On Tuesday night a gang of unknown armed thugs arrested and kidnapped Dr Steven Ulimboka, chairperson of the Doctors’ Association and leader of the striking doctors, at Leaders’ Club in Dar es Salaam.
After the brutal arrest, the hoodlums forcibly bundled Dr Ulimboka in a black saloon car which had no registration number and drove him away to an unknown location where he was brutally beaten, tortured and finally dumped in Mabwepande forest, on the outskirts of the city.
The gang of thugs covered Dr Ulimboka’s face with a hood before they embarked on a savage beating and torture of the hapless medic, before leaving him, possibly for dead, in the forest.
According to reports, apart from his face being hooded and his hands and legs tied with ropes, Dr Ulimboka was subjected to indignities, including uprooting two of his teeth and nails, so that when he was finally spotted in the wee hours of Wednesday he was hardly recognisable. The thugs had worked on him so thoroughly that his face was almost reduced to pulp. To put it mildly, during the long hours he was in the savages’ company he was brutally tortured.
Though the state has denied involvement in this brutal, inhuman and shocking incident, most people, including human rights activists and medical doctors strongly believe that the attackers were security agents acting on a well coordinated and planned move aimed at sending a warning to the striking doctors.
Those pointing an accusing finger at the state base it on circumstantial evidence surrounding the incident. It is only logical that the state would strongly deny any involvement because nobody would expect it to own up that it sanctioned the brutal operation.
Which therefore calls for an urgent need to form an independent team to thoroughly investigate the horrible incident in order to get to the bottom of the truth. We call for formation of independent probe team because the state can’t possibly be expected to investigate this incident effectively and without any cloud of bias, considering that it is the prime suspect.
This incident has not only shocked the public but also tarnished the image of the government and the entire country, taking us back to the dark days when covert operations against the citizens were the norm, even if the state had only an iota of suspicion that you were a threat to ‘national security’.
Apart from being accused of having masterminded the operation, the state is an interested party because it is currently at loggerheads with the striking doctors and therefore it shouldn’t investigate the incident.
A probe team involving selected members of Parliament, human rights activists and religious leaders should be formed immediately to investigate the incident so that, at the end, the truth is laid bare and the culprits don’t escape the long hand of the law.
Arresting, abducting, attacking and torturing a Tanzanian national within Tanzanian territory is both inhuman and unlawful, particularly in a country that claims to follow the rule of law. The fact that Dr Ulimboka is the ringleader of the doctors’ strike doesn’t warrant at all this brutal incident.
What is even more worrying is that if the state didn’t in fact sanction the operation, it goes to show how Tanzania has slipped into criminality if a gang of criminals can conduct such a well coordinated attack in the heart of the city using highly sophisticated techniques such as those we normally see in Hollywood movies.
We can’t solve our problems by applying mafia-like tactics. Gone are the days when the barrel of the gun, detention without trial and unwarranted torture were employed in solving various problems in most African countries.
Surely nobody in government believes that they can force the doctors to resume work by the barrel of the gun or by acts of thuggery such as those Dr Ulimboka was unfortunate enough to suffer. But, with hindsight, it would seem that there may be many insane people who think that by applying mafia-like tactics the doctors would end the strike for fear of their lives.
The doctors’ resolve to stick to their guns in the wake of the Dr Ulimboka incident goes to show that the lunatics in our midst couldn’t have been farther from the truth.