Blog Entry

Report of the International NGO Fact-finding Mission to Tanzania

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead


In August 1996, Tanzanian authorities evicted a community of small-scale miners from their homes and worksites at the Bulyanhulu gold fields to allow a Canadian mining company, Sutton Resources, to take over the site. Since that time, there have been persistent allegations that as many as 52 people were buried alive when the company filled in the small-scale mining shafts; and that the evictions were brutal and swift violating economic and social rights, causing enormous economic and social hardship. No compensation was paid to the people — estimated between 30,000 to 400,000 - who were removed from the area. The mine was acquired by Canadian-owned Barrick Gold Corporation three years later.

Several observers, including Amnesty International, LEAT (Lawyers Environmental Action Team) based in Dar es Salaam, and, most recently, Tanzanian Judge Mark Bomani, have called for an independent inquiry into the events of August 1996. To date, these calls have been unheeded, and there has never been a comprehensive, independent investigation of these allegations.

An ad hoc group of North American and European non-governmental organizations which had been following the Bulyanhulu story closely decided to send a small team to Tanzania in March this year.

The primary purpose of this fact-finding mission was to better understand the events of August 1996, their continuing impact on the affected communities, and to determine the need for an independent investigation into these events.

To accomplish this task, the team intended (a) to visit the villages around Bulyanhulu; (b) listen to the stories of the affected people and relevant local officials, (c) observe the general living conditions in the area and the working conditions at nearby small-scale mining sites; and (d) interview mine officials and visit mine-sponsored community development projects in the region.

Members of the fact-finding team:
Paula Butler, representing MiningWatch Canada
Steve Herz, Friends of the Earth - US, Washington
Stephen Kerr, editor of (York University student newspaper) The Atkinsonian and writer for (University of Toronto student newspaper) The Varsity
Kathleen Mahoney, Professor of law, University of Calgary and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Montreal-based Rights & Democracy
Mattias Ylstra, video producer commissioned by Both ENDS, Netherlands

The fact-finding mission was assisted by LEAT, and the group was accompanied throughout the visit by lawyers Vincent Shauri and Tundu Lissu.


1. The international fact-finding mission to Bulyanhulu, Tanzania March 23 to 31, 2002, came to the unanimous conclusion that an independent, impartial, transparent and comprehensive inquiry into the allegations of uncompensated mass evictions of miners and mine owners, and killings of miners at Bulyanhulu during the summer of 1996, is warranted, desirable and urgent.
2. Given the important role played by a Canadian company and by Canadian government officials in relation to the Bulyanhulu mine, the team urges the Canadian government to endorse the call for an independent public inquiry, and to cooperate fully in enabling such an inquiry to obtain all relevant facts pertaining to the events at Bulyanhulu in 1996.
3. Care should be taken to ensure the protection of all potential witnesses.
4. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the Export Development Corporation (EDC), the public financial institutions that have guaranteed the current mining operations, should fulfill their public interest mandate by disclosing any results of their due diligence investigations that may shed light on veracity of these allegations.
5. LEAT and other Tanzanian organizations who are investigating these allegations should be allowed to continue their efforts without hindrance or harassment.

While not prepared to make any findings of fact with respect to the allegations, the members of the mission came to their conclusion as a result of their own experiences in Tanzania at the hands of the Tanzanian authorities; and as a result of impressions gained from interviews with a variety of individuals with differing perspectives on the Bulyanhulu controversy.

Although the mission's plan to interview many miners and other affected persons in Bulyanhulu area was prohibited by the police from taking place, 15 individuals, most of whom were small-scale pit owners in the Bulyanhulu area who said they were adversely affected and continue to be adversely affected by the events of 1996, managed to come to us to tell us of their experiences. Almost all of these individuals claimed to be eye witnesses of various relevant events, and some claimed they lost loved ones in the mine shafts when they were allegedly bulldozed over by the mining company, assisted by the Tanzanian authorities.

The intensity and seriousness in the telling of the stories of the alleged evictions, violence and brutality of the police and mining officials, the level of detail, as well as the willingness of the Bulyanhulu residents to take significant risks to their own personal safety to come and speak with us, impressed the members of the mission, as did the willingness of apparently 250 others who waited several hours for us to arrive in Bulyanhulu.

