Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

9 December 2012

Tanzania: Forces of Evil Killed Nyarugenda, but Not His Legacy

Mr Eustace Nyarugenda is no more. He was found dead Tuesday night after being abducted for a day. So far his abductors are unknown and still at large.

According to eyewitnesses the body of the late Nyarugenda was found in a guest house in Bunda distict, Mara region with a bottle of poison and beer on the table. Until when the investigations are complete his death will remain a mystery to many of us. THE Human rights activist who had gone missing few months ago for eight days, had survived after he was found poisoned.

He was then located in Bariadi District in Shinyanga Region following a keen search by police officers, human right groups, media and members of the public in general. Mr Eustace Nyarugenda, who was the founder of Action Based Community (ABC), an NGO based in Musoma leaves a legacy behind which is worth emulating for many of those who believe in human rights.

His death is a big blow for the human rights movement in the country, since Mr Nyarugenda was in the forefront to help victims of domestic violence including women and domestic workers there is a need for all of us to pick up from where he reached and continue with the struggle to end domestic violence especially in Lake regions.This is the legacy am talking about.

Speaking from Musoma on Nyarugenda's death a domestic worker who preferred her name not to be mentioned said that many people who have seen the rate of crime that has involved youth in Mara can appreciate the effort and sacrifice that the late activist had made under the "We Can" campaign that has been able to transform youth to many positive active activities in Musoma.

Sources in Mara said that such killings are associated with some gangs which are in Mara region.If we can recount the number of incidents where women and children have been abused and even lost their lives because of cruelty and brutality by some sections of society in the region, we should take this matter seriously.

When the late Nyarugenda was poisoned and started recovering from his hospital bed in Bugando hospital in Mwanza region he had expressed his commitment to serve the marginalised and underprivileged including abused domestic workers and women no matter what happens to him. The paranoia which is associated with crime cannot be underestimated in the region where the late Nyarugenda was serving.

He once admitted when I visited the ABC Foundation in Musoma that it makes people live in fear and worries. He told me that there is no justification why youth should be left to indulge in such criminal behaviours. "These energies if they are not directed to constructive issues can lead to disasters. There are also youths who need guidance because in one way or the other they do not have role models in their homes," he said.

He further said that,"We all know what HIV/AIDS has brought to our society in terms of family being thrown in oblivion, since the head of the family has died or both parents were infected with HIV/AIDS and lost their lives. These families live behind children who become destitutes not only in terms of food and shelter but values. The society is under obligation to ensure that ABC continues to serve the people otherwise such youths if left to scavenge the streets and create trouble for themselves or be inflicted with all sorts of injustices, they will become a timing bomb for the nation.

Many people have said that Nyarugenda's death is a big loss for the people of Musoma and all loving people in the world. Ms Maimuna Kanyamala who is the former CEO of Kivulini Women's Rights Organisation, speaking from South Africa said that it was a big blow for those who stand for justice in the country, and protecting human rights. The man behind the struggle to improve youths' lives and mentor them for the better life is no more, and this vacuum which he left behind needs to be filled as soon as possible to keep the struggle to end violence on course.

The late Nyarugenda will be remembered as a hero who was ready to take many risks for the sake of his people. He was also a coordinator for "We Can" campaign project and taking all what it takes to reach out to the youth and influence them to change. There is no doubt that the "We can" Campaign has always advocated for justice and opportunities for all. The killing of an activist if it is established to be so, should be investigated and the culprits brought to book.

Killing a human rights activist is a serious derailment of human rights course and a big blow to the proponents of peace and tranquility in the country. There are lessons that we can learn from this tragedy involving a human rights activist. Despite several indicators showing that Mr Nyarugenda was at risk, no one had taken these threats and intimidation seriously.

Nyarugenda who took all the risks to the extent of endangering his own life and eventually died a mysterious death suffered in the course of defending the down trodden communities. Many activists argue that he had not been given due attention both by civil societies and other agencies. Where are the protective measures taken to ensure his safety, if at all the human rights movement in the country really cared for his life.

It is not easy for anyone to appreciate what the ABC was and is doing and other Campaigns such as "We Can" until we witness those spearheading the struggle to end violence and infringement of human rights being targeted and 'eliminated'. Tanzania has recorded immense success in the "We Can" campaign that was initiated in the country. The campaign was launched in the country in 2008 and has spread to several regions.

WE can campaign is designated to prevent all types of brutality and violation of human rights, that started in Southern Asia. This campaign started emerging in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. The World Health Organisation (WHO) research conducted in 2005 in the country revealed that many people acknowledged the existence of domestic violence. 58 per cent of those who were interviewed said the violence existed.

However, the report further points out that 60 per cent of women who are victims of domestic violence do not report to the police authorities, say activists in the country. For example, Mr Yassin Ally who is one of the founders of "We Can" in the country said recently in an exclusive interview with the 'Sunday News' that there are many efforts by human rights activists all over the country to end all types of violence against women, but the situation still remains pathetic.

Our priority is to target critical masses for change. These masses are made up of diverse groups. Once these groups are strengthened they become a driving force to reject violence and fight social injustices. The case of Omera who died following gang activities as reported by the late Nyarugenda few months ago is a typical example of how we do not cherish human lives. We all know that the Police is continuing with investigations to establish the cause of the death.

But a life has been lost. Again another life is lost and the investigations should continue. Without bringing these culprits to book the fear will continue breaking human rights activists' hearts, in order to create anxiety and intimidation to silence the truth so that the forces of evil can prevail. Let us all join hands to fight this anomaly. Nyarugenda will be laid in his grave peacefully, but remember his legacy in fighting violence and infringement of human rights will continue to live behind him.

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