MUTARE – Zimbabwean police have arrested a Kenyan environmental activist accusing him of making undesirable political statements during a workshop organized by the Zimbabwe Environmental Association (ZELA).
The Kenyan, identified by other participants at the three-day workshop as Patrick Ochieng, was being held at the Mutare Central Police Station last night (as at 6pm). The participants say he is from an organization called Ujamaa Centre based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Although details were sketchy at the time of writing human rights lawyers attending to his case Trust Maanda and Blessing Nyamaropa confirmed the arrest.
They said police have not yet preferred any criminal charges against him as yet but had indicated he has a case to answer.
“Police are holding him for an alleged statement which they say he said during a workshop organized by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association,” Nyamaropa said. “We do not know as yet the statements he is alleged to have said.”
The workshop is being attended by legislators and environmental conversation from across the country.
Some of the participants are drawn from African countries. The workshop started on Monday and was expected to end on Thursday.
Sources at the workshop said Ochieng made a contribution during discussions on how countries should exploit mineral resources without doing harm to the environment.
He is said to have castigated unorthodox ways being used to exploit diamond resources in Chiadzwa by the Zimbabwean government.
Zimbabwe has come under international condemnation over the exploitation of diamonds from Chiadzwa, west of Mutare. Although much of the condemnation has been the violation of human rights by security forces and soldiers manning the diamond fields the government has also been widely criticized for primitive mining methods being used by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).