Three separate incidents involving brutal murders shocked Tanzania in the second half of 2016.
First, in late August, when tensions were already high due to a verbal standoff between the police and opposition leaders in Dar es Salaam, four police officers were shot dead by gunmen riding motorcycles outside a bank on the outskirts of the city. A shootout took place a few days later in the village of Vikundu in Mkuranga district to the south of Dar es Salaam, in which the police battled with the alleged bandits for 6 hours, according to news reports. Fourteen “bandits” were shot dead, along with one senior police officer, and some members of the group were reportedly captured.
“We started hearing gunshots from 2am on Friday. We thought that armed bandits had raided our village, but the gunshots continued uninterrupted until daybreak,” one Vikundu villager told The Guardian. “Most of the villagers could not dare come out of their houses. Shops and food-stalls remained closed. Everything was at a standstill,” said another.
The reasons for the apparently targeted initial murder of the four police officers remain unclear, and the police have released very little information following the events in Mkuranga.
A few weeks later, on October 1st, two soil scientists and a driver of the Arusha-based Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) were killed while conducting research in Dodoma Rural District. George Mzuri, a local government representative in the area, said the researchers had arrived at the village for their work but did not report to the local government authorities there. “They later lost their way and when they tried to ask, one woman suspected them to be vampires and raised an alarm,” Mr Mzuri explained.
According to reports, the news spread rapidly in the village, fuelled further by a pastor at the Christian Family Church in the village who used the church’s public address system to inform the villagers that there was a raid by ‘vampires.’ A large group of villagers headed to the researchers’ vehicle, attacking the victims with traditional weapons and setting them ablaze. Thirteen people have been charged with murder in connection with the case.
Finally, in early December, seven bodies of unidentified men in their 20s or 30s were discovered floating in the Ruvu river. The bodies were wrapped in polythene bags filled with rocks. Acting Director of Criminal Investigations, Robert Boaz, confirmed that doctors conducted post-mortem examinations on the bodies before they were buried.
There is no suggestion that these three sets of killings are in any way connected.
Opposition leaders questioned whether the police were according sufficient effort to the Ruvu river case, and to another that arose at the same time: the disappearance of Chadema advisor Ben Saanane. Mr Saanane, the policy and research advisor to Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, was last seen on November 18. Chadema’s chief legal officer Tundu Lissu told journalists that Mr Saanane had received death threats from unknown individuals and reported it to the police.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Mwigulu Nchemba, directed the police in the country to effectively deal with all sorts of crime that pose threat to the peace, security and cultural values of Tanzania. He said terrorism, homosexuality, killings and armed robbery cannot be tolerated.