In the course of the last week, the world witnessed massive killings, torture, harassment and other types of brutalities against innocent Tanzanians by the members of the Police Force in Dar es Salaam and on the islands of Unguja and Pemba. This scale and magnitude of killings has never been witnessed in this country since the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964 which gave birth to the United Republic of Tanzania. We in the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre (ZLSC) have been highly shocked by these killings and other atrocities by the members of the Police Force. In our view, had commonsense and wisdom prevailed all these would not have taken place. The actions by the P0lice have tarnished our good name and our pride of being an island of peace no longer holds.
The right to peaceful assembly and to hold processions, just like the right to join political parties and other voluntary organizations is recognized and guaranteed in the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 as well as the Constitution of Zanzibar of 1984. There is no law in the United Republic which requires the citizen to seek and obtain police permit before holding processions. This legal position was underlined by the Chief Justice of the United Republic of Tanzania Hon. Mr. Justice Barnabas Samatta while addressing the Seminar of the new members of the Parliament in Dodoma in November last year. The Chief Justice was in fact reiterating a position adopted by Lugakingira, J. (as he then was) in the case of Rev. Christopher Mtikila v. Attorney-General of 1993.
What we have witnessed and which is unusual, is the fact that even before CUF could give notice of their procession to the police, which is what the law requires, various national leaders including senior police officers had already given strong statements against the intended procession and in fact prohibiting it. The issue of security including the guarantee that the procession will be peaceful is something that could have been discussed and agreed upon between the Police and the CUF leadership. Instead of engaging in such a dialogue, the two sides began accusations and counter-accusations and thus leading to anger, emotions and a highly charged atmosphere.
Zanzibar Legal Services Centre is particularly disappointed by these actions of the members of the Police Force which are against both the Constitution and the law. The Centre, in collaboration with the Legal Aid Committee of the University of Dar es Salaam, has been involved in long and serious training of the police of all ranks on the law and human rights in particular. It had been expected that the knowledge gained in these training programmes would be used in the course of dealing with citizens and their social problems.
It should be remembered that there is a problem in Zanzibar. It will be self-deceit to close our eyes on the problem or to believe that force can be a solution to the problem. All the efforts by the Commonwealth to resolve this problem did not bear fruits as there was no political will to deal squarely with it. We urge the leaders of CCM, CUF and the two governments – that of the United Republic and that of Zanzibar to sit together as patriots and without setting any conditions and sort out this problem once and for all.
Otherwise, this will be the beginning of the movement towards disorder, killings, torture and civil war. This is a route taken by many of our neighbours and other African countries. Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, etc. will no longer be examples for us to cite as we shall be in the same group!
As the Police Force, which is responsible to the atrocities which have taken place are under the Union government, we urge that government to institute an independent inquiry on what has happened so that those responsible are dealt with and in order to re-establish the confidence of the people on the government.