27 May 2012

Tanzania: Ikwiriri Clashes - Red Flag or Smoking Gun?


HAVE you ever asked yourself why people these days take the law into their hands? Is it because they are tired of the peace and tranquility in the country?

Recent media reports show that several people were injured and properties worth millions of shillings destroyed when herdsmen clashed with farmers recently at Ikwiriri in Rufiji District, Coast Region.

The inconvenience caused to the people in Ikwiriri, most of them law abiding citizens reflects the pain and damage. Among those who were caught between the crossfire included road construction workers in Ikwiriri who are working hard to make ends meet and were caught in the middle of the quagmire. I spoke to some of the workers who said they were harassed.

One worker said: "I was returning home in the evening after a long day's work at the construction site when police officers arrested me for no reason," he lamented. A resident said: "From my understanding, the people who had set fire to homes of some government officials had left the area before the police arrived at the scene of violence. It is presumed that they wanted to send a message that they are unhappy with the leadership in their locality.

The deployment of police officers helped restrain further acts of violence as well as destruction some Ikwiriri residents admitted. The highway linking Dar es Salaam to the southern regions was closed for about six hours as police and district leaders tried to calm down the fighting groups. It was also confirmed that the clashes erupted after pastoralists killed a 60-yearold Ikwiriri farmer, Shamte Seif.

His fellow farmers pursued the herdsmen so as to avenge his death. Reports claim that the livestock keepers beat the farmer to death after he chased away their cattle which they had let free to roam on his farm. Coast regional police Commander Ernest Mangu confirmed the death of the farmer, and said two livestock keepers had been arrested for questioning.

The people who apparently torched the houses where government officials reside claimed through social media that the houses were obtained through bribes. Many residents have called upon the government to investigate the government officers whose properties were destroyed. Youth in Ikwiriri wonder why the police force did not send detectives to investigate the matter properly instead of resorting to random arrests.

To many people in Ikwiriri, they feel that if the police officers wanted to tackle this problem professionally, the police should have investigated the cause of the violence. The residents strongly feel that the police should have heeded to the complaints from farmers about the livestock keepers encroaching on their land. The simmering conflict between the farmers and the herdsmen that went unresolved resulted in the killing of a farmer and Ikwiriri residents going on rampage.

This week I learned of a similar incident of police not being proactive. It involves police officers posted in the suburbs of Kunduchi area in Kinondoni Municipality in Dar es Salaam. One expects that when a crime is reported, the relevant authorities will take action. When I refer to the police force in this particular case, it is not the top brass who are behind these inactions or infringement of people's rights.

These are rank and file officers who are supposed to respond accordingly to complaints filed. In Kunduchi area there are youth who are drug addicts. The police in the area are passive to people's complaints. The residents in the area have reported to the media that some of drug addicts are not arrested even after they commit heinous acts. Some of them in broad day light display weapons and intimidate people.

There are cases whereby they injure residents with sharp objects. With such incidents such as the one in Ikwiriri and that of Kunduchi Beach it shows how some officers undermine government's effort to curb crime. It is high time that the Inspector General of Police and his lieutenants take to task all those who are frustrating efforts by communities to fight crime and enhance the philosophy of community policing.

Community policing is all about involving people to fight crime. When I say fighting crime I don't mean taking the law into one's own hands. So what can be done to avoid such clashes which cost the nation lives and property? It boils down to proactive policing. I wish to use this example whereby a technician upon a machine breaking down, he or she has a specific time frame in which to attempt fixing the problem.

If the breakdown continues, he or she has to report the problem to his immediate supervisor. The supervisor is also given a limited time to try to fix the machine. Upon failure, he or she will have to call the engineer. The engineer will keep the managers informed about the problem while management works on a plan B or C just in case the engineer does not succeed in fixing the problem. It is unfortunate to note here that such a system is not applied in the police force.

Serious issues do not seem to be acted on in time. The police seem to leave problems to compound until when they are out of control and explode. When the citizens realise that there is complacency, they feel cheated and ignored and it becomes a tipping point for such people to take the law into their own hands. It is sincerely hoped that lessons learnt in Ikwiriri will sink well to our police officers' minds. It is unfortunate that vicarious responsibility extends the liability to everyone in the line of command regardless of whether or not it was the IGP's or the Commanders' fault.

Copyright © 2012 Tanzania Daily News. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.