Tanzanian Bush Justice

Tanzanian Bush Justice

Above Photo: Sungu Sungu near Kahama, Tanzania

The below article was written on my final, stressful visit to Tanzania, which was supposed to last three days but which turned into three weeks, as I tried to firefight on local problems impeding a flotation we were planning in London. I will be writing a frank account of our Tanzanian diamond mining (mis)adventure in the coming months.

I am visiting my brother John, who manages our Nyangwale diamond mine in the Tanzanian bush, near the town of Kahama. The scenery here is stunning, most of the locals are friendly and generous to a fault, and they work hard in the fields and small retail businesses in nearby villages.

However, in these deeply rural places, life – and justice – can be very rough, and the stories my brother tells me over a meal or a beer are enough to make me sometimes worry for his own safety.

For instance, last night, he casually told me about three recent local events.

The Geita Road, which also leads to our Nyangwale mine - this si where the roadblock was erected and the robbers killed

The Geita Road, which also leads to our Nyangwale mine – this is where the roadblock was erected and the robbers killed

First, a few nights ago some heavily armed robbers set up a roadblock near our mine, to stop cars and to then rob the occupants. The police turned up and immediately shot dead four of them, the other three escaping. This was the second recent multiple roadblock-robber killing, and these effective police actions are highly popular with the locals, who are sick and tired of these gangs, many of whom drift over the border from Burundi and Rwanda into Tanzania, and who never hesitate to use deadly force themselves.

More peaceful Geita road users.

More peaceful Geita road users.

Second, in the nearby town of Kahama (where my brother lives), last week, a burglar was caught and beaten to a pulp by an angry mob.

The burglar was dragged to a local infirmary, where one of our mine workers saw him lying bloodied on the floor. The doctors and nurses refused to treat him, leaving him groaning in agony on the floor for a long while, until, near death, their Hippocratic Oath kicked in and they tended to him.

And finally, a mobile phone thief was chased by an angry mob through the same town. He was caught, held down, and in public view, his right hand was severed, and he was left there to bleed until the police arrived and took him to hospital, where no doubt, he received the same treatment as the burglar.

They were just a few of his after dinner stories from this part of the world.

Sungu Sungu on their way to discuss the ethics of bicycle theft.

Sungu Sungu on their way to discuss the ethics of bicycle theft.

And finally, one friend, who lives locally, recently drove down a track where he encountered the sight of a bunch of village headmen, called Sungu Sungu, dressed in crazy masks (pictured), on their way (a local said) to mete out some rough bush justice – or perhaps some compassionate words of understanding – to a bicycle thief.

Note to self – don’t get on the wrong side of the Sungu Sungu during my stay.

Approximate location of the Nyangwale diamond mine and the town of Kahama

See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.

And for POWs left behind in Laos:

© Peter Alan Lloyd

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