Members of parliament in Tanzania have voiced their concern over the harsh measures used by security forces drawn in to the fight against poaching, which has in recent weeks gathered some momentum as global pressure over the unabated mass slaughter of Tanzania’s elephant finally registered at the highest level of government, prompting deployment of army units alongside regular TANAPA anti-poaching operations.
Allegations were flying high and low as members of parliament whose areas were affected by such operations told apparently some gruesome stories of abuse, confiscation and killing of livestock and even killing of pastoralists trying to defend their herds rather than turning wrath on poachers proper.
News from Tanzania has it that as a result, and faced with potentially huge law suits for infringing on human rights and over the destruction of property, the ongoing anti-poaching operations may be halted until such time that rules of engagement have been defined and the obscure, not written down but implied and publicly announced shoot to kill scenario is off the table. It was learned in fact that an ad hoc committee of parliament would travel to places where abuse was reported from to get to the bottom of the allegations.
Conservationists immediately stepped into the controversy demanding that anti-poaching operations continue uninterrupted to avoid the poachers either time to regroup or else continuing their bloody handiwork. Other conservationists however echoed the sentiment by members of parliament and sections of civil society, saying that the direction and focus of the anti-poaching operations were far from where things happened in the field and perhaps deliberately let get out of hand so that the exercise could be officially stopped and “business as usual” resume. “Tokomeza,” as the operation was named by government, is, therefore, likely to undergo a period of review and further consideration, before new guidelines will be provided of how to deal with ordinary pastoralists who for times immemorial have walked the pastures with their animals to keep them fed and watered.
As an intermediate step did the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Amb. Khamis Kagesheki, issue instructions that any confiscated property, livestock and other, be immediately returned to the owners – a move also seen as an attempt to appease the voting population as the next election is drawing ever nearer and such memories tend to linger on and disenchant the electorate from a sitting government.
Calls for the resignation or even sacking of the ministers responsibly also emerged during the debate in parliament, reminiscent of last year’s events, when following a detailed investigation by a parliamentary committee Minister Kagesheki’s hapless predecessor Ezekiel Maige was sacked together with other cabinet colleagues for a number of failures seen as too great and too many to remain in a cabinet position.
Watch this space as another twist in the tail of anti-poaching operations in Tanzania now emerges, at a time when record hauls of blood ivory are