Njombe/Dar. Three of the ten children -- who are reported to have been brutally killed in suspected ritual killings in Njombe Region -- belong to a single family.
Regional authorities have confirmed that at least ten children have been killed in Njombe in a period of one month and that the killers were also chopping off the children's reproductive and respiratory organs in the killings that are linked to superstitious beliefs.
It has since been established that three of the killed children belong to the same family.
The children: Godliva Mwenda (11), Gasper Nziku (8) na Giliad Nziku (5) were reportedly kidnapped by unknown persons while playing outside their parents’ house on January 20, 2019 before they were found dead, with missing body parts recently.
Godliva, Gasper and Giliad -- all children of Mr Danford Nziku -- were schooling at Ikando Primary School in standards four, one and kindergarten respectively.
Speaking during the burial ceremony of the three children on Monday, January 28, 2019, the family spokesperson, Mr Charles Mlonganile, said the kids were kidnapped from their parents’ home while they were playing in the evening on Sunday, January 20, 2019.
“A total of five children were playing there on that day but only three were picked. When the remaining two were asked about the whereabouts of their colleagues, they responded that they had been taken by a person identified by the name of Joel Nziku,” he said.
The acting Regional Police Commander for Njombe, Mr Rashid Ngonyani said at the burial ceremony that they were holding Joel Nziku – who is a relative of the killed children’s father and a resident of Makambako town – for questioning in connection with the brutal killings.
He said police started looking for the slain children as soon as they received reports of their missing.
“We started searching for them from various corners and relatives’ homes until we got information that some children have been found dead. We collected the bodies and when the relatives came here, they identified the bodies to be for theirs missing children,” he said.
Hunt the killers, punish then
Speaking during the burial ceremony of the departed children, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Hamad Masauni swore that the government will hunt all the killers and bring them to book.
“I feel sorry for these killings. I assure you, and all Tanzanians, that these killings will not go unnoticed. We will ensure that those to be proved guilty of these killings are brought to book and punished in a manner that sends a stern warning to their entire network,” he said.
Saddened by the killings, the chairman for defence and security in Njombe, who doubles as the Njombe Regional Commissioner, Mr Christopher Ole Sendeka, ordered at the weekend that all witchdoctors -- who are linked to the brutal deaths of innocent children -- be arrested.
The deputy minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Faustine Ndugulile, said he was saddened by the killings and that while those dealing with defence and security were working on it from the criminal point of view, his ministry was working on the same issue from the development of children and traditional medicine angle.
"With the help of the Regional Commissioner's Office, we have invited all traditional healers to a meeting. Those that we have been able to meet with say they have nothing to do with killings. There could be some people from outside the region who are doing this. We have to find a way to end this problem," he said.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Kangi Lugola, said he was aware of two incidents and that police were handling the issue.
The parents have called for the government's intervention to ensure that children are safe.
According to Atupele Sanga, a resident of Chaugingi Village in Njombe, since the schools were opened three weeks ago, each parent has been escorting his/ her child to and from school as part of the ways of protecting them.
"We have less hours of work nowadays because of escorting our children to school in the morning and picking them back home in the afternoon. The situation is worse because we even fear leaving our children at home for the killers are still at large," he said. Another villager, Mr Nicolaus Mhando, said the killings have shocked parents, children and guardians.
He said three kids were recently abducted from the hands of their parents and one of them was later found dead with his body parts removed while others were still missing.
"Children are no longer sure of their safety. We have heard that some suspects have been arrested, but I think the problem is still big," he said.
One of the teachers at one of the school in Njombe town who did not want to be mentioned, said this is major challenge as parents have remained in a crossroad.
Njombe District Commissioner Ruth Msafiri said a total of 10 children dead bodies have been discovered in different parts of the town, some being slaughtered and their body parts removed.
She said six children, who were killed, four are from Njombe town council and the rest were reported in different districts.
She said one of the children had his throat chopped off and another body was recovered from river Hagafilo in Njombe.
The district commissioner has, however, called for religious leaders, local government authorities, the community and councillors to ensure that they stem the tide of killings.