He came walking as if he was about to propose for a hand in marriage, as he moved so close to a lady ahead of him. The lady, majestically swayed as she attempted to negotiate through a crowd of people around one of the most popular streets in Dar es Salaam.
Unaware of someone trailing behind her, she stood at a nearby shop and within a blink of an eye, a man who had been behind her snatched her bag as fast as he could and sped past people.
“Thief,” she called, all of the sudden an angry mob came from all the near-by streets and pounced on him. A few minutes later, the man was down on the ground covered with stones and sticks and his eyes signaled the end of his life.
The lady picked her handbag and left while feeling guilty especially when she recalled that the most valuable items that her handbag had only 2,000/- and nothing more.
Sadly, somewhere else in this country of ours, some one was losing her life simply because she had red eyes. A neighbor had passed away and that is when rumors went around that an old lady in Bariadi was behind her death. Reasons given were that her eyes were red, suggesting that she spent her nights away bewitching others. They came at night and burnt her house reducing not only her life to ashes but all her belongings.
The two incidents above are a few of the examples depicting mob violence, any arbitrary action by a group of people against those suspected to offend the community in any way.
International human rights standards and domestic laws may prohibit the destructive practice of mob violence, yet the trend takes pace as days go by.
The 2010 Tanzania Human Rights Report by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) indicates that mob violence is still very rampant in the country, especially in major cities, Lake Zones and Southern regions. For instance statistics from the report indicate that at least 139 people died after they were killed by an angry mob in 2009 while as 64 people died in year 2010 respectively.
The number might seem to have gone down but it is still very high taking into consideration that it is human lives that we are talking about.
Worse still at least 50 people were killed due to witchcraft beliefs for the year 2010 alone, a number depicting the little regard that Tanzanians have for the right to life.
In actual fact, there is little regard for this important right so little that it has led to increased incidents of unlawful fights between the police and civilians, something which was in the old days impossible.
Critics attribute the art of taking law in own hands to loss of faith for the law enforcers and little awareness on legal issues. While others on the other hand, accuse the judiciary and the police for being too corrupt to exercise impartiality.
Perhaps we ought to analyze a few things among which is the harsh working environment for our police officers before we point fingers at anyone.
This reporter has managed to talk to several police officers at lower and higher level most of whom admit that the working conditions are so unfriendly that it has made our brothers and sisters termed as ‘civilians in uniforms’ by DCI Manumba, survive by the grace of God.
For instance, most of the police stations still operate under the handwriting modality, where a police officer is forced to write from early morning all the way to the evening.
Worse still, most of the police officers are forced to rent far away from the working places making it harder for them to ply to and from especially taking into consideration that they at times come late with no transport. Mind you, those lucky enough may be given an honor to sleep in full suits houses covered with corrugated iron sheets, and imagine what happens with the heat in Dar es Salaam.
How about the privacy? Any chance of dad and mom exercising their conjugal rights? That is also questionable. The few luck areas also like the famous Oyster bay Police Station, has small quarters, so small that they could only accommodate bachelors and spinster despite their being as old as one can imagine.
Patience Mlowe a researcher with the LHRC’s Human Rights Monitoring Unit and one of the writers of the Tanzania Human Rights Report admits that he has been around places where police officers are forced to share a pair of boots as there are none and not to mention of failing to have fuel for the police van.
So many noises have and are being made in regard to police brutality and the way they solicit a little something from people.
What we all forget however is a hungry man is an angry one. Psychologists suggest that there is a very great correlation between one’s home environment and his performance, and a man whose family is in hardships will be known from the way he behaves at work.
To cut a long story short, the government ought to improve the working conditions of police officers and the judiciary if we are to improve the dispensations of justice and regain the lost faith that people had with these two pillars of the state.
A good package, good housing, insurance coverage for its officers and good working tools are the only way towards better performance by our police officers. This will not only enhance performance by the police but also enable them to shun away from the corrupt practicea.
No one knows what would happen if they had an ailing child whose failure to get medications meant dying and if it so happened that someone attempted to give them something that could save their kid. Yap, I bet you would say it is no excuse to solicit bribe. I don’t condone it but I am simply leaving you with food for thought.