Tanzania: Rights Groups Fault Lugola Comments

Dar es Salaam — Rights groups yesterday faulted Home Affairs minister Kangi Lugola's remarks when answering a question on people who die in the hands of the police.

Mr Lugola said he was surprised that angry mobs have been torching police stations when someone dies while under police custody, but they don't do so when people die in guest houses.

He was responding to a question by Konde Member of Parliament Khatib Said Haji (CUF) who sought to know the government's strategies in ending increased incidents of people dying in the hands of the police during the questions-and-answers session yesterday morning.

"... why aren't these people storming guest houses and setting them on fire as there are a number of incidents of people dying in such an environment," said Mr Lugola.

Yesterday was the second time the minister was making the statement. Mr Lugola made similar remarks when addressing the public in Tarime during President John Magufuli's tour of the district.

Some MPs cited evidence of people who suffered at the hands of the police.

However, some human rights stakeholders faulted the minister. Among other things, the activists said the minister's remarks might cause people to hate the police, hence incite violence.

They argued that rather than make such remarks the minister and the government at large should have condemned the incidents and went back to the drawing board to come up with strategies to address the problem.

"The minister is comparing two different scenarios; because when someone dies in a guest house the Police Force always launches investigations immediately.

However, most of those who lose their loved ones in the hands of the police are not satisfied by the length of time that the law enforcers take to investigate," said Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) executive director Anna Henga. She added: "Police are supposed to take care of people's security, so when one dies in their hands many people are incensed."

For his part, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders' Coalition (THRDC) national coordinator, Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa, said by making such a statement the minister was encouraging citizens to take the law into their own hands.

He added that the minister, through the statement, was encouraging the police to apply excessive force, which may cause an increase the number of extra-judicial killings.

Dr Benson Bana said since the life of every individual was important, it was the police's responsibility to protect them.

For his part, the Ruaha Catholic University senior lecturer said that if it was in another country with a better democratic and good governance track, Mr Lugola would have been forced to resign.

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