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Hope is Truly a Dangerous Thing: Is Tanzania Going Back to the Dark Days?

Now, while most politicians are already battling each other for 2025, our lives are still in 2024. There are countless number of people who goes missing without any solid response from the government

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Hope is a dangerous thing; hope can drive a man insane. These are the words in a scene of a movie Shawshank Redemption, where actor Morgan Freeman (Red in the film) was telling Tim Robbins (Andy Dufresne). The two were both convicts imprisoned for a very long time in a maximum-security prison and were longing for freedom.

For some reason, these words have been on my mind since June 27, 2024, when we received the news that social media personnel, Edgar Edson Mwakabela popularly known as Sativa who was abducted on June 23, 2024, had been found inside a national park.

In an astonishing circumstance, he was shot in the head. Luckily the bullet hit his jaw and now he is recounting a harrowing tale that others who vanished may be under similar circumstances could not.

Sativa was abducted on June 23 around 7 p.m. in Ubungo. It seems his kidnappers were monitoring his communications. In a surprising twist, he explains that he was taken to a workshop inside the Oysterbay Police Station. He says that he remained there until 5:20 a.m., during which time his captors interrogated him about what he did and whether he was associated with activists. It seems his abductors had concluded that he was not returning ever, from where he was going; his death was imminent.

In the morning, they embarked on another journey to Arusha. Notably, his captors, perhaps because they had already decided his fate, did not take great care to prevent him from noting details such as their location or their conversations.

After arriving in Arusha, somehow the journey changed to Katavi National Park, where he was shot and left in a dangerous section of the park so that wild animals could finish his remaining. 

Hope is a Dangerous Thing

These incidents of abductions especially of government critics, were prominent during the government of Magufuli. But when President Samia Suluhu came into power, there were many steps that she took including freeing up prisoners, setting up a commission to reform the criminal justice system, ensuring businesses feel safe, retuning political freedom to parties, and more. We were hopeful.

Now the incidents of abductions and kidnapping have returned with vengeance, yet, many of us still cling to hope—the hope that we have returned to a functional state where people’s lives matter.

So, when Sativa went missing, the quest to find him rested on the shoulders of his friends, and thank God, to lawyers Tito Magoti who was once abducted, and lawyer Miriam Mkanaka who started the campaign #WhereIsSativa, and the rest of us joined the campaign.

I feel guilty and ashamed to say that I participated in the campaign, but not vigorously as I used to do before 2020. I was hopeful, that he would be found safe and sound, and I can attest I am not alone. 

I was hopeful of the promise from all these government processes, committees, and nice speeches, but hope became dangerous for Sativa; if not for his friends and the two bold lawyers, there wouldn’t be any meaningful people’s interest in the issue. 

By all indications including the details that he was able to share, it means Sativa was not meant to be alive, his abductors who seem to be affiliated with state security, have decided to kill him.

I have asked myself so many questions since that incident. There is an understanding to most of us citizens, that the government has chosen to reform and correct past mistakes especially the brutality unleashed on people. The president has been on record speaking about brutality, about people having freedom, about running a decent government.

I ask myself does the President says something to us the People, and go back and order something else to her apparatus? I will be honest I believed the President was sincere in many of her assertions, this is what gave me hope. And we have seen some changes honestly.

So, I ask myself another question, has the President gone back on her words or do the people around her not follow the policy she is setting?

Paranoid State and 2025 election

One of the things that made Magufuli the man he was, is that he was a paranoid man. History shows, from the Soviet, and East Germany to Malawi and Kenya that nothing breeds violence more than a paranoid state.

There are a couple of developments that I have noticed in our country, there is a growing sense of paranoia in the Tanzania state and this is fueled by the coming election. Some of the signs of this, was the return of some controversial people in the government, people who were known to be at the forefront of the brutality in the past government.

Now, while most politicians are already battling each other for 2025, our lives are still in 2024. There are countless number of people who goes missing without any solid response from the government. 

I ask politicians to understand, that no vote or election is bigger than the lives of Tanzanians now; and basically, I ask you to ask yourselves how many people are going to get kidnapped before we lose even the nation that we hold dear?

READ MORE: Making Sense of Tanzania’s Politics Towards 2025 As Election Fever Grows

I mean, not all of us can have your backing when the kidnappers come to our doorstep, not all of us are your family members that we can be assured of our safety, not all of us have titles in the ruling party, not all of us are loved or cherished by the few of you who are safe. We just want to have a functioning state.

To other people who have the responsibility of protecting the lives of Tanzanians; are there any decent people left among you?

I have written this note in hope, hope that the people who kill, maim, and make widows and orphans will not be successful and that our nation will survive. I understand hope is a dangerous thing, but I have no other option.

Last, to the kidnappers who want to ruin our nation, I believe that after your long day of kidnapping and killing Tanzanians, you find yourselves time to read. Perhaps you are now resting, drinking a beer or two, preparing yourselves for the busiest season of abduction and killing. I want to leave you with this quote from President Nyerere:

“Regarding the freedom of the people, we cannot argue that people can claim to have development when, in their country, they cannot walk freely; they are afraid, they are terrified. They think that any morning when they hear a knock on the door, they believe someone has come to take them away to imprison them. In such a country, you cannot say there is progress; the country lacks the freedom of the people,” Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Tony Alfred K is a writer and  analyst working with The Chanzo. He can be reached at   and on X @tonyalfredk. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editor at

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