The mission members thought that these factors lent weight to the credibility of the allegations.

The mission's thinking was also influenced by the conversation three members of the team had with former Tanzanian Justice and Attorney General, Mark Bomani, who has been an interested observer of the allegations and denials over the past six years in the country, and who is also calling for a full and impartial inquiry into the Bulyanhulu allegations.

The mission also had the opportunity to speak extensively with the LEAT lawyers, Vincent Shauri and Tundu Lissu about the case and the facts as they understood them, their experiences during the time they have been retained on the file, as well as their dealings with the Tanzanian authorities. The mission was impressed with the skill and knowledge of the lawyers as well as their dedication and unwavering commitment to the Bulyanhulu file. It appeared to the members of the mission that their work was being done under considerable duress and even threats of harm from the authorities.

Mission members also had the brief opportunity to view the actions of the Mwanza Regional Police at the guest house in Geita where they were staying, and to briefly speak to Commander Elia Kihengu from Mwanza when he came to the guest house to order the mission back to Dar es Salaam. One of the mission members, Professor Kathleen Mahoney, had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Rajabu of the Criminal Investigations Unit in Dar es Salaam. The behaviour of the police during the day of March 27, 2002 was intimidating to the mission, giving us the impression that we were under surveillance and could possibly be apprehended.

The mission members were impressed by the extensive and prominent coverage in the Dar es Salaam newspapers regarding our visit. We thought it noteworthy that the government initiated press coverage by calling at least one press conference to accuse the mission of contravening Tanzanian law with respect to permits and visas. These assertions had no factual or legal foundation.

The conclusion of the international fact-finding mission, that a full, public, transparent, urgent, impartial inquiry is essential in order to put ongoing tensions and allegations to rest, was arrived at through the combination of all of the above-noted events, conversations, experiences and impressions. Greater details are provided in the body of the report which follows.
Chronology of events

March 18, 2002

LEAT members Vincent Shauri and Tundu Lissu met with Senior Superintendent of Police Lucas Kusima and Assistant Commissioner of Police King'wai both from the office of the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in the Police headquarters in Dar es Salaam. SSP Kusima and ACP King'wai advised LEAT to write an official letter to the DCI to inform him of the mission's visit as well as to notify regional and district authorities in Shinyanga and Kahama respectively. This was done.

Rights & Democracy President Warren Allmand wrote to the Tanzanian High Commission in Ottawa, Canada, notifying him of the mission's visit. Allmand described the purpose of the mission's visit as being "to investigate alleged evictions at Bulyanhulu."

March 19, 2002

LEAT wrote to the DCI concerning the impending visit by the fact-finding mission and described the mission's purpose as being "to hold meetings with LEAT as well as visiting Bulyanhulu and other areas of Kahama District to meet with the communities affected by the forced removals from the Bulyanhulu mines in August 1996." The letter also explained that the mission intended to meet with any other person with any relevant information concerning the facts and circumstances of the 1996 events in Bulyanhulu, including any police officers who may have participated in the removal operation, or investigated the subsequent allegations of the killings of artisanal miners. It asked the DCI to allow any officers in his department with the relevant information to appear for interviews with the members of the mission. This letter was also copied and faxed to the Regional Commissioner, Shinyanga and the District Commissioner, Kahama.

March 23, 2002

Mission members Steven Herz, Mattias Ylstra and Stephen Kerr arrived in Dar es Salaam. On Sunday, March 24 they met with LEAT at their office in Dar es Salaam and they interviewed a journalist who was present one day after the alleged killings. They also met with local journalists interested in the mission. On March 25, Kathleen Mahoney and Paula Butler arrived in Dar es Salaam.

March 25, 2002

The DCI wrote to LEAT in response to the latter's letters of March 19. Responding to LEAT's request to make his officers available for interviews with the mission, the DCI stated that "there is no way the Police Force can participate or in any way assist or be involved in that mission since so far there is no official communication that we (the police) have received from the Attorney General (who) ... is the only person to sanction the same."

