Book ID 573
Odhiambo, Nicodemus Tanzania Urged To Prosecute Killer Game Wardens, 2000 May 12
Extract Author: Nicodemus Odhiambo
Extract Date: 2000 May 12
Panafrican News Agency
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - President Benjamin Mkapa's government is under intense pressure to prosecute seven game wardens who allegedly gunned down at least 50 villagers in Serengeti national park, northern Tanzania, three years ago.
A humanitarian organisation named the Legal Human Rights Centre said Friday it had gathered enough evidence to incriminate the suspect wardens who have since been transferred to a different region.
Helen Kijo-Bisimba, the centre's executive director told PANA in Dar Es Salaam that the organisation would take the matter to court if the government shows indifference to the gravity of the accusations.
MPs Deogratisa Mwita and Kasyeri Chambiri have said that the peasants were massacred 24 September 1997.
But when the legislators first revealed the incident in 1999, many Tanzanians thought they were out looking for cheap popularity.
The issue appeared to have died down after the government rebutted the allegations and gave a ministerial post to Mwita, who had been most vocal.
Prime minister Frederick Sumaye said at the time that it was inconceivable for such a large group of people to be massacred without local authorities smelling a rat.
However, a parliamentary probe team sent into the area in 1999 witnessed human remains including skulls floating on River Mara which runs through the park.
But Sumaye still denied the findings, claiming the skulls were not the remains of the said victims.
The Legal Human Rights Centre Wednesday unveiled full-colour pictures of victims and survivors, finally showing that the country could be witnessing the most macabre criminal activity supported by a state cover-up.
A video footage is part of the evidence gathered by the organisation between October 1999 and May 2000.
One of the survivors, 16-year-old Chacha Muniko narrates his near-death experience in the video.
'We saw six game wardens marching towards us. We decided to run away. They fired at us as we ran away. We threw ourselves into River Mara to avoid arrest.'
He claims that a colleague named Nyaronya was shot in the belly at close range after he surrendered. Others like Nyaronya were frog-matched into the bush and shot systemically, he said.
'Ten hunters fled. The rest were arrested. We were lined up in a single file. With one bullet through the head, the warden killed all except me,' another survivor Juma Mniko Sagire narrates sadly.
Sagire and his colleagues met their sad fate when they went hunting for bushmeat following an acute food shortage that had hit the region.
But the wardens, while acting on an obnoxious order of a former natural resources and tourism minister Juma Ngasongwa, shot them at sight.
The Legal Human Rights Centre is pressing the government to withdraw the obnoxious order, which also provides immunity to wardens who kill their suspects