Dar/Iringa/Mtwara/Moshi/Morogoro. The Police Force has said the ongoing countrywide parades and street patrols conducted by its units are just routine and shouldn’t distract the people from their activities.
“The Police wishes to make it clear that the exercises aren’t being conducted with any bad intention and people should disregard them and continue with their activities,” reads in part a brief statement issued by police spokesperson Advera John-Bulimba yesterday.
The police statement comes in the wake of mounting concern in various towns and on social media with regard to what is seen as “preparations for war” by the police preparing to counter the countrywide demonstrations and rallies announced by the main opposition party, Chadema.
A survey conducted by The Citizen countrywide yesterday also found out that people have been gripped by anxiety over what they consider preparation for open confrontation between supporters of Chadema and the police come September 1.
In Kilimanjaro’s Moshi Municipality, sounds of exploding tear gas canisters and what was believed to be hand grenades during police exercises conducted officers were heard yesterday. This created apprehension among Moshi residents. There was a large number of police vehicles patrolling different parts of the municipality.
The patrols were carried out by police forces’ regular units, the Field Force Units, the traffic police and plain clothes units. They all were armed.
In Mtwara the Regional Police Commander ASP Thobias Sedoyeka led parades through various streets of the town yesterday. ACP Sedoyeka told reporters at the end of the parades at the Mashujaa grounds here that the exercises were a routine, aimed at keeping the policemen and women fit.
“As you can see, we are in routine exercises. We are also road testing the police gear that we have been given by the government in crime prevention. People should not fear,” said Mr Sedoyeka
In Iringa Region the police were seen doing parades around the Iringa municipality. The parades involved security exercises in which tear gas canisters were fired. The exercises which started at 10am lasted about one and a half hours.
Iringa Regional Police Commander Julius Mjengi stuck to the Police Force’s talking point, insisting that the exercises were routine.
“People shouldn’t panic,” he said, adding, “these exercises are routine; we usually conduct them at the Kihesa Field Force Unit grounds but this time we have decided to shift the venue to Mwembetogwa grounds.”
An Iringa resident who is also the chairperson of Chadema’s Youth wing Leonce Marto said the police exercises are meant to scare the people from participating from the September 1 demonstrations.
“The government knows that Chadema is preparing for the countrywide demonstrations on September 1 and so they are trying to scare away our supporters from joining us that day,” he said. Mr Mjengi reiterated, however, that the parades have nothing to do with the Chadema planned demos. He defended the use of gas canisters in the exercises, stressing that they were part of the police kits which needs testing for effectiveness now and then.
At least seven police vehicles passed along Iringa streets at full speed with the police firing tear gas canisters in the air. The vehicles then headed to the Mwembetogwa grounds where the police conducted exercises for one and a half hours. Mwembetogwa grounds is one of Iringa’s high density neighbourhood.
DAR ES SALAAM
In Tanzania’s country’s commercial capital, no police parades were seen, but Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander Simon Sirro has warned against conducting unlawful demonstrations on September 1 saying the Police Force in the zone was ready to counter them. “We insist on people obeying the law without coercion. wananchi want to conduct their businesses in peace; they don’t need disruptions that come with unlawful protests,” he said.
Meanwhile police in Morogoro and Dar es Salaam are holding two people for stocking and selling printed T-shirts that bore “inflammatory remarks”.
In Morogoro, the police are holding a businessman known as Elils Samweli, 40, a resident of Kihonda for stocking printed T-shirts bearing the words ‘Ukuta Septemba 1’.
Morogoro Region Police Commander Ulrich Matei said Mr Samweli was apprehended with the undisclosed number of T-shirts on August 19 this year.
In Dar es Salaam the police arrested Yoram Sethy Mbyellah on Agust 20 with while selling T-shirts printed Tujipange kupinga udikteta uchwara (let’s get ready to fight petty dictatorship). Mbyellah was arrested at Kinondoni’s Ufipa Street near the Chadema headquarters in possession of 75 T-shirts, according to Commissioner of Police Sirro.
Meanwhile the Chadema Youth Wing (Bavicha) has maintained that they won’t be cowed by the threats and warnings issued by the police force and the September 1 demos won’t stopped. Speaking in Dar es Salaam, Bavicha chairman Patrobas Katambi said some authorities have misled the Tanzanians about Ukuta.
“We understand that most government officials such RCs and DCs are on the side of CCM, and they are out to protect their jobs and the ruling party,” he said He further suggested that the minister of Home Affairs, the Registrar of Political Parties and human rights and good governance committee should enlighten RCs and DCs to distinguish between political and government responsibilities.
“Ukuta has no bounds! No one can stop it, because it is legal according to Tanzanian laws and the Constitution,” he insisted. Mr Katambi also accused government authorities and the police for their “tendency to cause trouble to some Opposition rallies.” “Chadema has never gone with guns to their rallies, but the government does,” he stated.
He said that Chadema members and leaders have been arrested more often than CCM leaders on account of political activities. There are more than 320 Chadema cases pending in different police stations and courts while CCM don’t have any. Mr Katambi also said Chadema doesn’t fear anyone or the police, since they don’t violate the laws or the Constitution.
He said this while responding to the Dar es Salaam Special Zone commissioner Simon Sirro’s statement to the effect that he will arrest any person or a group of people who will be found demonstrating on September 1.
Furthermore, Mr Katambi has denied the invitation by the CCM Youth Wing (UVCCM) to attend the peaceful demonstration.
The demonstration has been scheduled for August 31, a day before Ukuta’s. UVCCM’s march is intended to congratulate President John Magufuli for his good performance in restoring public confidence.
Mr Katambi said Chadema would not attend it because it was a ploy to undermine Ukuta plans.
Reported by Janeth Joseph, Haika Kimaro, Geofrey Nyang’oro, Hakimu Mwafongo Hamida Shariff and Alfred Zacharia