Tanzania’s presidency slammed allegations in a US cable that President Jakaya Kikwete accepted gifts from an investor who also donated $1 million to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.
February 2006 US cable published by WikiLeaks said Ali Albwardy, owner of a leading hotel chain in the east African country, flew the Tanzanian leader to London on a shopping trip and bought designer suits for the president, Reuters reports.
“President Kikwete has accepted gifts (bribes) from the owner of the Kempinski Hotel chain’s Tanzanian properties, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates,” the cable reported.
“Albwardy had recently flown Kikwete to London for a subsidised shopping expedition. Among other things, on that trip Ali Albwardy bought Kikwete five Savile Row suits. He had also recently made a $1 million cash contribution to the CCM (which is a legal contribution under current Tanzanian law).”
Albwardy could not be reached for comment.
Kempinski recently ended its operations in Tanzania, with Albwardy’s Kilimanjaro Hotel in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam being managed by Hyatt Hotels since August 1.
A spokesman for the president’s office said Kikwete had never accepted gifts from any investor and denied that CCM was given a $1 million contribution.
“This cable is as untruthful as it is outrageous. It is full of lies and innuendoes seeking to tarnish the good image and name of the president,” Salva Rweyemamu, director of presidential communications, told a news conference on Monday.
“We would like to state categorically that there has never been a time when the president received gifts from Ali Albwardy,” Rweyemamu said.
The U.S. cable comes at a sensitive time for the ruling party as it faces potential political fallout from graft allegations against some other senior members, including a former prime minister.
In May, donor countries slashed funding pledges for Tanzania’s 2011/12 budget, citing concerns about corruption and the slow pace of reforms.
Some Tanzanian members of parliament recently voiced their displeasure at ongoing talks between the government and the UAE investor on handing over a building occupied by the court of appeal to the Kilimanjaro hotel for an expansion project.
Albwardy owns three hotels in Tanzania — the Kilimanjaro Hotel, a beach hotel in Zanzibar and a lodge in the Serengeti national park — through the company Albwardy Investment.
The Kilimanjaro Hotel was the country’s flagship state-owned hotel until it was sold to Albwardy in 2002, under the previous CCM administration. Kikwete came to power in 2005.
The leaked files show the former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, Michael Retzer, was given the allegation about the presidential gifts by a former director of the Kilimanjaro Hotel.
“Kikwete probably believes there is no harm in taking these ‘little gifts’ to do what he would have been inclined to do anyway. That said, they are what they are: bribes,” the U.S. cable stated.
Rweyemamu said the former director quoted in the U.S. embassy cable as the source of the information had sent an email to the Tanzanian government dismissing the report as “absolutely not true and a complete load of rubbish”.
Rweyemamu also said the Tanzanian president blocked plans by the UAE investor to build another hotel at the Ngorongoro crater due to environmental concerns.
“If the president indeed received such generous gifts from Albwardy, how could he have rejected the Ngorongoro project?” He said.