Long-serving conservation expert retires with poise

He cannot wait to see conservationists speak with one voice

MONDAY November 20, 2023

Dr Allan Kijazi, the retired Tanzania National Parks Conservation Commissioner, may have retired from active conservation duties but is ready to give a helping hand from the back bench once the need arises. PHOTOS | COURTESY OF TANAPA

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

The former Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) chief, Dr Allan Kijazi, though was officially seen off over the weekend; he is apparently not tired yet.

In his quest for seeing conservation and tourism continue thriving in the country, he is ready to extend his helping hand to his fellow players even during his pensionary life.

Conservation abounds with many challenges and actors with conflicting interests to date, yet no robust organ is in place to defend the noble profession advocating for Mother Nature, he observes.

“If we do not build a thorough solidarity, it will appear we all failed to play our roles efficiently and effectively,” the Tanzania’s conservation icon cautions fellow conservation and tourism players in Arusha, Tanzania.

He appeals to them to consider consulting retired leaders like himself to set up a body that will safeguard interests of the profession, which is a custodian of about a third of the entire area of the country.

The Chairman of the Tanzania National Parks Board of Trustees, Gen (rtd) George Waitara, says the history of the state-run conservation and tourism agency is incomplete without the name of Dr Kijazi, the former conservation commissioner of the agency.

“Currently, we have outfits that cater for contributions to wedding ceremonies, among others. Let’s go beyond that to establish a technical conservation body as is the case with medical doctors and pharmacists to serve as our voice when we see things are not moving in the right direction,” Dr Kijazi suggests.

His is an undeniable wake-up call, given increasing demands for decimating national parks, game and forest reserves, wildlife corridors as well as other protected areas in favour of human settlements, grazing, farming, mining and many other emerging uses.

“I acknowledge great contribution from Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) and other private sector’s organisations to development of tourism as they advocated for interests of their members,” Dr Kijazi says.

While at the helm of TANAPA, he closely worked and cooperated with them to solve emerging challenges albeit their perspectives sometimes differed. “We discussed, reached consensus and moved forward. We held many meetings for advising, guiding each other and setting joint strategies,” he explains.

Dr Kijazi commends TATO for showing professional maturity all along, appealing to all associations in the tourism industry to consider forming one strong body of stakeholders.

Tanzania National Parks Acting Conservation Commissioner Juma Kuji sees the outgoing conservation commissioner, Dr Allan Kijazi, as a captivating book everyone should write.

“Multiplicity of associations is a repetition of work and, in the long run, risks criticising each other,” he warns.

Gen (rtd) George Waitara, the Chairman of the TANAPA Board of Trustees, showers Dr Kijazi with praises, saying he is patriotic, dedicated, knowledgeable, respective to perspectives of others, creative, wise and caring for interests of employees whom he always gave room to pursue further professional studies.

“We did not doubt your trustfulness; you adhered to policy, law, rules and regulations; engaged your colleagues in every decision; and advised the Board accordingly,” Gen Waitara recalls.

The TANAPA Board is proud of Dr Kijazi’s contribution that sees the agency being transformed from civil into a military outfit that, as days roll by, is beefing up efficiency, accountability and discipline at workplaces.

“It’s not easy to explain the history of TANAPA without mentioning you,” stresses Gen Waitara as he describes how Dr Kijazi received and introduced him to the agency six years ago.

Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mr John Mongela, cannot see the region where it is today without the contribution of the Tanzania National Parks.

“I never knew much about the mandate of TANAPA,” admits the former chief of defence forces, congratulating Dr Kijazi for retiring gracefully despite his uphill task, given the poaching crisis once took its toll on wildlife animals, especially jumbos, during his tenure.

Gen Waitara sympathises with Dr Kijazi’s family, particularly his wife, who had to assume the role of raising kids by herself following her hubby’s failure to spare time with them.

“Thank you Mrs Kijazi, you assisted us by understanding your husband’s voluminous workload, he was along the road every day, sparing no time for his family,” admits Gen Waitara as he pleads with her to bear with the agency when it continues consulting her hubby even after his retirement.

In the eyes of the TANAPA Acting Conservation Commissioner Juma Kuji, Dr Kijazi is a captivating book worth writing to everyone.

“We’ve learnt a lot under your leadership, we will cooperate with all stakeholders to ensure Tanzania continues being a force to reckon with in conservation and tourism arena,” vows the Acting Conservation Commissioner.

The Tanzania National Parks Deputy Conservation Commissioner responsible for Conservation and Business Development, Mr Herman Batiho (Centre), and the Southern Zone Senior Conservation Commissioner, Ms Steria Ndaga (Left), follow up proceedings of a farewell fete in honour of the retired conservation commissioner of the agency, Dr Allan Kijazi.

He attributes the bang in tourists’ arrivals in the country in recent years to the Tanzania President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, and Dr Kijazi.

During Dr Kijazi’s tenure at TANAPA, the agency started scooping different prestigious prizes globally, including the World Travel Awards, and has never stopped since.

Mr Kuji says TANAPA considered Dr Kijazi and all its retired chiefs as the treasure-trove of the agency, pleading with them to continue cooperating with it.

At least three former TANAPA directors general, namely Mr A. M. Melamali, Mr Emmanuel Kishe, and Mr Gerald Bigurube were present at the well-attended farewell fete, with Mr Bigurube calling on the agency to invest in its Next Level motto, lest others overtake it.

Indeed, Dr Kijazi paved way for TANAPA to turn the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity before he left the country’s state-run conservation and tourism agency in July 2020.

The Head of the Tanzania National Parks Communication docket, Ms Catherine Mbena, was one of the hosts and members of the committee which organised a farewell fete for the retired conservation commissioner of the agency, Dr Allan Kijazi.

If the latest UN World Tourism Organisation statistics is anything to go by, Tanzania is the eighth among 10 countries globally to register double-digit growth in the industry between January and July this year.

Qatar leads the race by 95 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia 58 per cent, Albania 56 per cent, El Salvador 32 per cent, Armenia 30 per cent, Ethiopia 28 per cent, Jordan and Colombia 23 per cent each, Tanzania 19 per cent, Honduras and Serbia 17 per cent each, and Morocco 15 per cent.

The late Tanzania President John Magufuli appointed Dr Kijazi deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and, to the astonishment of many, retained his TANAPA post for a while.

Dr Samia, who is Dr Magufuli’s successor, promoted Dr Kijazi to a fully-fledged permanent secretary in the parent ministry before she transferred him to the Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Ministry in January 2022.

“I am honoured to have worked with three presidents, six ministers, three board chairpersons and many permanent secretaries at national level, let alone many other people ranging from regional to community levels,” Dr Kijazi says.

The retired Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) conservation commissioner, Dr Allan Kijazi (Centre), follows up proceedings of a farewell party the agency organised in honour of him. He is flanked by the Chairman of the TANAPA Board of Trustees, Gen (rtd) George Waitara (Left), and his wife.

The Tanzania fourth president, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, was actually the first to pick Dr Kijazi TANAPA director general before Dr Magufuli approved his Conservation Commissioner’s role immediately after the transition of the agency from a civil to its present military status.

On his part, the TATO CEO, Mr Sirili Akko, describes Dr Kijazi as a person who was accessible by a phone call, face to face and even by a surprise pop in into his house.

“He’s patriotic, hardworking and down to earth. He quickly buries the hatchet and his vast knowledge of conservation and tourism prompted us to do a thorough research before we engaged him,” he addsΩ

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