The riot police were on Saturday called in to contain a fracas, which ensued during the fifth graduation ceremony of Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS).
On that day, MUHAS students, carrying placards with different messages, were pressing MUHAS Council chairman Deogratius Ntukamazina to reinstate the students' government (MUHASSO).
They wanted him to announce the re-establishment of MUHASSO and withdraw the case they had filed in a court of law on August 11, this year, in which they claimed the MUHAS Vice-Chancellor had no jurisdiction to abolish the MUHASSO.
While, I commend the students for recognising the role of courts of law in the administration of justice, it was improper for them to disrupt the graduation ceremony, where their colleagues in the presence of their parents, family members and friends and
neighbours were graduating after a long time of study.
If it were their own graduation ceremony would they have liked their colleagues also to behave the way they did? How would they have felt to see their colleagues’ feasting parents, family members and friends and other guests run away for fear of being stoned by protesting students who had decided to riot, while they knew their issue was still pending in a court of law?
What happened at MUHAS was not the first time and created a bad image to our society. Seemingly, a culture of political activism is slowly developing and in my opinion activism is not a solution to social problems.
Let us pray to God so that he may guide us through this year. The habit of demanding rights without fulfilling corresponding duties or respecting other people's rights is slowly growing but it will not help us. We need to maintain peace and security in the country.
This need is not only felt by religious leaders and elders but also other members of the society including politicians although some of them do it hypocritically.
As we end this year 2011 and start the New Year 2012, we have to ask ourselves: who are these people risking our peace and security in the country but are left free? Does the society know them well? What do they want? Who is behind them and what do they want to do?
It is important for members of the public to know that people in the countries, which have experienced political violence due to a misuse of freedom like Egypt and Libya, are now experiencing and regretting the consequences of demonstrations, riots and political violence.
Some people have been funded to plan for demonstrations and give statements that cause chaos. Right now their countries have no peace, their social and economic activities are stalled even the freedom they used to enjoy is no longer there and they are now economically weaker since the social unrest they are experiencing does not allow them to engage in productive work as they used to do.
Some rich countries are eagerly waiting to exploit natural resources and use puppets in poor nations to incite political violence. It all starts with complaints about almost everything followed by staging demonstrations and finally political violence and social unrest – fighting against one another.
Thus, from what we have seen happening in those countries, we have to read the signs of the times so that we too don’t fall into political violence and bloodshed. It is important to know that development comes about step by step and what we need to do is to put in place social arrangements and manage them well.
We need to question ourselves about a culture of demanding for rights by throwing stones, breaking windscreens or windows of houses, steal, beat people and cause nuisances to others! Where is all this coming from? Can we use evil means to fight against evil?
Basically, I am not opposed to marching if some people do it to express their sentiments because it is their constitutional right to do so but holding too many demonstrations, riots and strikes, what do we benefit from them if not wasting time, people being arrested, some of them sustaining injuries and even losing lives or damaging property?
We have to ask ourselves: are we ready to be injured and die by simply engaging in political activism and for whose interests?
The majority of those demonstrating are doing so without actually knowing why they are doing so and how the demonstrations will end. Looking at the year 2011, you will be surprised how we have misused our right to freedom of assembly or association by risking our peace and security.
Isn’t there any way of demanding a right without necessarily holding demonstrations, strikes and riots? What surprises more is that some of the participants in those demonstrations are believers of various belief systems, who go regularly to places of worship to thank God and ask him for protection.
So, why do they ask for God’s help if they prefer chaos? What is the justification or the meaning for them to pray to God to protect them from all evil if they are the ones causing it? How will we be able to live with them if their intention is to cause chaos?
Obviously, our nation has cultivated a strange culture that whoever wants to be noticed in society that he or she exists they have to hold demonstrations and strikes!
In this year, we witnessed debates broadcast live on TV screens in which some participants misused press freedom to incite political violence. This is what has prompted me to write this article to inform my fellow Tanzanians to be aware of what is happening and if possible take action against it.
Nevertheless, the time has come for every person to know that he or she has to be responsible for their thoughts, words and deeds if we really want to maintain peace for present and future generations to inherit it.
Unemployed youths need to be helped to get jobs and earn a living and not wasting time rioting as a means of showing they are jobless because rioting isn’t a solution to unemployment.
The year 2012 is very important for empowering the youth so that they don't be easily manipulated and misled using money, marijuana and liquor to hold demonstrations with intent to cause political violence.
As we come to the end of this year, which has made a record for demonstrations and riots, let us challenge ourselves about inciting others. For some, there is clear evidence. Are the courts also waiting for people to demonstrate before they indict those accused of incitement and unlawful assembly?
Are they waiting to see first people killing each other or being injured before they administer justice?
Looking at what the MUHAS students have done, do we think by throwing stones as they did so that the graduation ceremony doesn't take place simply because they demand for the students' body is it justified?
Are their claims justifying the riots we saw? In my opinion, there is clear evidence of what happened at the graduation ceremony and what is needed is urgent legal action against the culprits. Who will blame the court for indicting them?
People like these ones should be prosecuted because if they are not, they will infect society to cause the breach of the peace.
It is good for such cases to be given priority to deter others with similar mentality and behaviour. They should be dealt with as soon as possible so that the accused are not given a chance to temper with the evidence or appeal for sympathy from members of the public.
The police force needs to collect evidence as soon as possible to prevent the culprits from executing their plans to win the cases. For instance, if a person is seen on a TV screen throwing stones at people in Muhimbili area, then he or she should face legal action. If a person is recorded inciting people at a meeting to breach the peace and defy the state authority, lawful order and applicable laws, he should be equally held accountable!
The outcome of incitement is bloodshed, injury, confinement of suspects and even damage to property. Freedom of opinion and expression and democracy are not built through an irresponsible system!
A system of criticising or airing opinions or alternatives cannot grow where people are allowed to incite others under the pretext of the right to freedom of expression and opinion.
Those who have been entrusted to lead the country have to explain why all this is happening to the extent of causing fear and anxiety among members of the public. Why are the responsible authorities not taking action against those inciting others? Are they waiting until the nation enters into civil strife or political violence?
In the year 2012, we want to see leaders taking action against those accused of incitement so that each member of the society respects others with different political ideologies so that we live peacefully and in respect of one another without fighting or causing the breach of the peace.
This year, we have seen many things failing to take place for fear of rioters. Other political leaders have been saying they find it difficult to sleep because some people will demonstrate unlawfully!
Nevertheless, the end of the year celebrations should be used to bring about reconciliation and heal the wounds we have created and witnessed in society. Every person should play their part to ensure we don't start the New Year badly.
Some people have been incited to invade police stations and take the law into their own hands to judge suspects. Others have been physically incapacitated and they have been made perpetual dependants because they were incited to breach the peace and now they are regretting - their cries are a curse to society.
A lot of property has been damaged and the aggrieved have not been compensated even being told sorry by the inciters. They are internally suffering even if they don't say it. This is disgraceful!