by Ben Taylor
There are some signs that the police may have turned a corner in addressing the spate of violence that has afflicted Kibiti and neighbouring districts of Coast Region in recent months.
In February three people, including a police officer, were killed by a group of bandits at a farm and forestry levies collection centre at Jaribu Mpakani. In April, eight police officers who were deployed there from Morogoro Region to bolster security were ambushed and killed as they were returning to their base from patrol.
In mid-June, a local leader and two villagers in Nyamisati village, Kibiti District, were abducted and shot at by unknown gunmen. Two weeks later, the chairman and executive officer of Mangwi Village were killed in cold blood by armed men, according to sources in the area. The killers also shot and blinded the chairman of a sub-village. And a former CCM ward chairperson was shot dead outside his home in Nyambunda village.
The total number of those killed in the area since 2014 has risen to over 40 people, according to The Citizen newspaper. The list includes local government leaders, local CCM leaders, police officers and civilians. Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba recently informed Parliament in Dodoma of plans to establish a special police zone in Kibiti in a bid to deal with the crisis head on.
The recently-appointed Inspector General of Police, Simon Sirro, cited the restoration of peace and tranquillity in Coast Region as his number one priority, and sought to reassure residents of the affected districts that the violence will soon be brought to an end.
Policing activities in the area have stepped up, and the police claimed significant victories after each of two recent shootouts. In late June, a police patrol car was reportedly ambushed, and in the exchange of fire that followed, four of the six attackers were killed by the police. Then, in early August, the police raided a forest camp, killing 13 suspects in the confrontation.
In a statement, Mr Sirro said the police had arrested one of the suspects, who led them to the camp that the suspects had been using as a hideout. “We made efforts to try and rush them to Muhimbili National Hospital for treatment but they died on the way from the gunshot wounds,” he said.
He also said the police recovered some weapons and other items from the camp – including five sub-machine guns, 2 anti-riot guns, a pair of police uniform, one magazine and 153 rounds of ammunition as well as hand grenades and two motorcycles – adding that investigations showed that the weapons had been used in various criminal incidents, including some of those mentioned above.
Following this, Kibiti District Authorities called upon whose ward and village executives who had fled because of the violence to quickly return to their stations of duty so as to keep serving residents. He said that for now the district’s defence and security had been stepped up, so it was District councillors applauded the efforts of the government and the defence and security services for restoring peace and security in the district. (The Citizen, The Guardian, Daily News)