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Inbox gravel road, which critics say would still disgorge hundreds of trucks into a pristine wilderness. They’ve vowed to launch new legal challenges if the Tanzanian government persists with that, as it has suggested it will. The battle goes on. Alternative routes for a road that would not impede the migration have been canvassed. The World Bank and Germany offered to fund the highway but on condition that it takes a southern route around the park and not through it. Opinion among ordinary Tanzanians remains deeply divided. Many are against the road, but others seethe at having their economic future dictated by former colonial powers, many of which are salving an environmental conscience that was distinctly lacking when they were plundering Africa’s riches – and wildlife – for profit. Conspiracy theories abound about the motives of those who oppose the road. There is deep suspicion of fat-cat travel operators and involvement of Chinese commercial operators, manipulating the plans to gain advantages in rival deals in Kenya or Uganda. Half a century on, Tanzania’s political dialogue still echoes the homespun philosophy of its founding father, President Julius Nyerere, who once said: “Small nations are like indecently-dressed women. They tempt the evil-minded.” In a country with a median age of 17, with chronic skill shortages and millions living below the poverty line, the notion of kettling up the people to protect the wildlife appears perverse. It is impossible not to sympathise with that. A policy of noble sentiment is hardly likely to prevail in such a climate. Tanzanians need to be convinced that abandoning the Serengeti Highway is an act not of self-sacrifice but of selfinterest. Ironically, lessons of history are at hand from Kansas, from which Dorothy legendarily flew in her dreams to the Land of Oz. Tanzania’s current experience echoes that of the USA 200 years ago, where new roads and railways opening up in Kansas and the mid-West closed down another great migration: that of the pronghorn antelope. Here, too, was a vast seasonal trek by more than a million pronghorn, unique to North America and the second fastest mammal on Earth after the cheetah. It could outrun all its natural predators, but couldn’t beat the transport system. Fences, roads and railways devastated pronghorn herds. The migration reduced to a trickle. Meanwhile, the new roads had their own effect on the human population. People moved to the new cities in droves. Even now, as the mid-West restores some of its pronghorn population through conservation projects, the state of Kansas remains famous for its empty ghost towns. They are enduring reminders that progress has its price. Africa’s new economic dawn is not cloudless, either. Shopping malls may boom, but so too do crime and corruption. Many people are better off, but poverty and inequality remain rife. Even the Emerald Cities are often gated communities, separating the newly-rich haves and the eternal have-nots. There are no gated communities in the Serengeti, only the awesome, nomadic freedom that has reigned for thousands of years. If the Kansas lesson is not learned, Tanzania’s Yellow Brick Road could prove to be the fast route to nowhere. Ian Beales, a former UK daily newspaper editor, is a consultant specialising in media regulation. He is author of The Editors’ Codebook and Imperfect Freedom, a study of press regulation in the Commonwealth www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 9


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