Hard questions in wake of Rufiji leaders killings

What you need to know:

Since the nation started witnessing the murders two years ago, neither the police nor regional administrator have been able to tell the reasons for the killings and who the perpetrators are.

Dar es Salaam/Rufuji. Uncertainty over the motive and individuals behind a spate of cold-blooded killings of local government leaders in parts of the Coast Region has left residents with many unanswered and fear over who the next target could be.

Since the nation started witnessing the murders two years ago, neither the police nor regional administrator have been able to tell the reasons for the killings and who the perpetrators are.

And lack of any sign that the police and other security organs are succeeding in stopping the crime that has seen 11 local government leaders murdered in recent months has made the situation even worse as some leaders are abandoning office.

The most recent killing, that of Emmanuel Ndinhu, by unknown gunmen has raised concern not only from residents, but also from the ruling CCM who now want authorities give a reasurance that they would remain safe. All of the 11 victims of the murders are local government leaders elected on the CCM ticket.

Although the killers have in several crime scenes uttered verbal warning or written notes pointing out why they will continue killing leaders, a word from authorities regarding who is behind the killings and why they are taking place is what residents of affected localities want to hear.

After executing the Monday night killing, the assailants left a written warning which reads:

“Fellow citizen, we announce to you that we are doing this because of injustices committed by the Police Force in collaboration with local government leaders against wananchi.

“We are not ready to tolerate these evils. We shall make sure that everyone who is involved is treated equally. We thank all the citizen for their good cooperation. A peaceful Tanzania is what we dream of.”

Are the killings caused by a scrambe for resources? Or retaliation over alleged injustices by the leaders or are they acts or terrorism? These are some of the questions that beg for answers from authorities.

Yesterday, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ernest Mangu declined to comment on the situation and directed The Citizen to contact Coast Regional Police Commander (RPC) Bonaventure Mushongi.

But in what appears to be the difficulty authorities are having in putting their finger on the motive of the killings and who the perpetrators are, Mr Mushongi, curtly told The Citizen when reached on phone: “Leave me alone with regard to that question.”

The IGP and Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba have visited the area and assured wananchi that they would end the killings. They had even banned the use of motorcycles, mostly used by the killers, as a way of restoring safety.

Again yesterday, Coast RC Evarist Ndikilo re-introduced the ban on motorcycles, which after all, never helped to eradicate crime in the past.

The ruling CCM expressed concern over the killings and expressed disappointment on the performance of the police, the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS) and other security organ with regard to the killings.

The CCM assistant secretary (operations and administration) for Coast Region Mary Nchimbi demanded that the security organs come clean and tell the people why perpetrators of the crimes haven’t been arrested.

She said at the Regional Consultative Council (RCC) meeting: “I would like to ask one question: what is really going on in Rufiji? These killings are escalating and unfortunately, CCM leaders are the target. Where is the Police Force? Where are the national security guys and other security organs? Is it true that the police are present in these areas?”

Responding to Ms Nchimbi’s concern, Mr Ndikilo said the continuation of the killings didn’t mean the police were not doing their job. “There is no other time that the police have worked this hard,” said the RC. He said they were holding several suspects who sponsor the youth who have been carrying out the killings and that they now know the perpetrators of similar killings in Mkuranga, Kibiti and Rufiji.

Yesterday, residents of Rufiji expressed their sadness over the killings. A resident of Ikwiriri, Mr Ally Mohamed, described the killings as acts of vengeance.

He said the messages that the ciminals left behind after the killing of CCM chairman for Mparange Branch Emmanuel Alberto was a clear proof of that. The criminals said they will continue killing local leaders for colluding with the police.”

A civic leader in Rufiji linked the killings with radical religious beliefs that are in conflict with government policies.