Police arrest Environmental Activist, Opposition Leader in Tanzania

Environmental Organizations Blast Tanzanian Government for Attempts to Cover-up Allegations of Killings and Forced Evictions at Bulyanhulu Mine
November 27, 2001

UPDATE! – November 29 – We have just learned that the Dar es salaam Police Commander has apparently decided that Mr. Mrema be release on police bail to” enable him recuperate from his diabetes.”

Washington, DC: On November 24th, Mr. Rugemeleza Nshala, President of the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT), and Augustine Mrema, the National Chairman of the Tanzanian Labour Party, were arrested by Tanzanian authorities
and questioned regarding videotapes in their possession relating to alleged killings and forced evictions of artisanal miners at Bulyanhulu mine in 1996. The Tanzanian police also issued a warrant for the arrest of LEAT lawyer Tundu Lissu. It is feared that they may face charges of sedition.

“This is just a transparent attempt by the Tanzanian Government to intimidate the lawyers and politicians who have pursued these allegations,” said Emilie Thenard of the Center for International Environmental Law. “Its outrageous that Mr. Nshala, Mr. Mrame and Mr. Lissu may face criminal charges for investigating the allegations of widespread human rights abuses at Bulyanhulu. Their efforts are not criminal, they are courageous,”added Steve Herz, of Friends of the Earth-US.

Mr. Nshala has been freed on bail, but Mr. Mrema remains under house arrest. The police also searched their homes and LEAT’s offices, and have reportedly seized evidence given to LEAT by its clients, the families of the artisanal miners.

The raids and arrests followed widespread coverage in the Tanzanian press of LEAT’s investigation of the Bulyanhulu case. On November 19th, LEAT held a press conference in which it reiterated its call for an international commission of inquiry to investigate the 1996 events in Bulyanhulu, including the forcible evictions of thousands of local people and the allegationsof deaths of several artisanal miners when the site was cleared to allow a Canadian mining company to take over the concession.

On September 27, 2001, CIEL, FOE and other NGOs called for an independent inquiry into the nature of the removals. The Bulyanhulu gold mine, located about 50 kilometers south of Lake Victoria, was bought in 1999 by the Canadian Barrick Gold Corporation. Its development is supported by political risk guarantees from the World Bank Group Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the Canadian Export Credit Agency, the Export DevelopmentCorporation (EDC).