Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: 'Tokomeza' Victims Commend JK, Ready for Reconciliation Process

Arusha — REPRESENTATIVES from at least 50 different civil organisations representing nomadic pastoralists, traditional hunters and fruit gatherers in Arusha and Manyara regions have commended President Jakaya Kikwete for his prompt action to remove four ministers behind mishandled anti-poaching operation and assured the head of state to cooperate in the process leading to reconciliation.

The associations represented under the umbrella of Pastoralists Indigenous Non- Governmental Organisations (PINGO)'s Forum, issued their joint statement to that effect in Arusha on Saturday, a day after the president relieved four ministers of their duties.

"During implementation of 'Operation Tokomeza' many families endured untold sufferings and massive loss of property.

Some lost their loved ones. Others had their cattle confiscated and forced to give in the form of bribes millions of shillings," explained the Director of PINGOs Forum, Mr Edward Porokwa.

He said that it was time to reconcile the victims, something which will require the organisations to play a major role in the process.

"We at PINGOs Forum, still believe that illegal hunters and poaching rackets are yet to be uprooted and additional efforts were desired to save the wildlife and other natural resources.

But first we must heal the wounds sustained by innocent victims of the initial operation which got hijacked by some culprits who used it to rob, rape, maim and kill people," said Mr Porokwa.

The 50 organisations, all dealing with indigenous pastoralists, traditional small-scale hunters and fruits gatherers praised the parliamentary probing committee led by Legislator James Lembeli for the job well done, saying the team's report was the most accurate document ever compiled.

PINGO's Forum also want the 1000 cattle impounded from Loliondo Game Controlled Area last November during the alleged operation, be returned to the rightful owners.

"Over 1000 herds of cattle and nearly 1,500 people were arrested in Loliondo and surprisingly got taken to Bunda in Mara Region; imagine suspects being taken from Arusha to be tried in Mara, another region altogether," read part of the organisations' statement.

Last Friday, President Kikwete approved resignation of four cabinet ministers who had to take political responsibility for not being watchful enough to act on irresponsible actions of officials under their supervision.

The ministers include Mr Shamsi Vuai Nahodha (Defence and National Service), Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi (Home Affairs), Amb. Khamis Kagasheki (Tourism and Natural Resources) and Livestock Development and Fisheries minister, Dr Mathayo David Mathayo.

The Parliamentary Committee, Land, Natural Resources and Environment under the chairmanship of James Lembeli (MP Kahama CCM), presented a report with evidence indicating that dozens of civilians suffered in the hands of the deployed merciless army personnel, the police, wildlife conservation wardens, among others who abused powers bestowed on them.

The report indicated that 19 people were killed in the course of implementation of the anti-poaching operation, coded "Operation Tokomeza, such that out of the fatalities, six were officials who were carrying out the exercise."

Cases of gross violation of human rights were cited, such that men, women and children including the elderly were harassed as a mechanism to extort bribes from livestock keepers and farming communities.

Among other interviewed persons with regard to the spirit of collective responsibility was the Deputy Minister for Lands and Human Settlements .

Development, Goodluck Ole Medeye who supported the culture of accountability, insisting that all entrusted officials were expected to render services to people's expectations and if not then give chance to another person.

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