22 December 2016

Tanzania: Puzzle of Missing Chadema Official, 7 Bodies Deepens

Photo: The Citizen
Chadema flag.

Dar es Salaam — The mystery surrounding the seven bodies that were fished out of Ruvu River and disappearance of Chadema official Ben Saanane is yet to be resolved as the Police Force says it is still investigating both incidents.

Speaking with journalists yesterday for the first time on both cases, Acting Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Robert Boaz said it wasn't true that the police are ignoring the two matters.

Three weeks ago, seven bodies of unidentified men aged approximately between 25 and 35 were discovered by locals in Makurunge Village floating on the river. They were wrapped in polythene bags fitted with rocks.

The DCI also refuted claims that the bodies were buried without any samples taken for DNA testing. "Doctors conducted post-mortem on the bodies before they were buried. Six bodies were severely decomposed, so we had to bury them at the village in which they were found. The remaining body, which was intact, was taken to Bagamoyo District Hospital. Since no one claimed it, it was buried by the district council 10 days later--on December 16," he said.

However, Mr Boaz declined to make the postmortem report public, saying the matter was still under investigation. "There is a lot of investigation work that is still ongoing... I cannot reveal the postmortem report to the public for security reasons. We want to confirm who the victims were and what actually befell them. Our doors are also open to all those with more information on the matter to come forward," he said.

Chadema and a group of young political activists identified themselves as "Union of the Thinking Generation" (UTG) on separate occasions this month accused the police of rushing to bury the bodies without taking DNA samples that families with missing relatives, including that of Mr Saanane, could use for identification.

Last week, Minister for Home Affairs Mwigulu Nchemba said that preliminary investigations have shown that the bodies were of undocumented Ethiopian immigrants. He reiterated his position on Monday this week when he visited Coast Region. However, he said the investigations to ascertain the matter were still ongoing. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa also ordered the police last week to step up their investigations to unlock the mystery behind the deaths which he termed senseless.

With regard to the case of Mr Saanane's disappearance, Mr Boaz said the police were also pursuing it closely, noting, however, that already, all necessary investigative steps have been taken. "When we received the information on the man's disappearance, we opened a file on the case and it was pursued expertly... we are still collecting evidence... Again, we ask those with any information on the man's whereabouts or what happened to him to inform us immediately," he said.

Mr Saanane, who is the policy and research advisor to Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, was last seen on November 18. Efforts to locate him by family, friends and colleagues since then have proved futile. Last week Chadema's chief legal officer Tundu Lissu told journalists that before he went missing, Mr Saanane had received death threats from unknown individuals and reported it to the police. Mr Lissu also said that the disappearance of Mr Saanane shouldn't be taken lightly and police and other relevant authorities owed the nation an explanation.

According to Mr Boaz, as the police investigate the two cases, the public should remain calm. "We will keep on communicating with the public on all developments."

Meanwhile, the body of a man who was burnt inside a polythene bag in Moshi has been identified. The deceased's name is Steven Kimario. Suspects of the murder have also been identified as Kimario's sister and her husband. The police are looking for the couple.

Kilimanjaro Regional Police Commander Wilbroad Mutafungwa said yesterday they have found evidence connected to the crime, including Kimario's hat and a rope that is identical to the one he was tied with, inside a house in Majengo in the Moshi municipality. There was also blood specimen found inside the room where Kimario was killed. A housemaid, who is alleged to have witnessed the murder on December 13, is in police custody.

The police were able to find the house after they announced they would perform a DNA test on the body. Mr Mutafungwa explained that the housemaid named her employer (Kimario's sister) as the killer, saying that she did that after learning that her brother raped her 9-year-old daughter.

"They hid the body under the bed for two days, and later dumped it in Ongoma Village, trying to get rid of any evidence," explained the RPC. He further said that if Mr Saanane's family wants to identify the body, they are allowed to, though he assured the public that the body had already been identified.

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