also produced an e-mail message from a woman who is quoted by the former US ambassador denying to have told him so.The US diplomatic cable quoted the Kilimanjaro-Kempinski Hotel publicity director Lisa Pile as telling the ambassador that Albwardy had flown Mr Kikwete to London for a subsidised shopping.

Among other things, on the trip Mr Albwardy, claims the cable, bought Kikwete Saville Row suits.

The cable further claims Ms Pile had it that Mr Albwardy was about to receive the rights to construct two new hotels on the Mainland: one on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater and another on the Serengeti Plains overlooking the main animal migration routes.

Mr Rweyemamu, however, said the cable, “is full of lies and innuendoes seeking to tarnish the good image and name of the President. It is unfortunate and highly disappointing that an ambassador worth his name could engage in this kind of lazy gossip.”

He categorically stated that there has never been a time when the President received gifts from Mr Albwardy.

“This is definitely an outrageous claim and if there is evidence to the contrary, we would like to challenge Mr Albwardy to produce it for the public to satisfy itself that what he is claiming are mere lies,” he said.

He added that there has never been a time, ever, when President Kikwete, during his time as Foreign Minister or currently as President, was flown by anybody to London on a subsidised shopping trip to buy suits.

It said all his travels to London or any other places in the world have been duty assignments paid for by the government of Tanzania, adding: “The matter of him being flown to London for subsidised shopping of five suits is outrageous.”

According to Mr Rweyemamu, President Kikwete was neither responsible for raising, nor receiving, campaign funds for CCM during the 2005 General Election.

“He was simply the flag bearer of the party. However, he is privy to information that Kempinski Kilimanjaro Hotel was never asked nor contributed a single cent towards CCM campaigns,” noted Mr Rweyemamu.

He added: “Therefore, the allegations that Kempinski Kilimanjaro Hotel contributed one million ($1,000,000) toward CCM campaign sare baseless and unfounded.”
On the reported authorisation to construct hotels on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti plains, the State House Communications director said the government permission for the Kilimanjaro Kempinski Hotels and the subsequent permission to build two new hotels - one on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater and another on the Serengeti plains overlooking the main animal migration routes were issued by the third phase Tanzanian government and not by Mr Kikwete’s administration.

It said President Kikwete declined to grant permission to Kempinski Hotels to build on the Ngorongoro Crater on the strength of environmental concerns.

“How come then that the President who has been offered so many favours such as suits and election money, took this principled position? This therefore testifies to the fact that, claims that the President has received favours bear malicious intentions from the authors,” he said.

“The President is a modest man. He wears very simple suits. And the government has an adequate clothing budget for the minister for Foreign Affairs and the President,” Mr Rweyemamu told a news conference.

He said after the cable was leaked, the State House contacted Ms Pile in Australia by email and she expressed concern over the cable saying: “It was absolutely not true, a complete load of rubbish and an absolute defamation of my personal character.”

Mr Rweyemamu quoted the email sent by Ms Pile as saying: “I believe I am owed an apology for this misrepresentation of both my personal name and my professionalism.”

Asked whether there was an intention to protest to the American embassy, Mr Rweyemamu said the government has high respect for Ambassador Reitzer, adding that relevant measures would be taken by the relevant institutions.

The assistant press secretary to the President, Ms Premmy Kibanga, said the cables were being filed without giving persons accused of wrongdoing the right of reply.

However, the Kempinski management has since left with the Kilimanjaro Hotel now trading as Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam .

The hotel facility recently raised questions in the concluded Parliament session after it emerged that the government was in talks with the UAE investor to hand over the building housing the Tanzania Court of Appeal for its expansion. Source:The Citizen, Monday, 05 September 2011