Monday, June 29, 2009

Neo – Denial Era and Barrick Gold Corporation

The unfolding incidents that is currently reported in Tanzania involving Barrick Gold Corporation and the communities in Nyamongo in North Mara is appalling.
To those who have not been to Nyamongo to talk with both parties (local community Members and management of the Barrick Gold Corporation) to hear their stories; would buy the propaganda that is being sold big time by Barrick Gold Corporation in Tanzania and confirmed by Ottawa.

When the first story of spillage of the toxic slur into river Tigithe was reported and the message was circulated far and wide; Teweli Teweli said affirmatively that, “The situation is a consequence of two factors: increased rainfall and vandalism to pond liners.”

The statement above carries with it a number of questions to any logical mind. One of the questions at the ground level is; how prepared is Barrick Gold Corporation in all her operations to curb risk situations that may come unexpected? A company with a big name as Barrick should know better how to make sure that measures are scaled up to take care of any of the unexpected incidents.

The other factor that would raise a questioning eyebrow is the second part of the statement from Barrick; why is it that anytime something happens that has negative impact on both humans and environment, the company only runs to say, ‘local community vandalises the infrastructure put in place?’

Allusion to Insignificance

I will not deny the fact that after looting and making the lives of the local communities very difficult, the same oppressed members of the community would be turned into the ‘black-sheep’ when evil takes place. It should not go unsaid that Barrick Gold Corporation even alluded to the fact that the spillage into river Tigithe was ‘insignificant.’
“Ongoing monitoring confirms that decreased pH levels (a measure of acidity) in the Tigithe River, which passes through part of the North Mara property, are limited to a small section of the river in the immediate area.”

From the time when the spillage was reported, more than 20 lives are reported to have been claimed and unnumbered livestock killed.

Reports on THISDAY the 26th June 2009 edition reports that, “They (community members) say more than 20 people have died in recent weeks as a direct result of the contaminated water. We have no problem with investors. But the investors must respect and treat us like human beings. These Canadians are killing us... they are not doing business,’’ said Ms Esther Mugusuhi, one of a group of affected villagers interviewed by THISDAY in Dar es Salaam.”

Apart from the fact that multinational mining venture have impoverished the local communities, the same is literally taking lives away from a people they should have embraced.

With all this Barrick in the person of Teweli Teweli still stands tall and unashamedly to dismiss the reports saying, “Kebasula Ward situated about 30 kilometres from the mine is too far to be vulnerable to any seepage from the mine’s sewage pond.”

Apartheid in Tanzania

At this juncture I am compelled to pose a question, when does a person cease to be a patriotic citizen and become a puppet to the destruction of his own people? I am disturbed by the way Tanzanians working and having their bread buttered at Barrick Gold Corporation treats their brothers and Sisters in Tanzania. It is sad that the same things that we heard from the South African Apartheid regime are today reported in within our won boarders.

I would not like to bore you with a lot of things but may I just take you down memory line on this one part in the Movie Sarafina where the character played by Mbogheni (Constable Sabela) enjoyed the applause of the white soldiers, kicked his fellow South African and later on laughed with scorn when the young man’s foot was torn by a dog set on him… this is sad and as I speak I cannot but think what would be the best thing to be done to such. In my heart and in the depths of my thoughts these people should have a millstone tied on their necks and thrown to the deepest of the oceans.

Denial will continue and Barrick Gold Corporation in its entirety will still have our leaders in their pay rolls but it should not surprise us. I wonder how many of us remember the first incident of denial. May I take you again down the memory lane?

Human Nature in Four-fold State

The first incident of denial in the development of human race was heard in the historical narrative of the Biblical Adam and Eve. The former and the latter would be rightly described with our modern time learned and sophisticated men and women as primitive.

Indeed they were primitive because they knew of only three if not four things; one, was their relationship and total loyalty to God – before they sinned, two was the relationship between them – as man and woman in the Garden, three; their relations with the other created living things, four; their relationship with the environment around them.

In all their ‘primitive’ state, Adam and Eve sinned and the knowledge of right and wrong was right there with them. In their very own conscience, they knew that something has gone wrong and the state of innocence has been taken away.

They also tried just as much as Barrick Gold Corporation is trying in Tanzania to hide from reality but at the end of the day the truth remains that Barrick Gold corporation in Tanzania have abused their hosts (who are the local communities) and now wants to hide behind a small tree assuming that no one has seen what they have done.

May be this is more technical to them (Barrick) to Understand. What I mean is, they behave like a child who has taken sugar without permission and when confronted they say ‘it wasn’t me’ when crystals of sugar shows on their cheeks.

