Dar es Salaam. Police in Kigoma are investigating an incident involving the death of a 20-year-old man identified as Enock Elias Sebakwiye, who reportedly died at the hands of the region’s immigration officers, causing a public uproar.
In his statement on Tuesday, police spokesperson David Misime said reports of the incident started to emerge on October 29, 2023, when villagers from Chilambo village in Kigoma’s Kakonko district reported a dead body they found.
Misime said an investigation carried out by the police and other criminal justice actors was underway to get to the bottom of the matter, including what exactly led to the loss of Sebakwiye’s life.
“On top of the forensic evidence that police has already collected so far, we welcome anyone else with additional evidence to present it to us to help with the investigation,” Mr Misime said in a statement.
“Such evidence is important to determine next possible steps in line with our country’s laws,” he added.
In an interview, Mr Salvatory Kisondoka, Sebakwiye’s paternal uncle, told The Chanzo that immigration officers arrested his nephew at the Kibondo-Geita border on his way to Kibondo, demanding he present his national ID.
Sebakwiye didn’t have the ID with him at the time, but after calling his relatives, he was able to produce a soft copy of the ID to the officers. But soon, his relatives lost communication with him, and they only saw him while he was already dead.
“Someone followed up about him at a nearby police post when he was informed that he was arrested but was immediately released,” Kisondoka narrated. “But we asked how come he has been released, and yet he cannot be found?
“After the passing of about ten days, the person who was looking for [Sebakwiye] received a call informing him of a body that has been buried, wondering if it could be Sebakwiye’s.
“When that person went to the burial site with Sebakwiye’s mother, they found that the body was indeed of Sebakwiye,” Kisondoka narrated. “It had to be exhumed for his relatives to tell if it was him.”
The family had declined to take the body for burial as police arrested the person who was following up on Sebakwiye’s whereabouts, Kisondoka told The Chanzo, adding: “They released him yesterday [Monday] around 5 PM. We are now organising a funeral ceremony.”
In his statement on Tuesday, Misime did not mention the details involving immigration officers.
But his statement came hot on the heels of widespread criticism of the Kigoma Immigration Department, whose officers reportedly arrested Sebakwiye after mistaking him for a refugee.
Kigoma, located on the northeastern shores of Lake Tanganyika and close to the border with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), hosts thousands of refugees who have flown wars and insecurity from the two countries.
In a statement on Monday, the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party criticised police “deafening silence” on the matter, accusing it of being “irresponsible” and “complicity” in the tragic incident.
“We demand authorities initiate an immediate investigation into the death of Enock Elias Sebakwiye,” Bonifasia Aidan Mapunda, the party’s spokesperson for Home Affairs, demanded in a statement.
“Also, all perpetrators should be brought to book, including those who’ll be found to hatch plans to cover up the incident,” she demanded.
This is not the first time that law enforcement organs in Tanzania come under fire for an alleged responsibility of innocent people’s lives.
In its 2022 Tanzania Human Rights Report, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) documented ten incidents of extrajudicial killings in 2022, one more than those recorded in 2021.
The incidents were reported in Kigoma, Mtwara, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro, Tabora, and Lindi. All victims were male, and four of them were children, the youngest aged 14 years. Perpetrators included people’s militia officers, game wardens, and police officers.
Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo’s journalist from Dar es Salaam. He is available at email@example.com.