19 December 2012

Tanzania: Religious Leaders Warn of Unrest

RELIGIOUS leaders have called for timely intervention by authorities to signs of social and religious unrest to avoid the outbreak of all out conflicts similar to those that caused massive devastation in neighbouring states.

The leaders made the call during a two-day workshop in Dar es Salaam, where they deliberated on issues of maintaining sustainable peace and social cohesion in the country. The workshop was organized by the National Committee for Prevention of Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crime against Humanity and all forms of Discrimination.

Mr Adama Dieng, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and UN Special Advisor on the prevention of genocide said in a statement that their possibility of happening, atrocious crimes remain a sensitive issue for many countries.

He commended Tanzania for having sustained peace through difficult times in a very turbulent region and challenged it to always remain vigilant and not take the tranquility it has enjoyed for granted. "Across the globe, states are reluctant to admit the atrocious crimes could happen or are happening in their own territory.

But we also know very well that no state is fully immune to this possibility," he said. According to the committee's Chairperson, Ms Felistas Joseph, the meeting is the first since her committee's inception in February, this year and target to seek consultations on how best to deal with signs of social violence that are reportedly on the increase.

She said such meetings will continue in the near future so that people receive more education and share experience on the disadvantages of entertaining social and religious conflicts that can eventually plunge the county into total chaos.

Ever since it was established, she noted, the committee has received maximum support from the government but needs more capacity building to realize its objectives.

Opening the workshop, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Mathias Chikawe said the country has already experienced acts that disrupted peace such as recent chaos in Mbagala, Arusha and Zanzibar and warned that such acts would not be tolerated.

"We will not tolerate seeing groups of hooligans thrive and disrupt peace in the name of religious beliefs. We depend on you religious leaders to extend maximum cooperation in addressing this problem," he said.

He commended the religious leaders for always consulting with the government on various issues and called for more support at this juncture when the government is seeking public views on a new constitution.

Veteran scholar and Burundian government ombudsman, Dr Mohamed Rukara who lived in the country for ten years during turbulent times in his country said timely communication and precautions to violent elements is crucial.

He said Tanzanians are very good communicators due to their advantage in Kiswahili as a national language and called on politicians and religious leaders to immediately communicate in order to timely detect violent groups. Bishop Stephen Mang'ana of the Menonite Church cautioned against what he called the possibility of foreign influence in conflicts which can be dangerous if unchecked.

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