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Thirteen Arrested in Zanzibar in Connection With Child Sex Trafficking Reports

But police dismiss reports that an organised network undertakes these practices, blaming them on poor upbringing instead.

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Dar es Salaam. Urban West Regional Police Commander Richard Thadei Mchomvu on Wednesday revealed that law enforcement organs in Zanzibar are holding thirteen people in connection with child sex trafficking reports The Chanzo revealed last week.

In the reports, which Mchomvu admitted sent shockwaves in several parts of the semi-autonomous archipelago, The Chanzo exposes a secretive criminal ring that lures unsuspecting and runaway boys under the age of eighteen and forces them into prostitution.

This publication revealed that the network involves multiple actors, including recruiters, agents, sellers, and buyers, causing a huge debate in several parts of the country. 

Members of the criminal network target vulnerable boys who spend their day and night at Forodhani, located inside Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town, who find refuge there after quarrelling with their parents, oblivious of the risks they run into.

READ MORE: Meet Brave Zanzibari Men And Women Taking On Child Sex Trafficking: ‘We’ve Got Children Too’

In a press conference on Wednesday, Mchomvu said police acted swiftly following The Chanzo’s reports, undertaking special operations in various parts of Zanzibar city, including Rahaleo, Kisauni, Fuoni, Bububu, Malindi, and Magomeni, to investigate the matter.

The operation, which lasted a few days, resulted in the arrest of thirteen people connected in one way or the other to the reports, with Mchomvu saying that after the completion of procedures, they’ll be brought before the court to face justice.

Those arrested are Ibrahim Saleh (29), Ibrahim Saleh Rashid (22), Ali Abdallah Mohammed (27), Yassin Abdallah Mohammed (17), Twalib Salum Mohammed (25), Suleiman Juma Omar (22), Othman Mohammed Salum (49), Ali Haji Hamisi (25), Mudathir Jacob Simon (27), Ali Salim Abdallah (53), and Mohammed Fuad Mohammed (21).

“Four of these have had their files forwarded to the public prosecutor for further action,” Mchomvu told journalists. “We continue with investigations into the remaining five, and once completed, they’ll also be referred to the next step for action.”

He said three cases were about to be taken to court today, November 22, 2023. Mchomvu said that the individuals will be charged with with the crime of doing same-sex sexual acts, which is a criminal offence in Zanzibar.

READ MORE: Zanzibar: Calls for Police to Prioritise Electronic Evidence In Sexual Assault Investigations Intensify

Mr Edwin Mugambila, the Chief Executive Officer of Tanzania Relief Initiative (TRI), a Dar es Salaam-based non-governmental organisation that works to prevent trafficking in person in Tanzania, had suggested that the individuals be charged with trafficking in person as their practices have all the hallmarks of an organised crime.

He told The Chanzo in an interview that the reports are a classic case of illegal human trafficking as the children were recruited, transferred and harboured, noting that the perpetrators can be charged according to the country’s Anti-trafficking in Persons Act No. 6 of 2008.

But Mchomvu told journalists on Wednesday that the police’s investigation in Zanzibar has found no information suggesting that what is happening in Zanzibar is organised crime. 

He said all the cases they have investigated concern the consequences of family separation and parents’ lack of interest in granting their children a good upbringing.

“Parents pretend to be busy and therefore fail to provide a good upbringing to their children,” he said. “The problem is a result of the moral decline in our communities. I urge parents to take good care of their children by introducing them to religious teachings.”

READ MORE: Youths Mysteriously Go Missing in Zanzibar. Families, Police Offer Contradictory Explanations

“No criminal network in Zanzibar coordinates these practices,” he insisted. “The government cannot allow such a network to exist as it is prepared to address issues related to child sexual abuse.”

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