Mlimba MP Godwin Kunambi tickled fellow lawmakers’ ribs in Parliament on Wednesday when he challenged Constitutional and Legal Affairs minister Palamagamba Kabudi to spend a night in one of Tanzania’s prisons to fully appreciate the suffering inmates were being subjected to.
While it is highly unlikely that Prof Kabudi will pack his bags and rush to the nearest correctional facility any time soon, Mr Kunambi drove home a very pertinent point, albeit in a light-hearted manner.
The issue at hand revolved around unbailable charges being brought against people who were supposed to face “minor” charges that were entirely bailable. Mr Kunambi said a number of his constituents were languishing in jail after they were charged with economic sabotage, not illegal entry into a protected area after they were allegedly found conducting human activities in a forest reserve.
Mr Kunambi spoke after Prof Kabudi informed Parliament that the government was reviewing several laws, including the infamous Economic Sabotage Act, with a view to reducing overcrowding in prisons and cut the cost of running the penal institutions.
Prof Kabudi’s pronouncement is not overly surprising, given that questions have been raised in recent years about the application of the economic sabotage law, with claims that it is being used to silence the government’s critics by putting them and other “undesirable elements” behind bars for as long as conceivably possible without being convicted.
Indeed, there are people charged with economic sabotage who have been in jail for several years now for the simple reason that their cases have turned into a complete farce. As the old adage goes, justice delayed is justice denied.
The Economic Sabotage Act is among several laws lined up for review. This is good news to those wishing to see the law being applied equally and uniformly, and justice being delivered swiftly and without fear or favour.
MAKE DISASTER RISK A PRIORITY
Recent calls for East African nations to step up their efforts in disaster risk management are timely. Natural disasters of various magnitudes have played a big role in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people across the region in recent years.
While some of the factors behind the disasters are pure acts of nature, human beings are also partly to blame for the calamities that range from urban fires and disease outbreaks to landslides and earthquakes. Also, there are several conflicts in the Great Lakes Region that have led to a significant increase in the forced movement of people seeking peace and a better life.
Suffice it to say here that the numbers are telling, and the need for action to stop this negative trend cannot be overstated. There are now fresh calls for member states to implement the EAC Disaster Risk Reduction Act, and the United Nations-endorsed Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030).
Tanzania cannot be caught napping. There is a need to ensure engagement and ownership of action by all stakeholders, and strengthen accountability in disaster risk reduction.