There’s no reason for Barrick to continue in the ‘doctrine’ of denial thinking that it is new but face reality own up and take responsibility of their irresponsible behaviour. If their conscious and or business ethos wont click into their heads then they should look at the people who have lost lives, the ones whose skins look like have been passed through fire and think of the greater danger the continued spillage would cause in the East and central Africa and stretching towards the North of Africa through River Nile.

…of Rupiah Banda, the Monkey and African Folk Stories!

When I was young I got really fascinated by the African folk stories told by our grandparents whenever we gathered in the evening around the fire. It was more than a fascination, though; when a monkey decided to do his thing on the president.
The childhood stories revolved around what happens when a wild animal comes from its natural habitation enter your house and pees or literally releases its bowels in your house. In the ensuing; this meant (at least in my community) a great blessing and riches shall follow thereafter.

Popular View on Banda and the Monkey

The incident that happened when the Zambian head of State, Rupiah Banda was addressing those who attended the press conference he called to make a number of things clear; has been described in many ways by the citizenry.
A number of people seem to be puzzled on exact meaning of this incident. Talking to people in Lusaka during my visit, a number of people seem to be puzzled on why this should happen to Rupiah Banda and not his predecessors.

“The founding father of the Nation, Kenneth Kaunda sat under that same tree for 27 years, Fredrick Chiluba for 10 years, the late Levy Mwanawasa (May his soul rest in peace) for 7 years; the monkeys were there but never peed on them. Why Rupiah after leading the country only for 8 months?” posed one of the Lusaka Residents.

While questions are flooding the streets of Lusaka, some people believe that this incident indicates clearly that Rupiah Banda is not the right person to lead the country but a good chunk of the locals believe that this is “a clear sign that even though he has been fought against in many ways and at different occasions; he is never-the-less, the anointed. Even by the ‘sprinkling’ by the monkey!

You can have your take but if you asked me what my personal opinion is, I would ‘join’ his Excellency the president to say, “It is a blessing” and put more value in the outdated yet embraced African folk stories.

What an exposure

As many still pour their mind out over what happened to the president, a little tricky component raised an ‘ugly’ face; this touches on the decency or indecency of the monkey’s act. From the hindsight, Zambians now live in uncertainty on what is going to be the direction of the current sitting government. Some go as far as speculating what it would have been like if this act came from a human being.
I liked it and I got a little bit into serious thinking when a friend of mine suggested that if this was done by a human being he or she would have faced charges of indecent exposure and others which would have been found fitting!

New Revelations

In the strangest of ways; the Zambian defense Minister, George Mpombo also had a very interesting confrontation with a monkey last Thursday. I am again filled with laughter but beyond the laughter a lot of questions come up. The most disturbing is, should this be called ‘witchcraft’ of which I am not a subscriber.

It was claimed that the monkey which peed on Banda did at the time the President started speaking ‘ill’ of the opposition parties. But to me Rupiah is the commander in Chief of the Zambian Forces and now the monkey attempted drowning the Minister of defense! It should be remembered that the two are part of the three crucial people in the security line in the country. Are these the signs of the times and if so, what should we learn from this as Africans but more pointedly; what should Zambians learn from this?

On a serious note though, what is the signs of the times for our African Leaders at a time when the continent is faced with so many challenges? What is our take as citizens in helping our individual countries get out of the dwindling if not collapsed economic quagmire?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Gender Based Violence and the Law

(Part 1. Introduction)

Many of us ask the following questions; what is Gender Based Violence? What is the right of a woman? Is it different from the rights of a man? Let’s explore together with JOVITHA MLAY who is an expert on Gender issues…

Gender Based Violence (GBV) includes a wide range of violation of women’s rights and basic human rights. Action which is labelled as violence here includes rape, wife abuse, and sexual abuse of children, forced marriages, harmful cultural practices and traditions that irreparably damage girls and women reproductive and sexual health.

Although reliable data on the incidences of GBV are scarce, there is an increasing body of knowledge indicating that it is widespread and common in Tanzania.

In our local settings, it occurs in a broad context of gender based discrimination with regards to access to education resources and decision making power in private and public life. Such violence is inflicted on girls and women by husbands, fathers or other male relatives.

GBV in Tanzania is often directly or indirectly related to outdated customs and traditional practices. For example, In Shinyanga region and Magu District there has been reports of witchcraft killings, early and forced marriages, bride price and women discrimination in education.

All these are associated with the outdated custom were Sukuma men values his cattle higher than he values his daughter.

