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Will Hassan’s latest housekeeping clean up the police force?

Camillus Wambura, who takes over as the new police chief, has a hard task ahead of him. He will be expected to undo the negative reputation the police force has acquired over the years and to impose new changes in line with Hassan’s government.

“These changes will be meaningful if they protect justice and people’s rights, otherwise [the force] will slip back to its old ways and ‘business as usual’ […],” says Emmanuel Kaniki, a security analyst based in Arusha.

Makame Mussa, another security analyst, believes this latest round of housekeeping by Hassan is aimed at removing officers involved in gross violations of human rights.

“President Samia knows exactly what happened during [the] 2020 poll when the opposition was harassed and treated badly by the police force. I think she is trying to change the image of [the] police force from the top,” says Makame.

Police force under IGP Sirro

Under Sirro, Tanzania’s police force had been accused of various forms of misconduct and violating people’s rights.

In 2019, a Human Rights Watch report titled ‘As Long as I am Quiet I am Safe’ said: “The government has used the Cybercrimes Act to harass opposition politicians, journalists and activists while police have arbitrarily arrested, and in some cases, beaten journalists as they covered events. Police have also arrested two journalists engaged in investigative reporting on government policy. Authorities have not adequately investigated the abduction of two other journalists, one of whom remains missing at the time of writing.”

That missing journalist was Azory Gwanda who was investigating the mysterious killings of people living in the coastal regions.

The police force was also reported to be responsible for undermining political activities by blocking opposition parties from holding internal meetings and rallies, contrary to the provisions of the 1992 Political Parties Act.

According to Human Rights Watch, police officers were also involved in the killing of innocent people in various parts of the country, including the death of the young mineral businessman Mussa Hamisi on 20 October 2021. Early this year, the BBC reported that seven police officers who were charged with the murder are yet to take a plea and are still in custody.

The police force has also been accused of charging government critics with non-bailable offences, such as money laundering, tax evasion, and economic sabotage.

  • For example, Erick Kabendera – a renowned Tanzanian journalist –  was charged in 2019 with tax evasion and organising crimes, charges that appear to be politically motivated and cropped up after he had criticised the late president Magufuli’s policies.
  • Tito Magoti, a lawyer working at the Legal and Human Rights Centre was arrested and charged in 2019 with money laundering offences. He spent over one year at the Segerea prison and was later released after negotiation with the chief prosecutor. The centre published several reports between 2016 – 2020 stating that the police force was responsible for violating human rights.

Kingai’s new appointment

In the raft of changes, Ramadhan Kingai has also been named as the new Director of Criminal Investigation.

His appointment has however elicited backlash over his perceived responsibility in the unlawful arrests of journalist Freeman Mbowe and his security team, and the subsequent terrorism charges. Mbowe and his team spent seven months in prison before the state dropped the charges earlier this year.

“We need strong institutions and those institutions must be led by people with integrity and moral authority. The police force has once again been handed over to suspicious people,” Tito Magoti, a lawyer and human rights activist, tells The Africa Report.

How come a person like Ramadhan Kingai is being entrusted to [a] serious department, despite being behind the bogus charges [the] opposition faced?

John Heche, former Tarime MP and central committee member of the main opposition party CHADEMA, wonders if the new police leadership can help the nation heal the wounds inflicted by officers from Magufuli’s era.

“How come a person like Ramadhan Kingai is being entrusted to [a] serious department, despite being behind the bogus charges [the] opposition faced?” says Heche.

However, Victor Kweka, a lawyer and spokesperson for the opposition ACT Wazalendo, says he welcomes the new appointment but it should come with changes to the justice system.

“All stakeholders must be involved in these changes, especially the bail system. All offences should be bailable and there must be no objection from the police. In short, an overhaul of the whole justice system has to involve all stakeholders,” he says.

Corruption

Several reports issued in 2016, 2017, and 2018 by Twaweza – an NGO that works on enabling citizens to exercise agency to encourage a more open and responsible government – revealed that the police department was among the leading government entities in corruption.

During the swearing-in ceremony of the new police chief in Dodoma on 21 July, President Hassan reiterated the need for professionalism.

“I want change in the police force, I want efficiency in the police force, and people should feel secure when in the hands of the police. We need a professional police force in terms of training and education,” she said.

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