Groups demand release of Tanzanian environmentalists detained in MalawiPublished by MAC on 2017-01-30
Source: Uranium Network, Frontline Defenders, others (2017-01-29)
Environmental defenders initiate Tanzania Uranium Awareness Mission (TUAM)
The eight environmental defenders, namely Mr Briton Mateus Mgaya, Mr Wakisa Elias Mwansangu, Mr Majidi Nkota, Mr Christandusi Ngowi, Ms Ashura Kyula, Mr Martin Guido Ndunguru, Mr Wilbert Mahundi and Mr Rainery Komba, are all from Songea, Tanzania, affiliated with various civil society groups, some of which initiated a small consortium called Tanzania Uranium Awareness Mission (TUAM).
The cooperants were travelling to gain a first-hand impression of uranium mining and its impacts at the Kayelekera Uranium Mine, owned by Australian Paladin, in the north of Malawi.
Menwhile, Tanzania has moved to speed up uranium extraction in Mkuju River in the Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s biggest wildlife conservancy area, amid protests from wildlife conservationists.
See previous on MAC:
“HUMAN RIGHTS 3000” Working Group uranium-network.org asks for Release of 8 Tanzanian Cooperants detained in Malawi
22 January 2017
On December 22, 2016, a group of 8 Tanzanians interested in environmental issues as well as farmers from Namtumbo /Songea area in the South of Tanzania were arrested in Malawi.
The members of the Group belong to Tanzanian NGOs which are cooperants of German Human Rights NGO MENSCHENRECHTE 3000 e.V., Working Group uranium-network.org, working on environmental and Human Rights issues. The cooperants were travelling to get a first hand impression of uranium mining and its impacts at Kayelekera Uranium Mine, owned by Australian Paladin, in the north of Malawi.
MENSCHENRECHTE 3000 e.V., Working Group uranium-network.org is seriously concerned due to the previous pre-judgement by media and experiences with the breech of basic rules of law that the group of 8 may not face a fair trial following the rules of law.
The NGO is asking for immediate and unconditional release of the 8 Tanzanians, and requests that their Human and Civil rights are respected.
Malawian media had rapidly created a hype around the case, spoke –without a trace of proof – of “espionage” and discredited the detainees as “spies”.
Diplomatic efforts of Tanzania to achieve an amicable solution and a release of the eight detained persons has not be successful so far.
Russian state-owned company ROSATOM plans to build a uranium mine in the home area of the eight detained, in the south of Tanzania, the Mkuju River Uranium Project. Thus, the NGOs and their members are interested to inform themselves and their communities first-hand about uranium mining and its impacts.
Considering events up to now, activities are much less aimed at convicting the detained persons of breaking a law, but rather aimed at preventing citizens from informing themselves first - hand about uranium mining and its impacts, to undermine the right to inform themselves and – last not least – to silence any opinions critical of uranium mining.
The charges for the 8 detained have repeatedly been changed (at first “trespassing“, then “espionage“) now "carrying out a reconnaissance operation without license”.
According to Malawian mining law, a license would be needed collect information re: mineral resources.
However, when arrested, the group was accompanied by a hosting Malawian NGO, ‘Karonga Business Community’ which deals with the issue of uranium mining and Kayelekera Mine (https://mininginmalawi.com/tag/karonga-business-community/) and was as well accompanied by a senior security officer of PALADN, the company owning the mothballed mine.
The Malawians in accompaniment of the group were instantly released.
After their arrest, the 8 Tanzanians were exposed to different kinds of harassment: Access of lawyers was gravely restricted, at times completely forbidden, communication between detainees and their lawyers was restricted to a very short time and only under the surveillance of heavily armed police who also overheard all conversations bet ween lawyers and detainees.
The conditions of detainment are deplorable – too little food, bad hygienic conditions, places to sleep have to be ‘bought’ from other inmates due to the overcrowding of the detainment facility –although the detained have not been condemned to any penalty.
Basic rules of law as well as basic Human and Civil rights have been violated.
Human Rights Organisation FRONTLINE DEFENDERS has picked up the case and issued an URGENT ACTION.
It took Malawi an authorities 3 weeks (from 22. December 2016 up to 2 days before the first court session on January 17, 2017), to compile a one-page ‘charge sheet’.
On January 17, 2017, a first court session in court took place at Karonga Magistrate Court. The detainees had been denied food for 24 hours when appearing in court. Authorities had tried to motion them to plead “guilty” – which the detained refused.
Things erupted when the detained asked that a Tanzanian lawyer present at the court should be translating for them since they did not understand the translator provided by the court.
Finally, another translator was found. The court adjourned and the next session is scheduled for January 26, 2017.
The court adjourned and the next session is scheduled for January 26, 2017.
An attempt to get the detained persons liberated on bail did not work out due to the conditions set by the court.
The lawyers were harassed after the court session by police and other services, they were followed around, had photos taken of themselves and their vehicle. The Tanzanian lawyer was especially afraid for her personal security.
Planned Uranium Mine in Tanzania
The 8 detained persons or ignite from bordering Namtumbo / Songea area in South Tanzania. Russian State nuclear company ROSATOM and Uranium One plan to build via their subsidiary MANTRA, formerly an Australian company, too, a uranium mine, Mkuju River Uranium Project, which will be located within an excised part of World Heritage Site Selous Game Rerserve.
Local and national NGOs as well as international WWF and other environmental organisations are seriously concerned about or opposed to this project.
