By Elias Mhegera -HUMAN rights defenders in Tanzania were in the hiding at the Kibaha Conference Centre in Kibaha to discuss how they should mitigate their working strategies following a wave of indecent attacks to them.
The meeting which was conducted for three days was meant to assist human rights defenders (HRDs), to analyze a new wave of threats and what it could implicate in general in the political scenario in Tanzania.
Apart from preparing their strategic plan the HRDs analyzed events of indecent attacks to them and other people who have become ‘unpleasant’ in the eyes of some unscrupulous bigwigs.
The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition is a made by a combination of over 40 NGOs putting together professionals like lawyers, journalists, volunteers in human rights and other human rights activists whose stake is in danger due to their activities.
Amongst the few bodies forming the coalition are the current host of this newly born organization, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), others are Southern Africa Human Rights NGO-Network (SAHRiNGON) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa Tanzania Chapter (MISA-TAN).
The current board chairperson of the coalition is Ms Martina Kabisama who is the executive director of SAHRiNGON while the coordinator is Onesmo Olengurumwa who is a research lawyer from the LHRC, while this reporter serves as program-cum-administrative officer.
Some of the issues which drew attention during the discussion were attacks against veteran journalist, editor and media consultant Ndimara Tegambwage and his colleague Saed Kubenea in January 2008.
Moreover another issue was claims by Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe Minister for Transport who claimed that he was poisoned by his ‘political enemies’ through a towel in his office’s washroom.
Attempts to quash this claim by the DCI Robert Manumba drew considerable sharp criticisms from the general public that his response was pre-mature and meant to hide the truth.
Dr Mwakyembe has been complaining that he created a lot of enemies when still an MP after he chaired a commission which investigated a mega corruption which surrounded the purchase of generators in the Richmond scandal that led to the resignation of then Premier Edward Lowassa.
One of the main tasks of the Coalition is to protect whistle blowers who are in constant threats from bigwigs and some within the political oligarchy.
Ms Vicky Ntetema the current executive director of Under the Same Sun has been facing constant threats after she unveiled witchdoctors who well implicated in the killings of people with albinism.
While one could have expected that the Government would have supported her, she was also facing criticism from the same Government that she has tarnished the country’s image abroad.
Over the last weekend leaders of the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo including the Ubungo legislator John Mnyika claimed that they are lives are in danger due to constant surveillance by people whom they suspected to be state agents.
Paradoxically these claims come at a time when the Government is still investigating circumstances surrounding an indecent attacks on Dr Stephen Ulimboka one of staunch members of the medical community striving for fair payments to the doctors.
Already his colleague President of the Medical Association of Tanzania Dr Namala Mkopi has been arrested facing charges of ignoring the court’s order which wanted the doctors to go back to work.
The issue Dr Ulimboka has drawn considerable attention to the HRDs who says it happens that the doctor was never security conscious taking the nature of his abduction and eventual brutal attacks and attempts to end his life.
Dr Ulimboka was found unconscious after one ‘good Samaritan’ had reported to have seen an unconscious man laying along the road in Mabwepande, Bunju area in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.
A series of attacks and counterattacks followed soon after whereby cheap propaganda has it that Dr Ulimboka was working for the main opposition party in Tanzania CHADEMA.
The debate surrounding this issue has been one of the contentious political issues after doctors have denied financial assistance from the Government instead they have chosen to mobilize funds from the colleague professionals and other interested people citizens and non citizens.
It was for the first time in this country that a patient was sent outside a country while the government was denied any contribution at all while activists, relatives, doctors, friends and closer ally were allowed at the airport to see the patient off while flying to South Africa for treatment.
Activists have extrapolated that if this incident was not taken seriously many such incidents could recur and tarnish the good image that Tanzania has enjoyed for so many years in the international community.
Commenting on this incident a consultant and expert on security for HRDs from Uganda Protection Desk Wanjala Yona said that the HRDs should never resign from their noble tasks once their fellows were under threats or attacks because theirs is a moral obligation.
“Corruption is a product of greedy and immorality and not of poverty once you retreat eventually the whole community will be affected,” he commented.
The HRDs discovered that one main source of the intra-conflicts within the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi was corruption. The conflict is moral between the ‘good guys who wants to maintain the ethical values as cofounded by the party’s architects against the greedy power mongers.
It was also discovered that those whose life is at risk are not human rights activists only but also whistle blowers in various circles including the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Ludovick Utoh whose recent report and recommendations caused the Cabinet reshuffle.
HRDs also reminded that as long as now the remains of the former Palestine leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed after complains from his widow that he was poisoned to death; similar action should be taken in Tanzania where there are many deaths with controversial circumstances.
Some of the controversial deaths that the HRDs want to be revisited is that of former Premier Edward Moringe Sokoine who died in a controversial car accident.
The late Premier was assumed to be inherent heir to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who had already stated that he will step down from active politics in 1985. The late Sokoine died in a road accident 19 April, 1984 at the time when there was a stiff competition for power succession.
It is believed by many Tanzanians that Nyerere decided to concur with Plato’s concept of “Noble Lie” which is a myth or untruth knowingly told by the elite to maintain social harmony, or the social position of those elite.