Kikwete says ‘no ill intent but inept implementation’ to Tokemeza critics


(Posted 08th November 2013)

When addressing parliament earlier this week did Tanzania’s President Kikwete defend his government’s efforts to combat poaching and at last take a stand against the criminal gangs involved in the wholesome slaughter of entire elephant populations. He however conceded that the exercise dubbed ‘Tokomeza’ [a Kiswahili
word best translated as terminate or end’] had shown inherent weaknesses and overstepped its mark and required a fresh look and an assessment of how to better make use of the available resources and redirect the efforts of the forces involved in the counteraction. He also confirmed that in cases where officials acted against the spirit of the operation, a soft reference to cases where officers misused their powers to settle either old scores or else allegedly tried to profit by confiscating livestock from pastoralists instead of going after real poachers, those found guilty would face punishment.

He also confirmed that the long standing partnership with the Frankfurt Zoological Society was used to roll out a wildlife census to establish once and for all how much wildlife the country had and to compare previous census figures with new findings, allowing more informed knowledge about just how many elephant the country had lost to poaching in recent years.

Members of parliament had a few days prior made a range of accusations against the way the operation was handled by senior officers, all but saying that ‘Tokomeza’ had become a free for all to remove pastoralists and their livestock from protected areas in violation of their birth rights and to confiscate herds from them instead of hunting down real poachers. ‘Directing such action against herdsmen in places like Serengeti or Ngorongoro and areas adjoining those parks was plain wrong. The main poaching is going on in the Selous and Ruaha parks and it is there where the forces should be deployed and the efforts concentrated. It is almost like some of those in command were trying to discredit the exercise and that raises questions why they are doing that. Are they protecting the poachers by being at the wrong place and the right time? Anyway, the points were taken and the operation has been halted as parliamentarians demanded until such time that better terms of engagement and deployments have been developed. They rushed into action and that was poorly organized and resulted in bad actions against innocent people’ commented a regular source from Arusha when passing the information about the President addressing parliament over the outcry.

A parliamentary committee report, not disputed by government, speaks of up to 30 elephant a day being slaughtered, which would translate to approximately 10.000+ elephant a year, though conservationists have regularly suggested the real figure could be much higher as a result of poaching taking place in areas hard to access and where the no proper count of dead elephant has taken place. Watch this space to find out when operation ‘Tokomeza’ will resume again.