Tackle political thuggery lest it gets out of control

Thursday October 15 2020

There are two video clips that went viral recently on social media. They were recorded in Geita and Kilimanjaro regions. The first clip shows property and belongings of an opposition politician after they were destroyed during a night attack. The politician is vying for a parliamentary seat in Geita Region.

The second shows two people said to be supporters of the opposition NCCR-Mageuzi, who were reportedly brutally attacked, with one allegedly having part of an ear cut off, while the other had her fingers broken. Police reports said both incidents were being investigated, and the perpetrators would be brought to justice sooner rather than later.

This is an election year, and Tanzanians will go to the polls on October 28. We are in the election campaign period when political parties and their candidates try to sell their policies to the electorate. It is also a time communities experience emotional highs and lows.

That is why politicians must avoid making inflammatory statements or engage in hate speech, which could be interpreted by some of their followers as orders to attack supporters of other parties.

As police continue to investigate the Geita and Kilimanjaro incidents, Tanzanians need to be aware of their key role in sustaining peace, justice and unity in the country.

Any act of violence undermines fundamental human rights. The Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania states that every Tanzanian is entitled to fully enjoy basic human rights, including the right to live, right to personal opinion and expression, right to associate with others, and right to food and shelter.

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In his December 2017 speech, UN secretary-general Antonio Gutteres argued that genocide does not happen by accident. He added that genocide has inflicted profound and painful losses on humanity.

Threats to existence

UN member states have come to recognise a common interest and duty to safeguard groups from threats to their existence. And, according to Mr Gutteres, genocide is always deliberate, organised, with warning signs and precursor.

In other words, what may be considered as small acts of violence may lead to something much more serious. Often there are active and passive participants. Active participation, mainly by leaders, involves exploitation of certain conditions as they eliminate their opponents.

Passive participation involves indifference or collaboration of people in acts of violence. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” Hence, individual perpetrators must be held accountable for fuelling acts that may lead to threats of the existence of fellow people.

That is precisely why the media and the populace in general should stop embracing propaganda intended to incite sections of society. Tanzania is still regarded as a beacon of peace and hope across Africa.

However, it is crucial not to look the other way as certain groups in society commit blatant acts of violence.

That is why every peace loving person must strongly condemn acts of violence such as those that happened in Geita and Kilimanjaro. We should all raise our voices and firmly say ‘No!’ to violence, ‘No!’ to hatred and ‘No!’ to all kinds of discrimination.