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Gold mine saga sign of things to come

by Mobhare MatinyiThe Citizen - TANZANIA
June 2nd, 2011

Once again, Tanzanians are mourning the deaths of five of their fellow citizens shot dead by police on May 16, at the African Barrick Gold’s North Mara gold mine in Tarime District, Mara Region. According to police reports, about 1,000 people had invaded the mine and five of them lost their lives. However, any report from Tanzanian police ought to be taken with a grain of salt since the poorly trained and ill-managed force is notorious for misinformation and the government has no means of curbing this.

Barrick, for their part, reported on May 25 that the number was likely to be more than 1,500, perhaps in an attempt to create a defensible statement should the matter go to court.

This “astronomical” number deserves a critical look. How could all those people meet, plan and carry out such an operation without the authorities noticing something unusual?

If police were forced to shoot at 1,500 plus invaders, how could almost all of them escape unhurt, as only five died and 12 were wounded? How could all those people run for their lives at dawn without any melee ever happening somewhere?

According to the postmortem reports, the victims were shot from behind. Why? Why did police offer Sh3 million to each family that lost their loved one after labelling the dead criminal invaders? Where did the money come from?

Why did police object to independent postmortems before yielding to pressure from the locals and the opposition leaders? Why did police revoke the permit for Tarime people to conduct a public funeral? Why did police interfere in the funeral arrangements, including purchasing coffins, beating, arresting, and charging the mourners in court?

Why did police rush to transport the bodies and dump at least one by the roadside? Do police bury criminals? Why have police failed to adequately respond to the allegations that they snatched the bodies from the mortuary, leaving the mourners behind?

You have to be either crazy or the beneficiary of what is going on to comprehend the whole story.  If this had happened in a developed country, scores of people would have resigned and faced charges. Those who were murdered were not animals; they were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers of some people.

As usual, after the killings, politicians from the governing party, CCM, made the whole thing a political stunt. And it was simply because lawyers from the opposition party, Chadema, responded to the cry of the people. It’s nonsense to accuse the opposition whenever Tanzanians rise up to defend their rights.
We, as a country, are losing big time in the mining sector and nobody is listening. Despite the natural wealth that Tanzania is blessed with, our people are languishing in abject poverty with the  leaders lamenting why we are so poor! It’s a curse, as global analysts say.

Shamelessly, Barrick brag about their alleged annual community relations budget of $2 million, and another $300,000 for new local public health service, but don’t tell Tanzanians how much money they are making from that gold. With all due respect, these cents can’t buy a decent single bedroom flat in New York.  Furthermore, Barrick makes noise about very basic things they have done in Tanzania. In fact, all of them are for their operational conveniences rather than anything else. Nothing worth a mention here!

Look at this! The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative released a report in January, stating that the chief executive officer of the parent company, Barrick Gold, Mr Aaron Regent, made $24.2 million in 2009. Thus, the aforementioned handout is absolutely nothing to hundreds of thousands of Tanzanians.
Why would Barrick be so confident, put the blame on police after the whole fracas, and then somehow convince the government to call its own people criminal invaders? Remember the saying: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

There can never be any justification whatsoever for such inhumane deaths in any country where sensible people govern. Only in Africa can the government dismiss such deaths, as merely the deaths of criminals. The Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, once said that corrupt governments don’t serve their poor people. He also said that law and justice are totally different. Simply because Barrick signed a contract with the government doesn’t make everything right.

Justice in Tanzania is disappearing and the people are getting fed up! Our leaders may care less because they know that come 2015 they will rig elections, anyway. But they must realise that there can never be peace in the midst of poverty and injustice. North Mara gold mine is a sign of things to come!

Mr Matinyi is a consultant based in Washington, DC

 

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