AnalysisMining

The reason Human Rights Watch should revisit its report on deaths at North Mara Gold Mine

A strong and powerful mafia like organisation with a huge network facilitates youth and agents in invading and selling gold ores in the legal market, The Tranquility News can reliably report.

SUNDAY June 16, 2024

Intruders invade North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania. PHOTOS | COURTESY

By The Tranquility News team, Tanzania

The cartel behind North Mara Gold Mine’s invasions has always enjoyed a perverse credibility notwithstanding the evil and crime it has been doing.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a reputable organisation, has this time been duped into publishing a report on a ravish pretext as victims which bear no relations to its squalid nature.

Earlier last week, HRW released the report in Nairobi implicating police officers guarding the North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania in the killing of at least six people and injury of several others during clashes.

HRW urges Tanzanian authorities in the report to promptly undertake an independent and impartial investigation in the killings and other abuses in Tarime District, Mara Region.

Little did HRW know that confrontations pitting the mine’s invaders and police officers sometimes lead to deaths and injuries of law enforcers as well.

A CCTV footage shows invaders confronting police officers inside Tanzania’s North Mara Gold Mine.

A strong and powerful mafia like organisation with a huge network facilitates youth and agents in invading and selling gold ores in the legal market, The Tranquility News can reliably report.

The Tranquility News’ team of reporters revealed in an investigation carried out for several months that what is termed as a mining invasion is actually an organised crime.

Some wealthy and influential business persons, politicians and civil servants run the cartel with several unfaithful members of the mine’s staff assisting it.

The cartel has for ages been enjoying the human rights abuse cover whenever their invading squads clash with law enforcers.

The invasions appear in four categories. The first category, which is often harmless, involves youth, women, and the elderly.

A CCTV footage shows invaders collecting gold ores at a dump within North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania.

The participants in this category are not armed and never invade the mine, they collect stones around the mine without causing any violence.

In the second category, which is notorious, involves youth recruited from different parts of the Lake Zone. The third group involving wealthy and influential people, who benefit from the gold ores stolen from the mine, actually recruits the youth.

Armed with machetes, daggers and other traditional weapons, the second category comprising a large number of youths violently confronts police officers to invade the mine in a broad daylight.

“On the façade, this category appears of youth aggrieved by the presence of the mine, fooling human rights activists who regard them as victims. They are good at playing the victims’ role, but in reality, they are assaulters,” says Timasi Peter, who lives close to the mine at Nyakunguru.

Participants in the third category operating behind the scenes facilitate the invasions, bribe officials when need arises and hire, protect and pay the youth invading the mine to fetch them the gold ores they process and sell at gold markets within the district.

Invaders collect gold ore inside North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania.

“The invasions are focused and well calculated to appear as grievances against the mine,” a former village leader says on condition of anonymity.

Days before the intrusions, the third category rents houses near the mine’s fence to keep the youth as they wait for the right time to invade, often when blasts are heard in the mine.

The fourth category is responsible for renting premises housing the invaders and for protecting them. This category comprises some village leaders and government officials at ward and village level.

The second category comprising the invaders, Timasi says, is brainwashed into believing the Kinjeketile Ngwale’s approach.

The Maji Maji rebellion hero claimed to have magic water that could repel the Germans’ bullets. The third category, therefore, provides the invaders with tools associated with witchcraft for them to confront police officers without being harmed.

Mara Regional Commissioner Col Evans Mtambi says a lot of disinformation surround regular invasions of North Mara Gold Mine and that the matter has been politicised for both political and financial gains.

“Although HRW calls on Tanzanian authorities in its report not to sweep these deaths under the rug and to hold to account all those linked to the murders, one wonders how could a highly regarded organisation like Human Rights Watch allow itself to be easily fooled,” queries Kimasi, adding:

“Had they dived deep in their research, they could have unleashed the true and ugly face of the cartel behind the mining intrusions.”

The chairman of a Tarime-based non-governmental organisation known as MUJAWATA in its Kiswahili acronym says the HRW report and the likes fuel invasions as criminals they support know that police officers would be accountable once clashes worsen.

Samwel Mwita, a former intruder, attests that at times their godfathers assured them of shelling out police officers, but the law enforcers often changed shift or location.

“This was the case to the incidence that caused my injuries, we were told our sponsors had taken care of police officers.

Police officer guards waste dump at North Mara Gold Mine. PHOTO | MINING WATCH.

“We were not worried at all when we picked the ores in the eyes of police officers thinking they were among us. We were wrong, they ordered us to surrender and as we defied the order and confronted them, one of the police officers and I were seriously injured,” he recalls.

Mwita and his accomplices realised later that the shift of the day was changed at eleventh hour, as police officers expected to be on duty during invasion were not there.

“We had to attack them thinking they were play a double deal only to learn they were not part of the agreement reached,” he says.

The cartel has infiltrated a good section of lower and medium level public officials in different sectors who in one way or another do facilitate illicit activities.

On November 13, 2023, one of the suspected ringleaders escaped from custody when he and others were being sent back to Tarime Prison on foot from the court.

Human Rights Watch’s report on killings at North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania calls into question the credibility of the organization. PHOTO | FILE

The suspect not being handcuffed while others were handcuffed drew a lot of criticism from the public, as his character in illegal dealings was known.

Law enforcers, however, managed to apprehend him in Musoma Municipality. The cartel allegedly was responsible for his escape.

The suspect was charged with theft and causing a $384,615 loss to Twiga Minerals Company, a joint venture firm tasked man Bulyanhulu and the North Mara mines. The suspect was caught with 17,934 grams of gold ores and 574.87 grams of gold.

Invasion has become a new norm for the mine, North Mara recorded 633 invasion incidents between January and October 2023, roughly 60 incidents per month.

Responding to HRW report, Mara Regional Commissioner Col. Evans Mtambi says there has been a lot of disinformation and that the matter has been politicised for both political and financial gains.

“According to the information the government has, there are all indications that what happens in Nyamongo (area where the mine is located) is an organised crime, the government in the region is taking short and long-term stern measures to end these invasions and bring the culprits to justice,” he addsΩ

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