Gun ownership and its challenges in Tanzania

What you need to know:

  • The reasons behind these shootings were rather bizarre with many people questioning the motive behind these crimes and how those involved were even allowed to own fire arms.

Dar es Salaam. Mwanza City woke up to bizarre news of Swalha Salum death on June 1, after she was shot multiple times allegedly by her husband after an altercation in their family.
The husband, Mr Said Oswayo, then fled the family house only to be found dead,  floating on the waters of Lake Victoria. It was later established that  he had shot himself.
The incident was soon followed by another murder after Chinese national Zheng Lingyao (42) killed his compatriot Fu Nannan, and wounding one Chinese woman who was identified as Nie Mnqin.
These two incidents that happened in a quick succession were in July followed by another when retired Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF) soldier Jonas Ziganyige (71)  shot and killed a businessman, Mr Patient Romward (48).
The reasons behind these shootings were rather bizarre with many people questioning the motive behind these crimes and how those involved were even allowed to own fire arms.
Ownership, qualifications, exports and dealers or brokers of firearms and ammunition of firearms in Tanzania are regulated by the law.
In an interview, the Dar es Salaam Special Police Region Commander Jumanne Muliro cites the Firearms and Ammunition  Control Act of 2015 which illustrates gun possession in the country.
“The issue of possession of weapons is clearly described in Tanzania firearms and ammunition Act of 2015 where first of all one must apply to own a weapon and before applying you must assess yourself if you are suitable and you must be of sound mind,  and above 25 years old,” he said.
He added: “One must have a history of good conduct, but also the neighbourhood you live in must declare that you have good behaviour.

Firearm possession procedure
Section 10(1) states that a person shall not possess a firearm unless he has obtained a licence or permit under this Act.
And for companies to own firearms, the article 10(5) states that the application shall be made by its  chief executive officer.
The Act states in section 11 part 1 that a person in question should be not less than 25 years old, has obtained a certificate of competency, and should be a Tanzanian citizen or a holder of Tanzanian residence permit.
“Is a mentally stable and not inclined to violence, is not dependent on any substance which has an intoxicating or narcotic effect, has not been convicted either within or outside the United Republic of Tanzania of any of the offences set out in the second schedule to this Act and has not been declared unfit to possess a firearm due to old age, recklessness or any other disability,” subsections further state.

Dealers and brokers
For one to deal in arms as either a dealer or broker the law requires him/her to adhere to section 32 (1)(2) and (3) which set the standards which also includes the permit from the authority.
“Registrar shall not issue a permit to deal in any firearms, other than non-automatic firearms unless he has consulted and obtained approval from Armament Control Advisory Board,”
Furthermore, the person who wishes to deal in any firearms or ammunition business shall obtain dealer’s permit, where the applicant is a company, be registered pursuant to the Companies Act.
Subsection three stated that any application for a permit to deal in firearm or ammunition business shall made to the registrar in a form prescribed out in regulations.

Importation and export
The Act in Section 45(1) states  that a person shall not import into or export from or carry on transit any firearm or ammunition through the United Republic of Tanzania without permit.
Subsection two spells out the conditions under which someone can import firearms and ammunition. “They are for personal use, he has obtained an end-user certificate from the registrar and should be the licenced dealer under this Act,” For one to import for commercial purposes use, section 45(3) clarifies that they should obtain a separate permit.
“A person importing or exporting firearms or ammunition on transit, through the United Republic of Tanzania whether for trade or personal use, shall obtain a separate permit for each consignment that is imported or exported,” states the article.

Defence expert and retired lecturer at the National Defence College  Jesse Mashimi attributed the spate of killings by using firearms to psychological problems.
“The biggest problem is not the ownership of weapons, maybe it is sociological, psychological and spiritual because if it reaches the point of killing someone, it means that you are not in the right state of mind and you do not fear God anymore,” he said
He adds: “What I believe is that you cannot take a weapon unless you intend to use it and should that person belong to any of the security forces, then it means there are problems with either recruitment or training.

Withdrawal of weapon
In the event of death, the Act in section 55 directs that the weapon to be returned to the registrar.
“Where firearms licence holder dies or ceases while still in possession of a firearms, the firearms in question shall be disposed by the registrar in the manner to be prescribed in the regulation,”
The registrar may also withdraw the possession of the firearm from a person should he or she display characteristics that contravene the firearms Act. “Persons with mental condition, inclination to violence or dependence in any narcotic intoxicating substance and if  proved that a person is dangerous to him/herself or other persons,” subsection 1(b) stated. The registrar may also withdraw the weapon should the owner fail to take the prescribed steps for the safekeeping of the firearms as instructed.
“The person has provided false or misleading information regarding that firearm contrary to this Act,” subsection 1(d) stated.
Mr Mashimi added that authorities should be very careful when granting permits for possession of a firearm because there are weapons for killing animals and those for killing people.
 “What reason did he give for the use of that weapon when he applied?” he queries.

Josephine Tesha is  a psychologist at We Care Counselling Centre in Dar es Salaam cites that  those killings are the aftermath of mental health and not as it is largely believed that many of the victims are jilted lovers.
“A large percent of people who kill others for love issues are those with mental health problems. We are used to saying it is romantic jealousy, but in reality it is a mental problem. Many people do not have the knowledge about love and relationships as they grow up doing inappropriate things to their partners thinking it is love,” she said.
However, Somedics Polyclinic Health Center’s psychologist Saldin Kimangale said that anger, revenge and inappropriate jealousy are the root cause for inappropriate use of firearms.
“Anger, revenge and inappropriate jealousy are the main catalysts towards homicide and suicide among partners. When you suffer insecurities which are the result of poor childhood upbringing and trauma you feel like the world is always against you, and may develop among others Othello Syndrome, a type of paranoid delusion, characterised by the false absolute certainty of the infidelity of a partner,” he said.

Any solutions?
Tanzania Psychologists Association (Tapa) secretary Magolanga Shelembi said it is important for the government and private institutions to employ psychologists in their workplaces to lower such mental health problems. “There is a need for the government and the private sector to hire psychologists, especially in education and health, to treat these mental health problems at the level of workers,” he said.
He added: The ongoing killings are a sign of the increasing psychological problems in the country, so there is a need to invest more in mental health for all people with these problems and even those who do not have.
However, Mr  Shelembi suggested counselling perpetrators of murder and their relatives “There is a need for those who commit murder and their relatives around them to be given psychological support to prevent such incidents from happening in the community.” Psychologist Charles Mhando suggested for the government to work with psychologists to investigate the behaviour of those who want and own firearms.
“The government should prepare time and bring together the owners of firearms and psychologists so that they can re-examine their mental health,” he said.