Tuesday 20 December 2022

Be aware of rogue activists mudslinging North Mara

By a Correspondent

Recently, Barrick Gold Company issued a press statement rejecting an attempt by a law firm named Leigh Day which teamed up with a UK –based watchdog known as RAID, to link the death of two people with North Mara Gold mine, in Mara Region.

In that statement, Barrick President and CEO, Mark Bristow said his company prides in excellent human rights record with its workers and communities in the mine’s neighbourhood and the world over.

The President and CEO also said Barrick has a policy that ensures majority of workers come from local areas surrounding the mine and stressed that with the exception of a few of them, most people are law abiding citizens.

As a matter of fact, the gold mine which is a joint venture between Barrick and the government of Tanzania, through its Twiga Corporation, has continued to be of immense benefit to many, especially the villages surrounding it.

Besides giving priority to the villagers in employment opportunities, the mine also sets aside billions of shillings in its annual budget, for implementation of social services projects though its CSR programe.

It is therefore not easy for someone in their upright mind to believe that the so called activists, living outside Tanzania can be trusted in their claim that North Mara gold mine is responsible for the death of two people, or that it has a record of human rights abuse.

We understand that there is a lot of hype about a recent incident in which about 70 armed intruders managed to scale a nine-meter fence at North Mara to steal gold sand and vandalize the infrastructure. Since security guards from a private company could not handle them, they had to call the police for help because they were unarmed. Unfortunately, one person reportedly died during the chaos. Yet, truth has to be told.

To claim that North Mara is in any way responsible for that incident is to ignore the fact that the government of Tanzania has presence around the mine through its own corporation and that the police who quelled the chaos caused by the intruders, did so as required by law not as directed by Barrick. The latter does not own a security force.

It is obvious that some activities are being gluttonous to the extent of taking sides, on the pretext they are defending the downtrodden. However, when the so-called activists become hypocrites when implementing their tasks, they surely become not only a laughing stock in the public eye but also cause misunderstandings between the people and security personnel, including the police, who are only fulfilling their duties as required by law.

We do agree that activists have a role to defend the downtrodden. But when they fabricate and spread malicious rumours, they no longer save that purpose but only make themselves a funny lot to the world.

What is also obvious, is the fact that some, if not many of the so-called activists are greedy and do not abide by the truth. So, they only do what they are doing for personal gain.

Many people can bear witness to the fact that North Mara has set aside huge funds to improve the lives of villagers, by opening the doors for various economic and social opportunities.

But when activists living outside Tanzania surface with one-sided claims of human rights abuse to make the world believe that things are not done the way they should, this becomes double standard of the highest order.

Barrick President and CEO, Bristow says RAID has a poor history of advancing unfounded claims on the so-called human rights abuse at North Mara. If such claims continue unabated, they may result in confusion. There are those who may not be aware of the hidden agenda of these activists. They may be incited to break the law and wage unfounded claims of compensation.

For a long time now there has been armed groups of youths who invade the mine. They have attacked security guards and their vehicles. Sometimes they even overpower the police and cause them to suffer injury. Unfortunately, we have never heard word from the co- called human rights activists defending the police. Aren’t the police human beings as well?

President and CEO of Barrick Bristow says because RAID doesn’t have a residence in Tanzania, he has personally invited them to come to North Mara Gold mine, so they may see the actual situation and lay bare their claims before the police force and the villagers. But the activists have not done so.

Even then, Barrick still requests RAID to visit North Mara.

Bristow further says his company held a meeting with 11 leaders of villages surrounding the gold mine. Interestingly, the leaders disowned the rights activists. He stresses that the gold mine has a good relationship with the locals and this continues improving through investment of community projects in the sectors of health, water, education and road infrastructure

So, if it is true the villagers know nothing about RAID, two important questions are worth asking: First, for whose interest, did the activists wage their claims? Second, could it be that RAID are those people whose survival depends on taking up baseless cases of unfounded claims, the truth of which they don’t even know?

The truth is that some activists are not really helping to push for human rights. So, it is important to beware of them, especially those who come up with unfounded claims of issues concerning parts of the world they have never visited.

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