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MPs voice divergent views on Gongo la Mboto bomb blasts

20th February 2011
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Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda

A sombre mood reigned in the debating chamber of the House in the morning of Thursday this week as Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda presented a report on deadly blasts at Gongo la Mboto Military Camp.

Although CCM legislators refrained from giving open criticism against the military administration, probably for fear of reprimand, they said something could be wrong within military ranks.

“The recurrence of the fatal incidents in military stores in Dar es Salaam signifies something is wrong in our army that needs immediate attention,” said a CCM legislator from Iringa region who preferred anonymity.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Security and

Foreign Affairs Edward Lowasa appealed to the public to remain calm while waiting for the findings of a team formed to investigate the incident.

However, Lowassa’s plea raised doubts given that the government is yet to make public a report compiled by a task force to probe the circumstances that caused blasts at the Mbagala Military Store in the city on April 2009, killing 30 people.

Opposition legislators doubted the army personnel’s professionalism. “I think there is something wrong in our military system. They are either incompetent and inadequately trained or are doing this thing deliberately because this is the second incident in less than two years,’ said Ezekia Wenje (Chadema-Nyamagana).

Wenje added: “The Minister for Defense and National Service Dr Hussein Ali

Mwinyi and Chief of Defense Forces General Davis Mwamunyange are accountable and should resign forthwith as we need discipline in the army”.

David Kafulila (NCCR- Mageuzi- Kigoma South) echoed similar sentiments and said that the defense minister is duty bound to follow in his father’s footsteps and resign.

“Former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi resigned as Home Affairs Minister in the First Phase Government after his subordinates made serious mistakes. Dr Mwinyi should also follow in his father’s footsteps in this regard,”he said.

Also Shadow Minister for Defense and National Service Joseph Selasini (Chadema-Rombo) issued a statement in Dodoma this week in which he called for Mwinyi, and Mwamunyange to stand down.

However, according to press reports published on Friday Mwinyi and Mwamunyange refused to heed the call, declaring to cling to their positions.

Meanwhile, Hamadi Rashid Mohammed (CUF- Wawi) questioned the rationale of possessing heavy explosives in this period of peace when Tanzania faces no threat from its neighbors considering the on going integration process.

“In my opinion Tanzania no longer needs heavy bombs…I don’t think there is any country, especially in East Africa, threatening it,” Hamad said.

But another CCM MP, who served as minister in the Third Phase Government told The Guardian on Sunday on condition on anonymity, said: “After Mbagala blasts an investigation was conducted but until today no one knows about the findings, although people lost their loved ones.’’

He said in the past the army requested for funds to destroy ‘expired’ explosives but the government turned it down owing to budget constraints.

Addressing the press yesterday at Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF) Headquarters in Dar es Salaam army, top officials said the Mbagala blasts’ report was information meant only for the military.

On behalf of the opposition camp, Selasini said an independent probe committee or a Parliament- Select committee be formed to investigate the incident as the public no longer has confidence in investigation committees formed by the government.

Selasini speculated, and said excessive heat in the stores or expiry of bombs or a human error could be possible reasons.

However, top military officials played down the heat factor, saying bombs could sustain the temperature between –1 and 50 degree centigrade.

Opposition Chief Whip Tundu Lissu (Chadema-Singida-East), said sabotage may be the reason, as Minister Mwinyi and General Mwamunyange had promised the public after Mbagala blasts that such incidents would not recur.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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