North Mara Gold Mine Invasions: Government Act Accordingly or Risk Descent Into Lawlessness

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You wouldn’t need a month, not even a week, just talking to bodaboda who happens to give you a ride to your destination or any by passer it will take few minutes to realize the growing sense of lawlessness in connection to the acts of intrusion into North Mara Gold Mine.

Yes, it has become a new normal for the people living around the mine, seeing groups of hundreds of boys and men equipped with traditional weapon confronting a six feet concrete wall hopping inside the mine in a broad day light for gold ores. In the eyes and mind of any rational person, this is unusual phenomenon, some members of the community are not happy with it but their ability to act  is limited to just feeling sorry, even when they see the possibility of helping, they can’t  do anything about it, why?

“The cartel behind these invasions operates in Mafioso like style, the moment rumor gets around  that you are talking or giving details about their existence, you pay dear price,” my compatriot who was a former village leader,  narrates when we meet at the pombe shop in Nyangoto village in condition of anonymity.

On the façade, these acts of invasion appears as normal crime or reaction of grieved people who want to be heard – the pretext used to cover the offense, but digging a little deeper your meet its true ugly face, organized crime in the making.

The two weeks investigation revealed that, financially powerful individuals and politicians who constitute a cartel behind North Mara Gold Mine intrusion, within and out of Tarime district organizes, pays and protects the youth who invade the mine to fetch them gold ores which they easily process and sell at gold markets within the district. The cartel mobilizes youths to invade the mine by paying them a certain sort of retaining fee and buy the stolen gold ores from them once they manage to sneak it out the mine.

The invasion does not include random and unplanned acts of individual youth; this one is focused well calculated to make it appear as just normal burglary.

“There are different cartel each grooms and organizes it own team independently from another, the pay supervisors whose role is to mobilize youth pay them and guarantee to buy gold ores and protection,” says a person who was once an intruder.

A person says despite the risk taken by invaders, they are paid very little compared to what the big bosses gets out of the stolen gold, they threat you if you complain about meager payment,  “…that’s  why this business is continuing, it never passes day without intrusion, I think even the people inside the mine have learnt to live with it”. For only ten months from January to October this year 2023, North Mara recorded 633 invasion incidents, roughly 60 incidents per month.

Need for Momentous Measures

“This situation if not arrested on time is likely to drift the community into the state of lawlessness. The current situation makes the community, innocent citizens and invaders all together, develop tolerance towards crime,” narrates the former village leader.

Merriam – Webster defines lawlessness as the state where wrongdoing is widespread and there is disregard for rules and authority. What is happening in Nyamongo with regard to the mining intrusion is the reflections of lawlessness, people are grouping together taking laws in their hands, inventing their own rules, not abiding to the rule of the land and not scared of the law. The increase of intrusion in the mine might escalate into other walks of life in the community if momentous and purposeful measures are not taken to address the situation.

Commenting on the series of crime in their area, Mwita Nyasibora, the secretary of the Kurya traditional elders said they had had enough of such vilolence.

“We are doing all in our efforts as elders to make sure that we live in a peaceful community, we urge the government to take stern measures for those responsible, they shouldn’t be allowed to make our society lawless.,” said Mzee Nyasibora.

Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Do Ploy

The constant excuse for invaders who happen to be caught is that they have nothing left of them and have nowhere to go, the pretext which the invaders are taught to give the authorities in case they are caught.

Confrontation between police and invaders results into injuries and fatality in some incidences, the cartel took advantage of these incidences attributing them to human rights abuse by the police and the mine, which in a way kept them out of the picture.

“We treated invaders as people who are wrongly fighting for their resources, only to realize later that  it’s an organized crime rooted deeper than we previously thought,” says a police detective from Tarime Rorya police special zone criminal investigation officer who for obvious reasons his name is withheld.

He adds the people behind these crime managed to trick almost everybody, the authority realized the true identity of the crime when the addressed almost all major issues raised by the community, “…then we realized that the issues by the community were just a pretext for something multifaceted.” Says Matongo village chairman Mwita Itembe.

North Mara Gold Mine, managed by Twiga Minerals Corporations, a joint venture company formed by Barrick and the Tanzania government in and in the event which is commended as model of how can resource rich countries can negotiate better deals has since 2019  has spent 7.3 billion shilings on infrastructure, education, health, water services to the 88 villages in all 26 wards constituting Tarime rural district council.

In this agreement, which resulted into to Twiga Mineral corporation formation, the government of Tanzania acquired  free carried shareholding of 16% in North Mara and Bulyanhulu mines and will receive its half of the economic benefits from taxes, royalties, clearing fees and participation in all cash distributions made by the mines and Twiga.  An annual true-up mechanism will ensure the maintenance of the 50/50 split.

In the meeting with people of Nyamongo, and traditional elderly leaders from all 12 clans of the Kurya tribe in Tarime district, last October, Barrick President and CEO, Mark Bristow told the community members that the mine is committed to continue contributing to the development of the community but they have to cooperate together for the sustainable development of their community by joining hands in combating mine intrusion.

Tarime district commissioner Lt. Colonel Michael Mtenjele said the government is committed to fight and sort of crime and that mining invasion has to be tackled in many fronts including education to the public of the adverse impacts to both the community and the mine. The Tarime District Security and safety committee is now engaging the public by conducting public meetings in the villages surrounding the mine.

Read more articles by Deus Bugwaya here.

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