The minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige

Game wardens accused of flogging residents of villages that border national parks have been ordered to stop the misconduct immediately.

The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Ezekiel Maige, ordered the wardens to stop these inhuman atrocities immediately saying that they are a gross violation of human rights. He said this when inspecting conservation of natural resources in Tanga region.”If such acts of infringement of people’s basic rights and dignity are not contained this behaviour will complicate efforts by the government to build up a climate of mutual trust and good relationship with the communities,” the minister stressed.

Admitting to have received a cabinet minister for the first time in history, residents of Mbulizaga village in Pangani district, Tanga region, launched serious complaints against  game wardens in Sadani National Park, accusing them of repeated humiliation.The villagers informed the minister that time and again armed wardens invaded their houses day and night driving out the perceived suspects they accused of hunting in the national park.

Petro Kibwanangwagu, 52, would not forget the day he was forced out of bed after midnight. “These game wardens around this place are heartless and extremely brutal. They entered my house, grabbed the blanket that I covered my wife and my children. They dragged me out of the house ruthlessly. They kept beating me all the way to the district Police Station.

“I was remanded but they never took me to court,” Petro narrated. Kilewa Bandika Gondo, 72, is a retired employee of the defunct Mkwaja Dairy Farm in the area. He was disappointed by the hostile relations between the villagers and game wardens.

“How dare they (the wardens) announce publicly that the monkeys in the bush are more valuable and better protected than human beings? ‘This is outrageous. They must be transferred elsewhere because the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) has employed the wrong people,” Gondo complained.

Hadija Hamisi, 36, asked the minister to order the wardens to refrain from degrading the villagers as they prevented women from colleting firewood for domestic use. “We (women) are harassed by the wardens and some of us have suffered injuries just for being found hardly two metres inside the park. Is this the best way to strengthen good relationships among neighbours?” Hadija wondered.

The Minister has further challenged TANAPA to work out a common strategy to build up good relationship with communities around national parks and game reserves.”You were not trained to treat human beings that way. Stop humiliating the people and devise strategies that would facilitate implementation of your duties and at the same  time work very closely with the local population to bolster good neighbourhood for effective joint resource management,” Maige said.

Minister Maige reminded TANAPA about existing laws, regulations and procedures which should be observed in case a person was found stealing government trophies or natural resources for personal gain.

“Suspects should not be physically abused,” he ordered. Cuthbert Joshua is the village chairman. He requested the government to intervene and resolves the simmering border conflict between Mbulizaga village and Sadani National Park.He also asked TANAPA to extend support to development projects for the community such as water which remains the biggest challenge in the area.

The minister directed the administration of TANAPA, which was represented at the meeting by Dr Ezekiel Dembe, who is the Acting Director of Planning, Development Projects and Tourism Services to involve village authorities in meetings where their needs should be discussed.

“In this way you will be able to budget for the fulfillment of corporate social responsibilities and address all hitches with the respective communities,” Maige said in the presence of the legislator of the area Idris Pamba.The Chief Executive Officer of Tanzania Forest Services, (TFS)  Ms Monica Kagya, advised the residents to venture into beekeeping projects which would help them increase income.

“The ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is working out strategies in order to reach out to villagers. The idea is to share knowledge with you on beekeeping for the benefit of the society,” Kagya explained.

By BILHAM KIMATI, Tanzania Daily News

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