Dar es Salaam. Are Panya Road back in the streets of Dar es Salaam? This is the question that many residents of Tanzania’s commercial capital have been asking themselves recently following reports of a band of marauders wreaking havoc in some parts of Dar es Salaam, attacking people with machetes in order to rob them.
According to reports, the boys aged between 13 and 21 have in the past few days marauded the areas of Chanika and Tabata in the city with the sole aim of robbing people of their properties using traditional weapons of knives and machetes, leaving dozens injured and panicked.
The boys also reportedly raided houses and looted properties, including mobile phones and TV sets, according to police.
Dar es Salaam Special Zone Commander Jumanne Muliro told journalists here on Thursday that law enforcement authorities are holding 10 members of the band during a special operation launched to put the security situation in the city back to normalcy.
“This operation is intense and continuous and it will be carried out in all areas of Dar es Salaam,” Muliro said during a press conference. “[The police] will work closely with citizens and see these criminal gangs are stopped as soon as possible in accordance with the law.”
Among the ten suspects held by the police is one Abdulaziz Abdallah, also known as Hunter, who is thought to be the leader of the marauding group. All of them confessed to having conducted criminal activities in various areas of Dar es Salaam and offered to help the police nail their accomplices, according to Muliro.
News about Panya Road brings Dar es Salaam residents memories of 2014 and 2015 when the marauders wreaked havoc in the city’s streets and almost brought the city to a standstill. Since then, the criminal gang carried out events in 2016, 2017 and 2020 but they were not as significant as the current one.
The issue of Panya Road has been a subject of many discussions and research since it made its first appearance in late 2014, with many researchers and analysts associating the rise of the group with the harsh economic conditions that many Tanzanian youths face, urging long-term approaches to dealing with the problem.
Other reasons given include corruption, fake promises from politicians, education systems, laxity of parental or guardians care and inspiration of children to live a luxurious life.
A 2019 study that looked into the matter warned against the use of force by police and other government authorities in addressing the issue, arguing that such tactics cannot end “societal challenges.”
“Instead, the government should provide an education system, which is skill oriented to enable young people to employ themselves,” the study’s authors recommended. “In addition, more efforts are needed to fight corruption from low level to high level of [the] government system.”
Edwin Soko is a journalist and the chairperson of the Organization of Journalists Against Drug Abuse and Crime in Tanzania (OJADACT), a local NGO that works towards freeing society from drugs and crimes who made a more or less the same call to authorities regarding the recent resurgence of the criminal groups in the streets of Dar es Salaam.
“The government should conduct a thorough investigation into what exactly leads young people to join criminal groups and find scientific methods that would prevent them from doing so,” Soko said in a statement on Thursday.