The agreement signed between seven villages and the mine, is considered a significant step towards ending recurrent conflicts between both sides. The VBIA is aimed at ensuring unfulfilled promises made by the mine to improve social services in the villages several years ago are now honoured within a three year period.
“This is an implementation contract against promises made by the mine to improve our lives,” said Mr Tanzania Omtima, a village government chairman for Kewanja. Kewanja hopes to benefit from the deal signed by some of the villages late last year. Others are Nyangoto, Matongo, Nyamwaga, Genkuru and Nyakunguru.
Residents of the villages have accused the mine for allegedly failing to honour several promises it made to improve their living condition since 2002, when the mine was officially inaugurated by retired President Benjan Mkapa.
The promises included provision of social services like water, education and roads in the villages estimated to have over 50,000 people still living below poverty line. “Many school children sit in dirt floors in almost all public schools here, it is hard to believe that we have a gold mine.
These agreements will at least make people like the mine and reduce conflicts,” Mr Omtima told the ‘Daily News’ at a visit to the villages earlier this week. Some villages such as Nyamwaga and Nyakunguru have started implementing multi-million projects after signing the agreements late last year. For example, in November Nyamwaga village signed a two million US dollars (over 3bnl-) deal with the mine operated by African Barrick Gold (ABG) which is rated to be Tanzania’s number one gold producer.
Nyakunguru village was given 100,000 US dollars (about 160ml/-) part of the money to construct community secondary school, according to the Tarime District Executive Director (DED), Mr Fidelis Lumato. Authorities in Tarime District have welcomed the agreements, predicting changes in the villages.”It is unfortunate some village leaders delayed signing of the contracts due to their selfishness but all villages have now signed,” Tarime District Commissioner (DC), Mr John Henjewele said.
The DC cited signing of the agreements as one of the significant changes made by the out-going General Manager, Mr Basie Maree who has been recently transferred to Toronto in Canada. Mr Maree was hailed by local leaders and ordinary people as the first North Mara Mine General Manager, who showed commitment to change their lives despite the fact that he had worked at the mine for less than a year.
In August, last year, the General Manager introduced a programme where the mine supplies 90,000 litres of clean and safe water to hundreds of villagers living near the mine on a daily basis free of charge, as temporary measures to reduce the problem of water blues in the area. He also initiated a clean up campaign on major roads in the villages, something which has also helped to
create employment opportunities to dozens of women in the area.
Women and few men are now seen in the villages cleaning the roads every day, a move that meant to make the villages trading centres including Nyamongo look clean. “Mr Maree was instrumental in making the agreements happen,” Mr Henjewele said. According to the DC, the money will be closely supervised by Tarime District Council and anybody who will misuse it will face the music. But some local leaders are still not happy with the changes and the new agreements.
”We have been cheated for almost 17 years. They promised us many things like tarmac roads and water but nothing happened. We want the money in the agreement to be increased to 20bn/-,” Ms Philomena Tontotora, a special seat councilor in the area, said. The special seat councilor is worried that the mine’s lifespan will expire soon and leave them in a pathetic situation. “We have learnt that the mine has about eight years of production. It will be left as a memory for Tarime residents.
We don’t have even a single college which can recruit students from other Tanzanian regions like Mbeya. That is why I always oppose it,” the youthul female civic leader said. According to Mr Agostino Sasi, former councilor in the area only five villages are supposed to be included in the new agreements. He mentioned some of the villages as Nyangoto, Matongo,Kewanjawa and Nyarwana.
“The residents of these villages consume harmfuful chemicals. The other villages are benefiting at our cost,” Mr Sasi said. He is now a human rights activist after serving as a councilor and at one time as a village chairman in the area.