March 26, 2002

The whole team, accompanied by lawyer Vincent Shauri of LEAT, flew to Mwanza and then proceeded by road (and ferry) to Geita, a small town one hour's drive from Bulyanhulu. We arrived at the guest house in Geita at around 5:30 p.m. and determined that it was too late to proceed on to Bulyanhulu, even though about 250 people had been gathered there expecting our arrival earlier in the afternoon.

Shortly after our arrival, a police officer delivered a letter to Lissu from the Mwanza Regional Police Commander, Elia Kihengu informing us that he had received instructions from the Director of Criminal Investigations in Dar es Salaam to (1) deny us access to Bulyanhulu, (2) inform us that we had not obtained proper authorization to carry out our work and (3) order us to return immediately to Dar es Salaam to obtain (or attempt to obtain) proper authorization from the Attorney General.

Later that evening, we were told that the police had erected an armed roadblock on the road to Bulyanhulu, and that a large number of police had been deployed in the villages near the mine.

March 27, 2002

We attempted to resolve the situation by contacting appropriate government officials by telephone. LEAT's Tundu Lissu contacted the Regional Police Commissioner in Mwanza and the DCI, both of whom insisted that the mission return to Dar es Salaam and obtain permission to proceed from the Attorney General. However, LEAT's Vincent Shauri spoke with the deputy Attorney General who informed him that he was not aware of any legal authority granting the AG's office the power to issue the authorization described by the DCI. We also contacted officials at the Canadian High Commission and the American Embassy, who confirmed that Tanzania does not ordinarily impose travel restrictions on foreign visa holders.

Lissu contacted members of the affected communities and invited them to come to meet with us at Geita. Fifteen people came by minibus, arriving at the guest house around 1:00 pm.

After a half-hour of introductions and formalities, we divided into two groups and listened to their testimonies one by one. Most of the conversations were videotaped or audiotaped.

Late in the afternoon, around 5:30 pm, the local police officer and the Mwanza regional police officer, accompanied by two other armed officers, arrived at the guest house. Lissu and Shauri negotiated with them privately for some 45 minutes. However, since the orders were coming from the DCI in Dar es Salaam who still refused to reconsider, we were forced to agree to return promptly to the capital the following day.

After the police left (at 7:00 pm), we accompanied the delegation from Bulyanhulu to the roadblock, which was manned by four armed officers. The members of the community were forced to give their names to the police. Wary of travelling at night, the group opted to stay in Geita overnight and return to their homes the following day.

We returned to the guest house and interviewed three members of the group who had not had an opportunity to tell their stories in the afternoon.

March 28, 2002

We left early from Geita and travelled to Mwanza. There we briefly made contact with a former Kahama Mining Corporation employee who had videotaped some of the events at Bulyanhulu in August 1996 when the evictions and pit-fillings occurred. We then returned by air to Dar es Salaam.

The Minister for Home Affairs, Mohamed Seif Khatib told a news conference that the mission had been prevented from travelling to Bulyanhulu because it did not have any permit from the Tanzanian authorities to undertake an investigation of the Bulyanhulu events and because the members of the mission misrepresented their activities to the authorities in their visa applications.

March 29, 2002

We met at the Canadian High Commission at 9:00 a.m. with Jeffrey McLaren, First Secretary of the Canadian High Commission, and with Jack Twiss Quarles van Ufford, First Secretary of the Royal Netherlands Embassy. We were told that the previous day, the Canadian High Commissioner, the American Ambassador, and the Dutch Ambassador had been called to separate meetings with the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and were appraised of the reasons for the actions taken by the Government of Tanzania regarding our mission. They also offered their observations regarding the politics of the Bulyanhulu issue, and how it fit into the broader political climate in Tanzania.

Kathleen Mahoney, Mattias Ylstra and Paula Butler met with Judge Mark Bomani at his office. Judge Mark Bomani is a widely respected figure in Tanzania — a former Attorney General and advisor to Nelson Mandela on the Burundi peace talks. Mr. Bomani expressed his embarrassment at how we had been treated by the police, reiterated his opinion that there needed to be an independent inquiry, and talked with us about his views about the potential composition and scope of such an inquiry.

Through Rights & Democracy, the mission issued a joint statement in Canada calling for an independent public inquiry into the events at Bulyanhulu in 1996, and for LEAT to be allowed to continue its work without harassment.

March 30, 2002

The team returned home.