The leader of the doctors’ association, Dr Stephen Ulimboka was yesterday found badly injured at Pande Forest in Dar es Salaam after being attacked by unidentified people.
His condition was described as critical as he was rushed to Muhimbili Orphathedic Institute (MOI) for treatment, where a team of ten specialist doctors were attending him.
Hundreds of people, including doctors, nurses, medical attendants, patients and their relatives, flocked to MOI, adjacent to the Muhimbili National Hospital, shedding tears as Ulimboka was wheeled in for treatment.
Reports from the scene, which the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander, Sulemani Kova confirmed, said Dr Ulimboka was found seriously wounded in the forest at around 2.00 am.
He sustained serious wounds apparently from the heavy beatings he received from the armed attackers, who took him from the Leaders Club around 11.00 pm on Tuesday to Pande forest, according to Kova.
Kova said five attackers dragged the doctors’ leader into their black vehicle, a “Suzuki Escudo” which had no registration number and drove away to the forest.
While on the way, the attackers started beating him and threatening that they were going to kill him.
“After arriving at Pande forest, they continued to beat him, causing serious wounds to his body before abandoned him there. In the morning (Wednesday), a good Sumaritan found him lying in the forest…his legs and hands were tied,” said Kova.
The good Summaritan, who was driving, took him to the Bunju Police Post where he (Ulimboka) was interrogated and told the police what had happened.
Kova said the force has formed a probe team to investigate the attack.
He said the team is led by the Head of Dar es Salaam Special Criminal Police Zone, ASP Msangi and involved professionals of various disciplines.
Narrating the incident, executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Dr Hellen Kijo-Bisimba, who led a group of activists to pick Ulimboka from Bunju police post said: “I got a phone call from the police post asking me to go and take him (Ulimboka) to hospital.”
“Njoo mchukue mtu wenu kabla hajafa hapa (come and take your people/Ulimboka before he dies here),” a police officer was quoted as saying when he called Bisimba to pick up Ulimboka from the Bunju police station.
She said after the call, she quickly organised fellow activists and went to the police station, where they took away the doctor using a private car, as their efforts to get an ambulance failed.
“When we arrived at the police post, we found him half-naked, with only pants on which covered his secret parts …blood was flowing all over his body. He could not speak or move…he was completely unable to do anything. It seems that he was heavily beaten,” Kijo-Bisimba told reporters at Bunju police post.
“From there, we drove him in our vehicle up to MOI so that he could get the necessary medical attention. We faced difficulties to get Ulimboka to the hospital, as some vehicles deliberately blocked our car,” she said.
At the hospital, an angry mob, including relatives of patients and other people, attacked a detective, who was said to be communicating with intelligence networks over the incident — which were trying to confirm if Ulimboka was alive or dead.
Activists condemned the attack against outspoken doctors’ leader, calling on the government to conduct extensive investigation order to identify culprits behind the crime and bring them to book.
In their statement yesterday, LHRC jointly with The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRD- Coalition)) condemned the attack as barbaric and savage.
“We would like to inform the general public that, unknown group of individuals on the said date and time, at Leader’s Club Area, in Kinondoni District, in Dar es Salaam City, arrested the said Dr. Ulimboka.
They forced him into a car [one black saloon car] - which did not have plate numbers; they took him away by force and held him; they covered his face with a piece of black cloth and tied him with ropes, while beating him severely using different objects such as gun-butts [butt-stocks], and other sharp-edged weapons.”
As a result of those savage beatings, he sustained several visible injuries in different parts of his body from head to feet. In short he was kidnapped and brutally tortured,” said the groups in their joint statement to the media,” they said.
The statement which was signed by Kilo-Bisimba and THRD-Coalition
Onesmo Olengurumwa called upon the government to provide all medical services as the case may be, so as to salvage the life of Dr Ulimboka and to objectively and thoroughly investigate the whole incidence. The groups also called on the government to apprehend all perpetrators and their agents and publicly notify the nation about them and the reasons for inflicting such terrible injuries to the said Dr Ulimboka and prosecute all perpetrators and to ensure that the perpetrators are adequately penalized upon conviction.
The two leaders jointly told the police to abstain from taking sides in the existing labour dispute between the doctors and the government and respect rule of law, human rights, presumption of innocence and professionalism in all of their undertakings.
They told human rights defenders to form and consolidate our Solidarity at all levels and condemn the attack and the like and urged the medical professionals that considering the presence of a provocative environment that invites negative reaction, we still call upon all medical professionals to refrain from active confrontation at this moment and proceed to pursue their rights within the ambit of the law.
They urged the general public tosupport all initiatives that are meant to pursue ends of justice in relation to this incident , to demand accountability and improvement of social services in particular – health services in Tanzania and to condemn such incidences of abuse of human rights.
Meanwhile Home Affairs Minister Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi has refuted claims that the government is involved in kidnapping and torture of Dr Steven Ulimboka.
Nchimbi said that the government has been working to ensure
that it responds to the doctors’ demands and that it cannot again start hijacking individual doctors.
“The government has been shocked with the news. We condemn
it and we will make sure that all the culprits are arrested to allow the law to take its course,” Nchimbi said.
He said all the efforts which the government has been
taking was to ensure that its people don’t die due to the strike and it can not be involved in the incident in any way.
Nchimbi however said that the police officer who was attacked at Muhimbil Hospital was sent by the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police
Commander Suleiman Kova to know the situation of Dr. Ulimboka but the doctors associated him with the kidnap of their colleague.
He named the police as Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation District (OC CID) ASP Mokili of Selander Bridge police station in Ilala district.