It was Sunday of September the 9th of 2012 when Mariam Chacha Samuel Magita (50) of Magoto village, a food vendor at Mrwambo and her three children; Ester Chacha (10), Baraka Chacha (7) and Daniel Chacha(4) met the ugly face of fate.
On the fateful day, Mariam claims a tear gas bomb thrown by the police against intruders accidently tore through her business kiosk while in company of her three children.
Mariam Chacha who is a widow had been running her food vending activities within the environs of ABG North Mara mines at Mrwambo, an area just adjacent to North Mara Gold Mine owned African Barrick Gold.
The widow says she was starting to settle down to work in company of all her three children before things turned blue.
“The police through a tear gas bomb all aimed at the intruders but accidently it tore into my business kiosk. All I can remember is being at the ABG’s clinic where I recovered my conscience. All my three children were there crying of pain at the clinic having fallen victims as well of the tear gas bombs thrown by the government police,” Mariam sadly explains.
“ABG clinical officer only offered us pain killers after which the officer advised the police officers that it would be appropriate that we be transferred to Tarime District Hospital but that was never to happen that soon,” Mariam sadly continues.
An ABG official at the mine confirmed on condition of anonymity so as to maintain his job said that Mariam Chacha and her three children were offered first aid at the ABG clinic on the eve of the accident.
“They were brought here by the police after sustaining tear gas bomb injuries. The little girl Ester Chacha was vomiting endlessly. Their mother to the children was unconscious at the time. The other two boys were crying of pain,” the ABG official told the reporter.
Mariam says she was taken to Nyamongo police station where she was forced to write a statement.
“I was dragged by the police following the order from the Officer Commanding Station (OCD), Nyamongo , to the police station where I was forced to write a statement that would later define me as an intruder hence resulting to my arrest till I was bailed by my in-law, one Zuhura Ally also a widow ,” she desolately tells.
“My little son Daniel Chacha cried until he lost his voice due to pain and hunger. The children were herded outside the police station throughout the day before I was bailed,” Mariam sadly narrates.
“In pain and hunger, I went home with my children not only as a police tear bomb survivor but as a criminal to answer charges unknown to me and my children,” the widow adds amidst uncontrollable tears.
“My children had nothing to eat that evening except a cup of porridge after a full day without food. All my items of trade and supplies had been plundered by the state security forces,” Mariam continues her bitter narration.
Zuhura Ally (37) who bailed Mariam confirmed Mariam’s allegation of her confinement at Nyamongo police post.
“ I had to intervene so that my sister in-law could be let free. They wanted Tshs. 20,000 but I only had Tshs. 2,000 that the officer who was recording statement snatched away commanding that the balance be brought the following day. The police had claimed that my in-law was among the intruders who had gone to the pit to pick stones laced with gold,” Zuhura regrettably says.
“As much as I know Mariam, she has been in her food vending all along since she came here from her village. The question is whether she had brought all her three children along to help her pick the stones that the police allege,” the widow queried.
The police at Nyamongo, the mining epicenter of African Barrick Gold (ABG) North Mara Mine are said to be only responsible for ABG’s security which pays them a daily allowance of Tshs. 25,000 plus all meals.
Another villager one Kichere Nyagoto (71) says that he personally knows Mariam Chacha and claims that Mariam has never been an intruder as far as he knew her.
“I have been here at Nyamongo since 1941 but this woman has never been an intruder. It is the young men here at Nyamongo that engages in the act but not women. The police will always implicate or frame anyone at their own oblivion just to walk scot free after committing a crime. They harassed the woman just to silence her. It is so sad that at Nyamongo the weak do not have a voice,” the old man bitterly says.
“we tried to protest against the police action on the material day but what we earned were threats from the OCD. He warned me that why would I intervene at a time I am not a Kurya,” Petro Mashala (33) who tried to question the OCD at the Nyamongo police post on why they were mistreating the woman together with her children inhumanly at a time they were the ones that were offended by the law enforcement team.
“Which tribe are you? Remember you are not a Kurya and I wonder why a Sukuma can intervene in what does not concern him,” Mashala claims to have been told by the Nyamongo OCD.
Mariam met her twenty thousand bail condition after her in-law Zuhura having paid Tshs. 2,000 with a command from the officer who was writing her statement that the balance is promptly paid the following day.
“The following day, I went to Mrwambo village chairman, one Vincent Charles who made an effort to call Nyamwaga police station on the matter. At around ten in the morning same day, ABG van came home and picked me together with my children to Nyamwaga police station where we were kept to around 11 p.m in the night. The police van later took us to Tarime District Hospital,” she further narrates her ordeal.
“It is true the woman was harmed together with her three children by a stray tear gas bomb thrown by government security officers who were engaging the intruders at the pit over there,” the village leader said.
“It is unfortunate that law enforcers here do not want to take responsibility when they go wrong except posing threats and intimidation acts to the locals. I had to intervene and that is when they came in and took her to Tarime District Hospital but since then, I did not get any report how they fared and so I assumed that all went well,” he adds.
According to Mariam, it was a rocky ride.
“Things were not any better at the District Hospital after the police dumped me there together with children. The time was around midnight when we arrived at the Tarime District Hospital,” Mariam sorrowfully says.
The night watchman on the day confirms.
“Oh, well! I remember receiving these children together with their mother at around midnight under police escort on the 11th of September,2012,” Lucas Antony Chacha who is a security officer at the Tarime District Hospital who was on duty that night told the reporter.
Efforts to find records of the widow’s treatment together with her three children at the medical facility were fruitless an officials at the facility on the condition of anonymity in fear of the repercussion of what the law enforcers had in mind told the reporter that the police officers left immediately after moving in.
“The officers talked to one of my colleagues in their car and then left as fast as they had come,” a health officer who was on duty on the night told the reporter on condition of confidentiality at the Tarime District Health facility.
