Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera, yesterday urged the government to assure him of his safety and that of his family following recent moves by the Immigration officers to arrest, detain and interrogate his parents in Kagera region.
In a signed but undated statement, Kabendera, who once worked as the provisional news editor of the Guardian before he resigned, said if what happened to him and his family was a plan to silence him, then those behind the move wouldn’t succeed at all.
“I will continue to tell the truth as part of serving my country even in so doing my life would be in danger,” Kabendera said in his four-page statement circulated to media houses yesterday.
Narrating his ordeal, Kabendera said he had decided to issue a statement after his parents, Norasco Kabendera (78) and his mother Verdiana Mujwahuzi (76) were arrested by immigration officers two weeks ago in Kagera region.
According to his statement, during the interrogation, one of the immigration officers identified only by a single name of Kaaya told Kabendera’s parents that if their son thought he ‘knows too much, he would be in trouble’.
During the interrogation, immigration officers who claimed they were from headquarters in Dar es Salaam wanted to know whether Kabendera was a Tanzanian national or not.
“My mother also informed me that during the interrogation she was told that I was selling government’s secrets to European countries,” Kabendera stated in his statement.
Kabendera further states: “After being interrogated for eight hours in Bukoba town, my parents were told to sign statements, but were not allowed to read the contents.”
Kabendera also stated that between December and January, this year, his home has been invaded three times by unknown thugs who among other things destroyed personal property including his private library.
“It’s two months since I reported the incidences to the Police station and no one has been arrested so far, ” Kabendera charges.
Kabendera stated that a few people had being trying to associate Dr. Reginald Mengi, the Executive Chairman of IPP with what was happening to him and his parents because the harassments occurred after he testified against Mengi in a defamation case he filed in London against a British national called Sarah Hermitage, but this was not true.
" I would like to say that there is no evidence whatsoever showing that Mengi is in anyway involved in these events,” Kabendera further stated.
Some of the local journalists who once faced similar immigration interrogation following their watchdog journalism include the veteran, Khalfan Twaha popularly known as Jenerali Ulimwengu whose citizenship was revoked in 1990s, and Richard Mgamba, the current Managing Editor of the Guardian, Weekend Edition.