Region moves to curb extra-judicial killings (Tanzania)

1st August 2011, The Guardian

Over 240 people were killed in Shinyanga Region between January last year and June, this year, due to witchcraft beliefs and incidents related to extra-judicial killings.

This was said here over the weekend by Shinyanga Regional Police Commander, Diwani Athumani during a community-policing stakeholders’ meeting.

According to the regional police chief, killings of innocent people, on superstitious beliefs, have increased dramatically over the last several months.

Presenting the report at the meeting which was also attended by Shinyanga Regional Commissioner, Dr Yohana Balele and participants from security forces, Athumani said 63 people were killed between January and December last year, following allegations of engaging in witchcraft.

“During the same period, 51 people were killed by angry civilians,” he added.

Athumani explained that from January to June this year, 36 people were killed due to superstitious beliefs, a double the 18 people killed last year.

He said 45 people were reportedly killed by mobs from January to June this year compared to 29 who were killed in the same period last year, 16 more people or a 55 per cent increase.

The regional police authorities and security stakeholders have stepped up punitive measures to reduce or completely stop killings of the people, he said.

RC Balele cautioned Shinyanga communities to stop taking the law into their own hands, describing the behavour as “unbecoming and ungodly.”

“Instead of walking with knives, sticks and witchcraft materials in their pockets, people should walk with holy books,” he urged.

“It’s against the country’s laws and fundamental principles of human rights. It’s against spiritual teachings…this behaviour does not please God,” observed the RC.

Shinyanga is among the leading regions in the killing of old women and was recently ranked as the leading region in skinning people with albinism. Bariadi District led the list in the killings, followed by Bukombe and Kahama, with Maswa district recording the lowest number of people killed due to witchcraft and other related forces.

According to Athumani, killings of albinos have since declined, with none being reported so far this year.

The bi-annual human rights report released by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) last month showed that at least 500 deaths related to extra-judicial and witchcraft were registered in different parts of the country from January to June this year.

It said thousands of people, particularly elderly women, were killed, with Shinyanga and Mwanza regions leading in such crimes.

In Shinyanga Region, 142 people were killed following witchcraft and theft allegations while in Kilimajaro 53 people were killed on theft allegations.

The other regions where such killings occurred are Dar es Salaam (40), Rukwa (54), Mara (19), Mtwara (15), Ruvuma (5), Lindi (30) and Kagera 11 people respectively.

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