Dar es Salaam. Arusha regional police commander Justine Masejo on Tuesday denied reports that police in the region were detaining a Kenyan journalist-cum-preacher for three weeks under unclear circumstances.
According to a report by Kenya’s K24 TV, Pastor Julius Kuyioni left Kenya on July 7, 2022, through the Olpusimoru border for Loliondo to be a guest speaker and preacher in a three-day crusade through an invitation by the chairperson of the Loliondo Pastors Association chairman Pastor Joseph Ngida.
But he was arrested at Olgos-Sopia migration office in Tanzania before reaching his destination and transported to Arusha with his brother Moses Kuyioni telling K24 TV that he was being held at the Tourist and Diplomatic Police Station in Arusha where he is being interrogated.
“Our brother went through the Olpusimoru border point with relevant papers, a temporary passport and [Tanzania] Missionary Visa three weeks ago,” K24 TV quoted Moses as saying. “But when he reported to the Tanzania migration office at Olgos-Soipia for his document stumping he was arrested on suspicion of being in the country.”
But Masejo told The Chanzo during a brief phone interview on Tuesday that: “I’m in a meeting but I’m listening to you. We do not have such information [on the arrest of the Kenyan pastor]. Maybe we will follow up on that.”
Reports on the alleged arrest and detention of the Kenyan national come at a time when authorities in Tanzania are clamping down on “illegal migrants” in the areas of Loliondo and Ngorongoro where land-related conflicts between the government and indigenous people are underway.
In Ngorongoro, the government seeks to ‘relocate’ native people there to the Handeni district, in Tanga in a move shrouded in controversy. Authorities say the move is important to save the UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage Site from destruction.
In Loliondo, violence erupted on June 10, 2022, between members of security organs and indigenous people who were protesting the government’s plan to turn 1,500 square kilometres of 4,000 square kilometres of designated village land into a new game controlled area.
A police officer was killed during the violence with about 20 Maasai leaders currently facing prosecution for the murder. Dozens of indigenous people were injured with some of them fleeing to Kenya to seek medical treatment.
Some government officials have blamed Kenyan nationals for what is happening in Loliondo and Ngorongoro.
Assistant Commissioner of Immigration Kagimbo Hosea on July 13, 2022, for instance, said that it had come to his attention that some NGOs there were being operated by some foreigners whose stay and work in Tanzania were shrouded in controversy.
He further alleged that some of the organizations’ financial transactions were being managed by some individuals who weren’t Tanzanians.
Hosea even disclosed that they had arrested Rebecca Jacob Koriata, a Kenyan national who worked as an accountant with Maasai Honey, an NGO operating in Ololosokwan village in Loliondo.
Despite the police’s denials, Moses, who has severally been to Tanzania to follow up on the matter, told K24 TV that his brother has already been questioned by law enforcement officers as well as by the Kenya Embassy and found not to have committed any crime or planning any and recommended for release but the police are still holding him.
“It is time as a family we call for interventions from the Kenyan government to help us secure his release,” K24 TV quoted Moses as pleading. “Because the Tanzania Police are still holding him despite no charges preferred against him.”
Taiko Lemaiyan is a human and land rights activist based in Arusha who said in a Twitter post on Monday that police were violating the rights of Pastor Julius Kuyioni by arbitrarily detaining him for 48 hours without producing him in court while calling for his release.