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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Songea killings: Tanzanians should respect rule of law

1st March 2012
Members of the Field Force Unit arrest young boys alleged to be among the illegal protesters who went on rampage in Songea town.

One of the Songea residents, who seemed tired of mysterious killings perpetuated by superstitious beliefs gasped: “I am stunned whenever I see, hear or come across civilians, who have been beaten up to death the way wildebeests are preyed on by carnivores during the dry season.”

It is now common that some civilians are mysteriously killed and have their private parts removed. It is alleged that, the mysterious killings started towards the end of last year and to date about nine people have been killed in Songea, Ruvuma Region, leaving their families in the shock of bereavement.

That is why on February 22, this year, villagers, who found the body of a person believed to have been killed mysteriously, said “it is enough” and decided to march to the Ruvuma Regional Commission’s Office to express their grievances. Demonstrators had no leader and the police were not informed.

While marching and chanting they claimed they should be listened to. In such a circumstance, what would be the outcome?

Although I commend them for exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expressing their grievances to the responsible authorities, it is clear that they are ignorant of legal procedures concerning “a freedom to freely and peaceably assemble, associate and cooperate with other persons and for that purpose express views publicly…” as provided for in Article 20(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 (as amended from time to time).

I have said this because from what I have gathered on this issue, the demonstrators did not notify the police and were not allowed to stage any demonstration leave alone to have security provided for them. It is not right to demonstrate in such a circumstance because there are always people with hidden motives in a crowd. 

I am not talking about the police denying people the freedom to assemble, which is their constitutional right but rather the police should be notified in good time so that they provide security to civilians and their property during the demonstration.

This is because wherever many people are gathered anything could happen. At this point in time, looking at the Songea demonstration issue, I believe civilians need security because in circumstances of superstitious beliefs, people could start accusing one another and disrupting peace and causing unexpected bloodshed. That is why we should avoid taking sides but look at the Songea issue objectively.

We have to bear in mind that laws are meant to protect every person to realise their rights and corresponding duties.

In this regard, the demonstrators in Songea did not fulfil their duty of giving a notice to the police so that they provide security for them during the demonstration because anything could have happened to demonstrators and non-demonstrators alike.

If anything bad had happened because there was no security, I am sure everybody would have blamed the police for negligence and it would have been difficult for them to provide a plausible explanation. Who knows what could have happened?

I am sure, if they were left to continue something worse could have happened than those killed in the demonstration and 41 others injured, while about 50 of the demonstrators arrested.

If this is the case, why the police should not intervene and disperse the demonstrators? Why are the police blamed for fulfilling their duty? Is there any hidden agenda in doing this? Why do we tend to demoralise the police instead of giving them moral support? Why are Tanzanians becoming anti-police?

The laws and regulations guiding police duties allow them to use firearms in certain circumstances for self-defence and for protecting other people and their property. That is why I prefer directing our energy towards educating members of the public so that everyone knows their rights and duties to prevent excessive force used against them by respecting applicable laws.

If we want our country to continue being the haven of peace and security, we have to be in the frontline to help one another to express our grievances through right channels that do not cause us violate the law and disrupt peace and security in society. For me, to continue blaming the police who fulfilled their duty instead of the people so that no excessive force is used is wastage of time.

Sometimes the police are blamed for nothing. It is like some passengers, who tend to blame a commuter bus conductor even if they are wrong, themselves. Thus, we must respect our security forces and not interfere in their profession and duties.

In my opinion, the police do not start beating people, they first give warnings several times. Civilians should recognise the importance of creating a friendly relationship with our security forces - that is, the civilians and the police, for instance, should not see each other as enemies but stakeholders of our peace and security.

Let us recognise that Tanzania is our country and so we must cooperate to build it in terms of peace, security and development.

There is an inextricable relationship between the police and civilians like that of a chicken and an egg for without a chicken there is no egg and without an egg there is no chicken.

So, without the right information from civilians, the police cannot do their work properly. First, it is because the police are very few and, second, they are not angels to know everything and every person, who is good or bad. On the other hand, without the police doing their job properly, civilians will not be able to report to the police criminal incidents and arrest suspected criminals.

For a country like Tanzania, every citizen has the duty to protect national security. This duty must start with a person himself from where they live to detect and identify the causes of crime and criminal suspects and report them to the police for legal action.

This is the responsibility of every person. So, let us develop a culture for every citizen to look for the right information on crime including the killings of civilians in Songea before instead of waiting for commission of crime.

Leaders, politicians and activists must avoid using criminal incidents and killings to gain popularity. Let professional things be left to professionals and their executives so that they put in place workable policies.

It is a matter of arrogance to give simple answers to complex issues. To say what one doesn’t know is doing injustice not only to one but also to all people, who will be misinformed. This is a culture of “one man show” style.

That is why I am saying if we blame the police we must also ask ourselves if we have done our duty!

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