Three weeks ago the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Eliezer Feleshi, dropped charges against all four suspects who were arrested in connection with the attempted murder of Adam Tangawizi, a 14-year -old albino whose fingers were chopped off by his attackers on October 14, 2011.
The Guardian on Sunday and Al-Jazeera news channel widely reported the brutal attack against Adam last year. The police in Geita investigated the attack and finally arrested the three suspects, including Adam’s stepmother, father and a witchdoctor from Nyaluguguna village in the district.
Adam’s story shocked many people. At the same time it raised a lot of questions as to what could possibly have motivated a father to auction and participate in the dismembering of organs of his own son: Is it poverty, ignorance or a curse?
Be what it may, finally the three suspects were charged before the Geita district court last October. The police in Geita believed that they had compelling evidence against the suspects.
But after nearly eight months behind bars, the DPP has controversially dropped all the charges against the suspects, citing lack of evidence. What puzzles many is the DPP’s move to free the prime suspects despite compelling evidence gathered by the police, including Adam’s own testimony against his father.
The fact that the boy, who is now 15 years old, categorically testified that his father was among those who attacked him on the evening of October 14, 2011 is credible evidence by any standard except, possibly, our DPP’s.
“I know the truth, but my fear is that they may come after me again to silence me forever,” Adam once said during an interview in Geita when he was hospitalized after narrowly cheating death. His fear is caused, among other things, by the fact that one of his attackers managed to escape and is still at large.
Adam’s stepmother also confessed to the police last year during interrogation. The police recorded all these details as evidence to be presented by the prosecution during the trial but, it would appear, the body of evidence was not good enough for the DPP to nail the suspects.
What further evidence, if one may ask, did the DPP need to proceed with the case? While the DPP has constitutional powers to institute charges and end them as he may deem fit, his decision in this particular case is highly questionable, if not outright wrong.
We fully understand how the police worked hard to gather relevant evidence in this case, but what we can’t comprehend is how the DPP came to the conclusion that the body of evidence was immaterial, irrelevant and incompetent and finally submitted a nolle prosequi to the court!
One of the reasons the albinos’ agony in this country has gone on unabated is the failure by the judiciary to deal squarely with those who mastermind their killing, including, to some extent, the police. But with the DPP joining the fray, as this case clearly shows, impunity against the albino community will certainly be entrenched.
What overriding public interests did the DPP have in mind in dropping the charges against Adam’s suspected assailants? If anything, the DPP’s decision cries out loud for an urgent review of the DPP’s powers.
Luckily for Tanzanians, Judge Joseph Warioba’s team is now traversing the country collecting people’s views on a new constitution. Clearly, the new constitution should clip some of the DPP’s powers and institute checks and balances to ensure his views are within reproach.
In a young democracy like ours it is unwise, indeed dangerous, to grant such extensive powers in the hands of one individual, as the DPP currently has. When a High Court judge is deemed to have erred in a judgment, the aggrieved party can appeal to a higher court, but in the DPP’s case his views are overriding in the name of ‘public interest’.
What if the so-called public interest is in fact personal interest?
We strongly believe that the DPP’s decision in Adam’s case is a cruel stab at efforts to end albino killings in Tanzania. It is both unfair and unjust to all the albinos in this country.#ear, the body of evidence was not good enough for the DPP to nail the suspects.