Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

1 January 2014

Tanzania: Kikwete - War On Poaching to Go On

Photo: CITES
Tanzania suspends officials over poaching allegations.

PLANS are underway to resume the anti-poaching operation dubbed 'Tokomeza,' President Jakaya Kikwete has said.

He said in his end-of-year-address broadcast live over the television last night that the government is finalising plans to resume the operation and start the second phase aimed at rooting out the alarming spate of poaching in the country.

"It is important to go on with the operation because if we don't, poachers will go on with the practice," he declared.

Mr Kikwete said the situation on the side of elephant poaching is alarming, giving statistics that when he addressed Parliament in November, this year, he had pledged that the government would carry out the census of the species in Selous Game Reserve.

He said the census had been completed but with alarming findings whereas there are currently 13,084 elephants compared to 109,419 in 1976. "If we don't run this operation, after a few years, we may not have even a single elephant.

Even the operation of removing livestock from game reserves will resume but with strong emphasis on implementers not to commit the injustices they did," he pointed out. He noted that the government had stepped up efforts to confront poaching and illegal harvesting of natural resources in forests.

President Kikwete said this had been a long standing problem but that it had scaled up in recent times and eventually overwhelming the local security organs around conservation areas. In order to beef up support to conservation security organs, the president had in 2010 directed the Police Force to assist the former in arresting the situation.

"But after noting the size of the challenge and the type of weapons that poachers were using, I deliberately ordered other security organs including the army to join the operation to pump more energy and tact into the resources. That resulted into 'Operation Tokomeza,' he said.

He said the operation had brought some good results that bring hope with cases of recognising networks of rackets of poachers with some netted and brought before the law. He said the networks involved different people including ordinary citizens, popular people, government servants in various departments including wildlife and forestry departments.

He said some 1,030 were arrested including 18 army weapons, 1,579 ordinary guns and a container of elephant ivory and some already having been taken to court. He, however, said that in such operations where many are on the implementing line; there are some officers who went against the code of conduct contrary to the objective of the operation.

This culminated, he added, into the government suspending the first phase of the operation, to give room to assess the first exercise, note mistakes and held those to account who made mistakes. He paid tribute to the ministers who accepted to resign as a gesture of political responsibility for mistakes committed by their junior officers.

He said that as announced earlier, he would start a commission of investigation to be head by a judge of the High Court, who would reach the deep of what transpired in the first phase of the operation and take to court whoever committed crimes.

"It is important to do this so that justice is served. The tendency of the burden of mistakes committed by junior public officers, to be carried by political leaders personally, with no direct role, is not right."

He said that it his hope that in future, when such problems occur, deep investigations are carried out so that those who were directly involved are apprehended to be accountable for what they did.

Political leaders taking accountability is not enough because it gives room to those carrying out crimes to continue. He said he had directed the Presidential Delivery Bureau (PDB) to work on the investments climate in the country.

Mr Kikwete pointed out that 2014 is a unique year because it is one when it would be 50 years since the Zanzibar revolution in January 12, 1964 and a jubilee for the People's Republic of Zanzibar and similarly half a century since Tanganyika and Zanzibar came together to form the Union of Tanzania on April 26, 1964.

On the war against drug trafficking, he said that in 2013, some 1,261 kilogrammes of heroin, 3 kilogrames of cocaine and 89,293kilogrammes of bhang were arrested with 1,631 brought before courts of law.

The president also reported that the government was at a 'good' stage of setting up a special task force to fight narcotic drugs in the 2014/2015 financial year.

He noted that crime had gone down in 2013 as compared to 2012. Reported cases of crime were 6,872 in 2012 and 6,409 in 2013. On peace, solidarity and tranquility, he thanked religious leaders for having prayed for the country and its leadership throughout 2013.

He spoke in detail about other areas including education, environment and climate change, Operation Kimbunga, water, health, high learning education, housing, regional cooperation, international cooperation and the world's recent loss of South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela.

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