Living in fear: Hushed plans to sell villagers` land to uranium explorers

BY GERALD KITABU

Source ippmedia

13th December 2015

Fear of eviction from their land by a uranium exploration company has made thousands of residents in six villages of Kwamtoro ward, Chemba district fail to grow permanent crops and develop permanent structures.

The villagers from Kwamtoro, Ndoroboni, Kisande, Mialo, Porobanguma, Lahoda, Msera and Handa made these affirmations basing on government directive issued in 2013 that required them to vacate their areas for an investor.

They were speaking at a training session on land rights, gender and village administration organized by the Tanzania Natural Resources Forum (TNRF) with support from Welthaus (World House) organization of Austria held at Ndoroboni village in Chemba district Dodoma region.

Acting village Executive Officer for Mialo village, Sefu Salim said that until then they did not know the name of the uranium company but they first experienced uranium exploring activities before 2013.

They said in 2013 unknown people entered their villages without introducing themselves to the leaders - and without notification started digging out the soil and taking soil samples.

Later on, they saw regular aircraft flying over their villages without their knowledge and when they asked, the Kwamtoro division officer (now retired) told them that they were exploring uranium without warning the villagers that they would be evicted soon.

“Since we received this directive in 2013, the government has never issued another directive that assures us to continue living peacefully here. We live in fear because we don’t know the fate of our land,” he said.

Shortly afterwards, the division officer told the villagers that they should be prepared to vacate and would be relocated some 20 kilometres away  from their land.

The villagers, mostly farmers, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers who earn their living from their surrounding environment urged the government to revoke the eviction directive.

The villagers accused their leaders of calling the shots behind the scenes, saying they had complained about this matter to district and regional authorities several times but in vain.

For his part, Mialo village chairman Augustino John said that the uranium company has been using some leaders and well known individuals to take up its mission.

 Company officials said that they would go back for mapping the area, it had been promised by the division ward that villagers would then be evicted and relocated more than 20 kilometres from the villages, he said.

Kwamtoro ward councilor John Konkoli explained that he also saw uranium activities taking place but he has never received official information from the divisional executive officer as to the ongoing activities.

“I understand that this belt has uranium and at one time we built a water well at Lahoda but when the water department took samples of the water to Singida they discovered that there were uranium particles in the water, he said.

Kwamtoro division acting officer Venancia Gregori said that her office had no information but she only remembered that there were some people who received training on uranium.

Mohamed Kimolo, a district official, explained that there was no administrative information on the matter but he only learned the presence of the researchers in 2013 when conducting a survey on the land use plan.

“As a district we have no information about uranium activities in this area but the villagers said that there were some aircraft flying in their villages and people who were doing exploration,” he said.

During the training that brought together more than 150 farmers and pastoralists from three villages, two representatives from each village were elected by the participants as land rights monitors in their respective villages.

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