Dodoma. Officers from the Tanzania Police Force here face accusations of torture and abuse after they allegedly arrested and detained a 38-year-old man who told The Chanzo that he was humiliated, tortured and abused when he was in the hands of law enforcement officers.
Police reportedly arrested Kalamba Ramadhani Mnenge, a livestock keeper from the National Housing Street in the capital, Dodoma, on the evening of December 10, 2023, after they accused him of the robbery that occurred at a nearby shop, a theft he says he never participated in.
While narrating his ordeal to The Chanzo, the father of one Mnenge said that the officers removed him from his house, ignoring his appeals to let the local authorities know of his arrest, and handcuffed his legs and hands before dumping him on a police patrol car.
“They took me to a house and stripped me naked,” Mnenge narrated. “They handcuffed my legs and arms again and left me hanging through a piece of iron bar. One of the officers was drinking water while occasionally pouring it on my naked buttocks.”
“They beat me heavily on different parts of my body,” Mnenge continued to narrate in a voice filled with bitterness. “They hit me on the chest, stomach and on my penis. They all hurt badly as we currently speak. They beat me until I became unconscious, and blood was dripping out of my nose, and took me outside to get some fresh air.”
Later, Mnenge was taken to the central police station, where he was charged with breaking into a shop. He was detained for three days before his family managed to bail him out. He told The Chanzo that the officers behaved lawlessly, calling on relevant authorities to intervene lest more innocent people get hurt.
“It’s totally unfair and unacceptable what the police did to me,” Mnenge said assuredly. “They couldn’t even listen to our area’s chairperson. When the chairperson inquired what was happening, they fired bullets in the air while forcing me into their parked vehicle.”
Asha Athuman, the chairperson, confirmed these details to The Chanzo, noting that when she approached the officers to demand to know what was going on, they ignored her while threatening to beat her.
“I told them that I’m the chairperson here, and I demand to know what’s going on,” Ms Athuman said. “They told me to go away while threatening to beat me. I had to run back to my house, and it was during that moment they took Mnenge with them.”
Questioned about the incident during a press conference on December 18, 2023, Dodoma regional police commander Martin Otieno said he was unaware of it but promised to investigate it and establish what exactly happened.
Otieno said the rules are very clear: if officers of law enforcement agencies violate their code of conduct and other countries’ laws while in operations, they must be investigated, and if they are found guilty, actions are taken against them.
“Actions might involve disciplinary measures, dismissal and even prosecution,” Otieno told journalists.
The unnecessary use of force by police officers during their work has been one of the biggest criticisms that the Tanzania Police Force has been receiving from members of the general public and human rights activists in the country.
The frequency with which the incidents have been occurring has made many observers wonder if the actions result from some rotten apples in the police force or an effect of the institution’s systemic failure to take care of law and order in the country.
The national coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), Onesmo Olengurumwa, thinks that training police officers on people’s fundamental human rights, alongside other systemic and institutional redress, can help reduce the frequency of these incidents of violence and abuse.
“Police violate people’s fundamental rights because some of them don’t know anything about these rights,” said Olengurumwa, whose organisation has been training police officers on human rights. “There could be others who do these things purposefully, but I think some are just ignorant.”
Other recommendations aimed at fixing these incidents include the need for the Police Force to be transformed and become a Police Service, a change that many, including a commission President Samia Suluhu Hassan formed to examine the country’s criminal justice system, believe would change the attitude of its officers and how they conduct themselves.
But while the nation waits for these reforms to come through, the chairperson of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG), Judge (retired) Mathew Mwaimu, welcomed Tanzanians who feel violated by the police to file complaints with the commission.
Mwaimu told The Chanzo that the commission exists to ensure that principles of human rights and good governance take root in Tanzania for its people’s benefit, urging anyone convinced that the principles are being violated to file a complaint with the commission for redress.
Jackline Kuwanda is a Dodoma-based The Chanzo correspondent. She’s available at Jackline@thechanzo.com.