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Tanzanian journalist uncovers truth about mining industry

by Cailey McDermottThe Echo
December 15th, 2008

The thermometer reported 10 degrees when Evans Rubara’s plane landed at Burlington Airport. A temperature dubbed “chilly” by most Vermonters left Tanzanian native Rubara freezing. “I have never been this cold in my life,” he says. Without gloves, boots or a hat, Rubara braced the cold December winds.

Investigating gold

As an investigative journalist in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, Rubara deals mostly with social justices and human rights. He is most passionate about his work with the mining industries in Tanzania. The multinational mining industries use potent cyanide to flush out the gold specks, and even have their own private airstrip to take the gold straight out of the country, he says.

Tanzania is soaked with profitable natural resources: diamonds, gold, rubies, and Tanzanite, which is only found in Tanzania. With all these riches in the soil of their land, why is Tanzania a Third World country?

“It’s not about African pride. It’s about heritage. That’s what we’re fighting for,"
Evans Rubara says.

The answer lies within Western multinational companies like Barrick Gold Mines, Anglogold Ashanti, and a corrupt government, he says.

“Colonial attitude has carried over, like they were the king-makers,” Rubara says.

Corporations have re-instilled rule through colonization, he suggests.

These companies are looting our country and killing our people, Rubara says.

“We do not have a history in Tanzania of fighting with ourselves, but it is coming,” he says. “If we are not careful we will have a civil war.”

There are many gold mining companies in Tanzania, but Rubara only takes issue with the inhumane.
The worst is Canadian-owned company Barrick Gold, Rubara says.

Amnesty International accused Barrick of killing 70 miners by burying them alive. The company has denied the claims, but Rubara isn’t satisfied.

“I say allegedly because of my journalism demands,” he says, “but personally I know it’s true.”

Natural resources are a nation’s pride, and when you take this away you unclothe the nationals of their pride and heritage, Rubara says.

“I get pissed off when I talk about mining issues,” Rubara says. “They [mining companies] rape everybody—economically and culturally speaking; they take our wealth to build their own country.”

A voice for the voiceless

When Rubara was 15 years old he was orphaned, left to care for himself and his two younger brothers. Rubara held several odd jobs so he could send his brothers to school. He taught himself all that he could before getting involved with missionaries who helped send him to school in Kenya. He underwent some journalism training, but got an intensive six-month training on investigative journalism while working for an Tanzanian investigative paper.

“I became a journalist to speak on behalf of the voiceless,” he says.

Rubara says not much has changed in the policies of Tanzania since he began his investigations. He admits, however, a lot of the cases he reported on are either in court or the people at fault have stopped.

The Student Trade Justice Campaign hosted a lunch with Evans Rubara on Tuesday, Dec. 9.
(Photo by Cailey McDermott)

The article that landed Rubara in jail was picked up by the Legal and Human Rights Center; it dealt with the illegal eviction of six villages for a rich Arabian investor looking to start a farm.

Land is the only equity Tanzanians have; when it is taken away there is nothing left to do but to beg, Rubara says.

“It’s not about African pride," Rubara says. "It’s about heritage. That’s what we’re fighting for. Good heritage is when all is equal in the face of the law.”

A few weeks ago an executive of Barrick approached Rubara at a seminar and said, “Evans, I want you to stop talking,” according to Rubara.

Rubara has been thrown into custody, received death threats, and been beaten for his investigative reporting, but still says he will never stop.

“If the liberation of my country will come from my death, I would rather not see results than die begging on my knees,” Rubara says.

Tanzanian land is being raped and plundered, while the majority in Tanzania are unemployed, Rubara says.

Due to extremely high unemployment, prostitution is prevalent for men and women, Rubara says. This creates a dangerous situation for the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS.  In 2005,  Tanzania had the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in East Africa, Rubara says.

“[The unemployed] have nothing else to do, they are hopeless,” Rubara says. “They are waiting for their death.”  

North American tour

While at St. Michael’s College, Rubara hosted several small talks at lunches and gave a presentation at McCarthy Arts Center on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m., where he showed his film of about exploitation by the mining companies.

Senior Brianna Murphy is part of Rubara’s welcoming committee. She dealt with the logistics of his arrival, which weren’t certain until about five weeks ago.

Rubara hopes that someday he can go back to school. "Maybe I can go here," he says.
(Photo by Cailey McDermott)

“It’s weird to hear him say that we are supporting the exploitation [of the mining industry],” Murphy says. “When he said that in class, I looked down at my silver and gold bracelet and wondered where it came from.”

St. Michael’s professor Trish Siplon hopes that  Rubara’s talk on Wednesday will generate interest on campus in starting a campaign against the multinational gold mining industries. Siplon, an active volunteer at the Ilula Orphanage Program in Tanzania, met Rubara. This past summer they began making plans for him to come to Vermont.

“At the very minimum, I’d like to establish permanent contacts for working forward,” Siplon says.

In the spring, Rubara is planning a visit to Barrick headquarters in Canada. Despite the struggles that inevitably lay ahead for Rubara, he is optimistic about the future. But for now he is enjoying Vermont, and the cold as much as possible.

“The people are good,” Rubara says. “The people are really good. It’s cold but it’s warm in the people I meet.”


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