I remember in one of the trainings I was conducting together with one of YWCA Tanzania’s programmes called TAMAR Campaign; one church leader said, “A father is expecting cows as bride price for his beautiful daughter. How can he sell the same cow for paying school fees for another girl in the family? Girls here are born to bring wealth and prestige in the family and not otherwise”.

This is quite an outdated and inhuman practice that should not be tolerated in this time and era.

There has been much effort to combat GBV. Government and Non Government Organization (NGOs) are investing a lot of resources to stop such practices, but the question here is what impact have all these achieved?

Over the past few years the Church and other Religious Institutions have begun to support the egalitarian movement. Previously this was seen by many Religious Institutions to go against the Canonical writings. It was also seen as insubordination in a society where male supremacy has been dominant for ages.

In a recent study on Women’s health and domestic violence it was revealed that approximately 48% of Tanzanian women report that they have experienced violence in their lifetime, while 56% interviewed for this study consider violence to be a normal part of their life.

Women in Tanzania currently take very few actions to address the domestic violence they face. About 1/3 of the women who have experienced domestic violence have told anyone about their experience and 60% of all women have NEVER sought help from any formal services or authority.

Gold Mining Against the Locals

The fate of the displaced people from Mine Mpya village in Mtakuja Ward in Geita District still lies in a limbo as their case has been thrown pending threats of being removed from their makeshift home.

Speaking at the Court of Appeal’s premises with their lawyer in early august when they came for the hearing of their case, they stated that they “are uncertain of what is going to happen to them if the government which had earlier given them a 30 day ultimatum to get clear from their current makeshift home upon hearing that our case has been thrown out of the court of appeal.”
The team of four made of two Women and Men who travelled from Geita to Dar es Salaam to represent the others at the hearing that was planned for 2nd August 2008 evidenced their disappointment at the fact that their lawyer was talking with the Judge even before talking with them.
“We did not know that Mr. Kabonde was inside with the Judge while we are out here. We came here very early in the morning and when we talked with the lady at the reception; she told us that the case which was going on was not ours. Only later to learn that Kabonde was the one talking with the judge,” lamented Saidi Jonna.

Interference with Family Fabric

The evictees have heard a lot of problems including the break-up of family fabric. Their lives demonstrate the lives that not even refugees within our boarders live.
In the world, African culture and maybe we move closer to the Tanzanian culture; parents are not allowed to share same rooms with their grown up children. But this is not the case with these poor and marginalised people living in the government’s compound within the Geita District Township.
“Marriages have been broken; women are not living with their husbands leave alone families staying together. We are lower than the refugees and what we need is our land to be returned,” expressed Gaudensia Baga with tears flowing her sad face.
In what seemed like a game on the internally displaced people; Benard Kabonde, the lawyer who has been helping them out with the case appeared so discouraged when he was denied the chance to present the case of his clients before the judge assigned for that in the High Court.
In his attempts to calm down the group, Kabonde decided to explain what happened to their plight for justice. He told them that the judge at the high court told him that the case will not be heard, “As it was thrown out of the Court of Appeal on grounds of incompetence.”
Kabonde expressed his ‘disappointment’ and ‘frustration’ saying, “I am really confused on what is going on in this case. It looks like someone is playing around… I wonder what even happened to the judge who handled the case to even to forget to sign; this is the reason our application was termed incompetent.”

Fresh Beginnings

The case has to begin afresh while the people from Mtakuja continue to surfer and being intimidated to leave even from the makeshift home where they have tents pitched. These were provided by the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) through funds from Norwegian Church Aid Tanzania.
Recent reports from the affected say that the case has already been submitted afresh at The High Court of Tanzania – Mwanza Chapter.

Conscious Music: More than just 'Music'

To make great music with a message and influence youths, that is the aim of the Conscious Music Network. The musicians are now launching their new CD titled Haki Sawa – Equal Rights.

“The aim is to reach different youth groups in their local and religious settings. We want through conscious music to sensitize them on their career, how to fight corruption, promote peace, justice, unity and to know their rights”, says Pona Bukuku, chairman of the network committee. We want to encourage young people and the society to use the knowledge they have to eradicate poverty, but also to make people aware on how to avoid activities that would endanger their lives.”

Since the inception of Conscious Music Network (CMN) in April, more than four performances have been staged in Dar es Salaam and some outside the city reaching people even by performing on the street.
The group consists of both established and up and coming young artists. Abel Motika – aka Mr. Ebbo is a prominent member of the group.

