Ugandan diplomats were Wednesday thrown into panic after Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli sacked his Energy and Mining Minister, approved Prof Sospeter Muhongo, patient two days before the signing of the final East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) agreement.
Muhongo was implicated in an investigation report which showed that mining companies were under-declaring the value of their exports.
Upon receiving the report on Wednesday, help Magufuli immediately held a televised address where told Muhongo to quit.
“The minister is my friend and I like him very much but I will not forgive him for this,” said the President.
“I want him to reconsider his position and I am advising him to step down.”
Magufuli went ahead and sacked the Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary Prof Justin Ntaikwa and dissolved the Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency (TMAA) board of directors.
While this may not be surprising considering many senior government officials have lost their jobs in Magufuli’s war on corruption, the sacking of top energy ministry chiefs has left the signing of Oil Pipeline Agreement hanging.
“Prof Muhongo and Ntaikwa were this Friday expected to sign the agreement with Ugandan officials as directed by Presidents Museveni and Magufuli this past Sunday,” said an official who preferred anonymity so as to speak freely.
“Plans were already underway for the signing ceremony,” the source added.
It remains unclear whether Magufuli will nominate new representatives to sign the agreement.
Museveni and Magufuli last week directed their countries’ Attorney Generals to finalise the clean-up of the draft Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) incorporating both countries’ positions within a week.
Energy Ministers of both countries were told sign the IGA on May 26 in Uganda.
Both parties agreed to set a date for the heads of state to lay a foundation stone at either Hoima or Tanga as soon as possible
The 1,400km (800 miles) pipeline will connect Uganda’s the western oil fields with Tanzania’s port of Tanga and is expected to cost about $4bn (£2.8bn) and create about 15,000 jobs.