2 September 2012

Tanzania: RPC Defends Police Over Mara Mine Shootings

Photo: Tommy Trenchard/IRIN
Artisanal diamond miners at work in an open-pit mine.

Mara — REGIONAL Police Commander (RPC) for Tarime special police zone Assistant Commissioner of Police(ACP) Justus Kamugisha has defended cops involved in shooting dead two civilians at North Mara Gold Mine on Thursday.

The RPC told the 'Sunday News' that no police officer was being held in connection with the shooting which also left one villager seriously injured."We are only withholding a civilian, who was shot and injured at the scene but the cops were on duty," ACP Kamugisha said.

"We used every kind of bullets including tear gas," the regional police chief said, adding that investigation on the incident has started without going into details.He named the suspect as Mseti Chacha who sustained bullet injuries on his right leg and was rushed to Tarime District Government Hospital along with a police officer E.6059 corporal, who was injured with machetes during the incident.

The mine latest shootings occurred after about between 800 and 1,000 local people popularly known as intruders invaded the mine to grab gold sand and clashed with police officers of the mine for several minutes on Thursday evening, according to the RPC.Anti-riot police, ACP Kamugisha said police were forced to use live bullets to disperse the intruders whom he said were armed with stones, machetes and knives.

He confirmed deaths of two civilians, both hailing from the villages surrounding the mine which is operated by African Barrick Gold(ABG).The ABG, a Tanzania leading gold producer has been forced to construct a multimillion wall fence in a bid to boost security at the mine, according to it's senior officials.

The Canadian giant miner has also been putting in place various initiatives meant to improve the relations with the local communities in the recent years.The included signing of a new 10 million US dollars (about 16bn/-) taped Village Benefits Implementation Agreement (VBIA) with the aim of improving social services in the areas around the mine.

The three year-deal was signed by village governments and the mine late last year. The package of money will be mainly invested in education, health and water sectors, according to local leaders.Ordinary people, local leaders as well as Tarime authorities welcomed the VBIA, predicting that they might help relegate conflicts between the mine and the local communities a thing of the past.

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