“We advocate for change in communities around Tanzania. The aim is to raise awareness among the communities on different issues especially on good governance, poverty eradication, economic justice, social justice and HIV/AIDS,” Mr. Ebbo said.

Good Behaviour Promotion

“Conscious music promotes behaviour change among the youth of Tanzania. We want to restore human dignity among people who have been violated by corruption, injustice and stigma. To make people recognize who they are and what responsibilities they have in their respective communities. We are going to use this music family to empower youths on how they can be resourceful and active in the society and be part of the efforts geared to eradicate poverty in Tanzania.”

The Conscious Music Network has recorded a 12 track album with the title “Haki Sawa” (equal rights). The group aims at working together with youths from Tanzania, East Africa, Africa and the world to bring positive change for all. The group is supported by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) Tanzania.

For more information, orders of the audio CD/Tapes or perhaps have an idea for an event where Conscious Music Network could stage a concert; please call Pona Bukuku +255 787 073 033, Cassius Maganga +255 712 380 208 and Oswald Musokwa +255 754 011 876.

Breaking the Silence

Recent data show that numbers of rape cases reported and recorded to the police department has been in the increase as reported by media that in 2006, there were 4,084 and in 2007 the number increased by more than a third to 6,531.
For a just one year interval there is a significant increment of more than one third and yet there are a lot of cases which are not reported.
In spite of good work our government and NGO’s have done yet there is existence of numerous inhuman violence acts accompanied by a persistent silence among people. A number of Gender Based Violence (GBV) victims who have courage to speak out publicly is relatively low compared to the ones who opt to keep silent; this was revealed during Tamar training sessions in Mwanza, Magu, Bunda and Shinyanga.

Confessions & Empowerment

Participants confessed that the majority failed to speak out publicly for the fear of not to be trusted, stigmatization, corruption, shame, poverty, ignorance just to mention the few.
Tamar campaign intends to break silence through the promotion of bible that speaks against GBV without any shame. We hope that other Faith Communities will imitate the approach of using their Holy books in rebuilding morals and ethics in fighting against GBV.
Tamar campaign is an advocacy programme aimed at empowering society members with knowledge to break silence on Gender Based Violence with special focus to Rape and Domestic violence.
The Campaign is based on a bible story found in 2 Samuel 13:1ff where Tamar, the daughter of King David refused to keep silent after being raped by her half brother Amnon even though everybody else tried to silence her.

Our Leaders, Our Enemies

Residents of Mtitaa village, Bahi District in Dodoma recently woke up to a shocking reality on how much of their money is benefitting a few of leaders from village to Ward levels resulting in firing the Village Executive Oficer from the office.

In a meeting in Mtitaa village, it was revealed that the Village Executive Officer (VEO), Councillor and the local authority’s representatives at the village level spend villagers’ contributions for development on personal issues.

Good Governance

With cases of misappropriation of public funds at the grassroots level, the Norwegian Church Aid Tanzania in collaboration with her core partner, Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) have gone out to create awareness.

Having received a training on Public Expenditure Tracking System (PETS); the trainees found out that the leadership has been found lacking credibility on fact finding assignments, which were spoken of by the locals.

“Our earnings are very minimal, and to contribute 8,000 shillings to get constant supply of clean water and then you do not get it is like an insult,” lamented Leginado Maope.

Lack of Consultations at spending

At the meeting another resident complained on how the local government officials involve them when collecting money from them but forget to consult the same villagers from whom they collect the money when spending.

“I am surprised that the village executive officer (VEO) took decisions in his hands and distributes our contributions without consultations with us. We even chose a committee to look into the way our moneys are spent but no one consults with the committee,” complained Francis Masaka.

A People who knows their Rights

In Mtitaa village, the trainings on PETS resulted on the errant local authority’s representative in the village being fired from the office for misappropriating funds contributed by the locals.

“We chased our former village chairman just because of taking and using the villagers’ money without consultations. The honourable Member of Parliament promised to take care of all the repairs of the machine. Now we are told that 950,000 have been taken, who authorised this?” revealed one official from the ruling party (CCM).

Confirmed Guilty

Commenting on the issue, the Ward councillor, David Makuwa who is also the chairman for the Development committee for Mtitaa Ward confirmed that, “All the complaints raised from the locals are all true. The locals kicked out of office the former village executive officer (VEO) for this very reason.” said

He explained that, “The current leadership has also cleared an amount in the tune of 950,000 shillings, which the Member of Parliament had already paid for.”

The meeting was facilitated by Haki Kazi Catalyst from Arusha on Public Expenditure Tracking System (PETS) in conjunction with the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and funded by Norwegian Church Aid Tanzania.