Efforts to find District Medical Officer were fruitless as he was out of office but on reaching a medical officer at the health facility one Michael Seda who accepted to speak on behalf of the DMO also said that he did not have any idea of the incidence.
“ I can see this children are in a very bad condition as a result of the tear gas bomb but what I can say, their mother should tress the file number after which we will be able to treat the children, meantime, they should go to the community welfare officer who can provide her ( mother to the children) with a note confirming their inability to afford treatment,” the medical officer advised.
Efforts to reach the community welfare officer in his office at the facility were hopeless as his office were under the mercy of a padlock and worse off even his phone was off air.
The reporter having gathered enough evidence of the police involvement made an effort to reach the Nyamongo OCS and OCD but both declined to talk on the matter.
“ I know the issue but I have nothing to say about it. Now that that woman has reached the DC’s office, let it be solved here,” the Nyamongo OCD who was commanding the operation that harmed Mariam and her children told the reporter at the Tarime District Headquarters.
The negative response from the senior police officer prompted the reporter to visit the District Commissioner (DC) of Tarime District, John Henjewele who was however moving out on an official duty hence advising the reporter to meet the Tarime District, Admiration Secretary, one Ernest Kaboholo.
The reception was cordial but soon things turned into boiling bubbles when Kaboholo realized that the reporter had been following the story from among others at Nyamongo.
“ How could you go to Nyamongo without informing us? Do you know the actions that I can take against you now? This is nonsense and I know very well that you people are doing nothing but to cover stories that are tilted towards bringing chaos here,” the district official shouted on top of his voice amidst bitter anger.
At the tense meeting, besides Kaboholo the District Administration Secretary, there were also OCS and OCD Nyamongo and another government security officer who declined to mention his name was swift at issuing threats.
“What kind of journalism do you people practice? How dare you come into this district and fail to inform us before proceeding on with your work,” the anonymous security officer queried.
Ironically, the OCS and OCD denied before their bosses that they had handled Mariam Chacha and her three children at a time the PF3 that Mariam has were written by the same Nyamongo OCS one who was also at the tensely conducted meeting.
“ This woman is a liar and we can open charges against her for attempting to soil the name of the police force,” the security officer threatened.
“You woman, who asked you to frame such devilish claim against the police? I can make you pay you for your action now?” the senior Tarime District official thundered to the disbelief of the widow who had also been called into the room.
Locals claim governmental security personnel at Nyamongo are there for the security of African Barrick Gold that pays them Tshs 25,000 per day as allowance plus full meals from breakfast to dinner.
“They do not provide security to the villagers but instead harass them all the times. The other day you were here when the Nyamongo youths engaged their Nyabasi counterparts in a bitter war that left one dead plus loss of property as the police watched in broad day light,” Victor Marwa, dejected villager of Kiwanjani told the reporter.
“The man was killed at the ABG’s airstrip exit point where the police were stationed in full gear. They did nothing as the poor Nyabasi man was wrestled on the ground to death by angry Nyamongo youths who were questioning why the police allowed the Nyabasi youths into the pits but not them,” Marwa further explains.
“ The Ass. Minister of Energy and Natural Resources was here on the fateful day. The police were everywhere but they did not bother intervening when the citizens were butchering one another in broad daylight,” the Kiwanjani villager , Eliya Vincent (23) adds.
Mariam Chacha and her children are now wandering up and down for help, both medical and economic.
Her effort to reach Human Right’s office in Tarime did not bear any fruit after a letter she was given by the office instructing the Community Welfare officer at Tarime District Hospital to intervene did not bear fruits to date.
“Look at my son Baraka, he has a big wound in his hand. A wound that he sustained from the bomb but nobody wants to take responsibility except the threats that they issue to put me away,” Mariam sadly says.
“ Ester and Daniel cry of chest pain all night but since I do not have any source of income, I cannot afford their medication. Baraka has a wound that is worsening but can I do. I have tried all avenues from district government officials and human rights group but nothing has materialized,” the widow sadly explains.
“ My children do not go to school now since they are sick and my source of income has been plundered by a force that is supposed to provide security and protection to the citizens,” the widow explains.
“The government police officers in collaboration with ABG’s private security exercise brutality against helpless women, children and other members of the community with total immunity,” African Barrick Gold(ABG) staff who directed Ms Magita and her three children told the reporter on condition on of her name remaining sealed.
Experts say that although tear gas bombs are described as a non-lethal weapon for crowd control, many studies have raised doubts about this classification. As well as creating severe pulmonary damage, CS can also significantly damage the heart and liver.
On September 28, 2000, Prof. Dr. Uwe Heinrich released a study commissioned by John C. Danforth, of the United States Office of Special Counsel, to investigate the use of CS by the FBI at the Branch Davidians' Mount Carmel compound. He concluded that the lethality of CS used would have been determined mainly by two factors: whether gas masks were used and whether the occupants were trapped in a room. He suggests that if no gas masks were used and the occupants were trapped, then, "…there is a distinct possibility that this kind of CS exposure can significantly contribute to or even cause lethal effects."
When CS is metabolized, cyanide can be detected in human tissue. According to the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, CS emits "very toxic fumes" when heated to decomposition, and at specified concentrations CS gas is an immediate danger to life and health. They also state that those exposed to CS gas should seek medical attention immediately.
In Israel, CS gas was reported to be the cause of death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah on December 31, 2010, although the Israel Defence Forces have questioned the veracity of the report. In Egypt, CS gas was reported to be the cause of death of several protesters in Mohamed Mahmoud street near Tahrir square on November 2011 protests.
It has been noted that the solvent MiBK is itself harmful, and can cause inflammation, dermatitis, burns to the skin and liver damage.
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