Continued detention of eight Tanzanian environmental defenders, and intimidatory acts against their lawyers
20 January 2017
On 17 January 2017, a magistrate’s court in Malawi formally opened a criminal case against eight Tanzanian environmental defenders detained since 20 December 2016. They were in Malawi in connection with a planned cross-learning tour on mining governance in Karonga. The tour involved a visit to the Kayelekera uranium mine and was prepared in close collaboration with a senior security guard at the mine. In the aftermath of the court hearing, their lawyers reported being subjected to a number of intimidatory acts from individuals with links to the Malawian security services.
The eight environmental defenders, namely Mr Briton Mateus Mgaya, Mr Wakisa Elias Mwansangu, Mr Majidi Nkota, Mr Christandusi Ngowi, Ms Ashura Kyula, Mr Martin Guido Ndunguru, Mr Wilbert Mahundi and Mr Rainery Komba are all from Songea, Tanzania, and are affiliated with various civil society groups, some of which initiated a small consortium called Tanzania Uranium Awareness Mission (TUAM). TUAM is a platform for knowledge exchange and information sharing on the socio-economic and environmental impacts related to mining and extractives. They have emphasised cross-learning on democratic ownership and transparency in the mining sector, and some had even taken part in similar visits to countries other than Malawi.
On 20 December 2016, a day after they entered Malawi, the eight Tanzanian environmental defenders were intercepted by Malawian police moments after leaving their lodge to go to the Kayekera Uranium Mine. They were accompanied by five Malawians. The police ordered the whole group to follow them to the Karonga police unit. The Tanzanians were automatically held in police custody while their counterparts from Malawi were set free. The detained defenders were eventually taken to Mzuzu prison where detention conditions are reported to be characterized by overcrowding, poor sanitation and malnutrition.
Until 17 January 2017, when the case was brought before the Karonga Magistrate Court, there was some confusion on the allegations against the defenders. The police had hinted those allegations were “criminal trespassing” and “spying”; and the local media, including social media, featured a smear campaign against the defenders while suggesting that their cross-learning visit was nothing more than “cover for an act of “espionage. At the opening of the trial, the detained defenders were notified that they stood charged with “entering upon the premises of Kayekera Uranium Mine with intent to commit an offence” and “carrying out a reconnaissance operation without a licence.” The trial was postponed until 26 January 2017.
Meanwhile the lawyers trying to assist the detained defenders have reported instances where members of the police took their photographs, trailed the cars they were being transported in, and at least once confronted them with such questions as “why are you here?”, “where are you staying?”.
Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of the 8 detained Tanzanian environmental defenders and it believes they are being judicially harassed as a result of their legitimate and peaceful human rights work.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Malawi to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release the eight Tanzanian human rights defenders, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being held solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the eight Tanzanian human rights defenders while in prison and ensure that the treatment of each of the human rights defenders, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee to halt harassment of the lawyers involved in this case to ensure that the human rights defenders have access to a fair trial;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Malawi are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Tanzania to extract uranium in Africa's largest conservancy
The East African Team
January 18, 2017
Tanzania has moved to speed up uranium extraction in Mkuju River in the Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s biggest wildlife conservancy area, amid protests from wildlife conservationists.
The government has directed Mantra Tanzania Ltd to start mining within two years for citizens to benefit from the project and the country to earn foreign currency from mineral exports.
Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals Medard Kalemani said extraction of uranium should have begun when the mining licence was granted on April 5, 2015.
“Mantra was given two years for construction of the mining infrastructure. This is the fourth year. We are therefore saying you must start uranium mining operations in the next two years,” said Dr Kalemani. “We are urging Mantra to open the mine in order to pay taxes and employ Tanzanians.”
Mantra Tanzania Ltd is a subsidiary of the Toronto-based Uranium One Mining Company and its parent consortium, the Russian state-owned nuclear enterprise, Rosatom.
Tanzania hopes to capitalise on rising uranium prices from 2017 to 2020, driven by increased demand. Uranium is used as a feedstock in nuclear reactors for generation of electricity.
Economic and health risks
But the World Wide Fund for Nature has said that uranium mining and industrial activities being carried within the Selous reserve pose long-term economic and health risks to the people and economy of Tanzania.
“Selous is the only natural World Heritage Site in southern Tanzania and one of the largest wilderness areas left in Africa. Its value to Tanzania, and indeed to the rest of the world, is dependent on its large wildlife populations and pristine ecosystems,” said country director Amani Ngusaru.
“By investing in tourism and conservation, Tanzania will ensure sustained growth in direct revenue from the tourism sector. WWF Tanzania continues to campaign for conservation of wildlife and halting uranium extraction and other industrial activities inside the Selous.”
According to WWF, there are regulations that protect sites from harmful activities such as oil, gas and mineral extraction and that they should be enforced in full and without exception.
Dr Ngusaru said that the Selous Game Reserve, whose elephant population has decimated by poaching, would see it lose its global appeal as a World Heritage Site if uranium extraction and other industrial activities are carried out there.
Prof Hussein Sossovele, a senior environmental researcher said uranium mining within the reserve could lead to dangerous consequences.
“Comparably, uranium mining could generate $4 million or less per year when extraction kicks off, while gains from tourists visiting the park each year are multiple and therefore more beneficial to Tanzania and its people” he said.
Nuclear utilities buy uranium using long-term contracts beginning two to four years after signing, and provide for delivery from four to 10 years. Long term contracts started at $44 per pound of uranium in January 2016 and stood at $33 in November this year.