Friday, July 10, 2009
North Mara Saga: News from the ground II (Verbatim)
In the midst of the closure calls on North Mara Barrick Gold Corporation’s site, a number of incidents are reported and the situation in the North Mara region is appalling. Here’s another testimonial from the ground…
Dear Partners and Colleagues,
Greetings from Musoma.
Let me take this opportunity to update you with what have happened of recent and proposed way forward.
In late June I was supposed to meet the Parliamentary committee on environment and natural resources headed by Hon Job Ndugai. I could not make it die to vehicle breakdown in Shinyanga. I did, however, use the Foundation for Civil Society Bunge exhibition to meet some MPs on North Mara saga. I sought audience with the PM (a proposal put forward to me by the Hon. Dr Wanyancha, the Serengeti MP upon viewing the dvd on the incidence and reactions from the wananchi). However, it was advised that since the matter was going to be probed by the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environment we should meet the committee in Musoma or Tarime when they come.
On Sunday July 5th, 2009 we got a call from PINGOs official who was in Dodoma requesting us to meet Hon Ndugai as he needed to establishing links with people on the ground. We communicated with his Committee secretary Mr Michael Kadebe for appointment. Later, upon their arrival in Musoma, we presented a DVD and a Tigite River report to Hon. Ndugai, Hon. Charles Mwera (MP for Tarime), Hon. Ngeleja and Hon. Burian and while preparing to go to Tarime I received a call from Hon Ndugai who requested me to prepare a 30 minutes presentation to the members of his committee and the energy and mineral committee members in Tarime. We prepared to meet the MPs and the Ministers (Hon. Aisha Kigoda; Hon. Ngeleja and Hon. Burian) on Monday 6th July 2009.
Matters arising during the Tarime meeting
The first presentation was done by Eng. Baya, the MD of NEMC. In his presentation, he stressed that the pH is not the only criterion for deciding whether the water was safe for domestic and livestock consumption. The official from Lake Victoria Basin Office (LVBO) had tough time when he was asked on the reasons for allowing Barrick North Mara to drain its water into Tigithe River. He was asked if he was ready to be responsible if the water was found unfit for human consumption.
Our presentation followed Baya's and gave an account of the incidence and how we have responded to the issue. The samples taken and the results information were briefly given. Main questions were 1. Why did Foundation HELP decide to involve religious leaders instead of govt officials (Hon. Burian etc). 2. Have we conducted toxicology tests to determine whether the water was the source of the ailments that has been reported in the area and what was our response to the situation. The answers were obvious and in response to Dr Mashimba's (question our recommendation was enough to silence them.
One evident thing is that no govt agency (regional medical officer), Chief Chemist, NEMC or LVBO had scientific data to give to the committee. The Minister of Energy and Minerals requested us to join in the tour to Kibasuka and Matongo.
Our recommendations were undertaking independent environmental audit (an idea supported by Hon. Daniel Nsanzugwanko, Deputy Chair-Mineral and energy committee); independent study to determine levels of heavy metals in plants, animals and humans in the area; alternative water for livestock and humans; environmental management and control programs and rehabilitation programs.
According to the Kibasuka Ward Councillor 43 (24 men and 19 women) people have died since May 2009 until early July. We found 2 more deaths of people making the figures to rise to 45 people. Up to now 102 people are seriously sick in the ward suffering from what was named 'Tigithe water-caused diseases'. In terms of livestock, 401 cows, 523 goats, 185 sheep, 63 donkeys and 227 dogs have lost life during this time.
The committee visited Matongo Ward where there were cries from the community on the injustices done by the mine to the community including killings of innocent people and pollution in the area. The Minister of Minerals and energy had hard time at Matongo to give satisfactory answers to the community members.
Against my will (was in one vehicle with Hon Ngeleja) I visited the mine where Barrick had a presentation to make. There was whole slide on misinformation which elaborated on how this incidence has been reported and had Evans' photo taken from his blog. The presentation had nothing significant to convince the committee as when asked to confirm whether the water on Tigite was safe and clean so that it can be put on record the person in charge of environment declined to give any comment.
Role of the Media
Barrick Tanzania had their own fleet of journalists from Dar, Tarime and Mwanza. These included (Names withheld but will be availed on demand). These were paid by Teweli Teweli. The mentality of bribing the media people needs to be worked out by having a clear media strategy to follow up this matter.
We managed to get a few dignified and patriotic journalists who stand for what journalism is all about and have written on this matter in the newspapers against their colleagues who have been blaming them for not helping Barrick at a fee!
We could not be allowed to be in the meeting but details of what transpired will be known soon after meeting one of our insiders in the meeting.