Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Seven people paraded naked on witchcraft beliefs in Tarime district

FIVE women and two men (name withheld) have been paraded naked in public view under the command of traditional elders of the Kurya tribe in Tarime district, Mara region after having been suspected of being involved in acts of witchcraft. It has been learn. A reliable source from the scene said in a telephone interview early this week that, the incident took place last Friday at Kewamamba village, Nyandoto ward within Tarime Town Council when the suspects were brought before the traditional elders from Nyasebe hamlet in Gamasara village where they are living. Describing the incident, a village security guard known as ‘sungusungu’ who identified himself as Michael Ching’wa said that, “each suspect was ordered to put off clothes and remained with underpants in public view and entered a special room which was occupied by ten elders for interview”.Chingwa who was directed by ethical committee members of the Nyasebe hamlet to guard the suspects added that, “the traditional elders administered a local herb to each one of them to drink while standing upright and made to utter some words as a sign of swearing them to find out the truth about their involvement in such acts”. He further noted that, when the exercise was finished they put on their clothes and later were taken far a distance to a nearby forest to perform other traditional rituals of the land which would bind them from continuing with such acts anymore. Among the performances he said each one of them was ordered to jump over four little calabashes which were placed on the ground and some local herbs whose magical powers according to their beliefs would make them desist from practicing anymore witchcraft. He said that, after the exercises was completed the suspects were fined each one of them Sh. 40,000/- or pay a goat (as equivalent) without knowing the amount of money was for what purpose. He added that, the elders have threatened them whoever fails to pay the money within one weeks’ time will see what will happen. One suspect (name withheld) who proved her innocence said in a telephone interview when contacted three days later that, she is surprised and became psychologically affected when she was named among the suspects. However, she noted that, the incident has diminished her integrity and respect as it has tarnished her good name before fellow villagers adding that, she is now living in fear of being attacked by people and she is not happy at all. Commenting on the amount of money imposed onto them as fine, she described it as unfair act as they do not know the reasons why they were charged and yet haven’t seen anyone complaining to have been bewitched, in view of this has requested the government and the police to intervene. Some interviewed villagers and other relatives of the suspects have complained on the role being played by the police in the district of taking no any serious actions against traditional elders whom they have accused of violating the country’s laws. Instead they said have left them to decide other matters related to people’s social lives and worse still introduces penalties to suspects brought before them who are alleged to have committed mistakes which do not have evidences tendered as proof. Contacted for comment, the chairman of Nyasebe hamlet in Gamasara village Deus Ngera said in a telephone interview that, some villagers within his hamlet had been complaining of bad attitudes related to witchery being practiced by some fellow villagers. He further noted that, due to such increased habits, he was advised by his ethical committee members to convene a meeting with a view to identify the perpetrators and had agreed that, voting method should be used to identify the suspects. He said when voting went through, seven people were selected and their names were read in front of the gathered congregation of about 140 villagers who turned up to witness the exercise on the material day, later on had agreed unanimously that they should be penalized according to the rules of the land. He couldn’t have any option except to order the suspects be taken before the traditional elders of the land in Kewamamba village which is located far about 20 kilometers away for disciplinary actions. But when asked why couldn’t he order the suspects be taken to police for interrogation, he declined to say anything. Efforts by this paper to contact the Chairman of the traditional elders Weisiko Chacha Hati proved futile, but his close aid who spoke on strict condition of anonymity said that, imposing fines to such suspects is a normal traditional routine work and this is even done to suspected thieves brought to them. However, he confirmed the amount fined to the suspects and noted that this is a disturbance fee paid to elders even if there is no evidences tendered for any offense committed whatsoever which could prove beyond any reasonable doubts. Efforts to reach the Tarime/Rorya Special Zone Police Commander ACP Justus Kamugisha to elaborate more about the issue proved futile as up to the time we go to press his mobile phone seemed to have been locked and never responded. However, this reporter looked for another alternative and managed to get a police spokesperson Senior Superintendent of Police from the headquarter SSP Advera Senso who spoke in a telephone interview that her headquarter office deals with the national issues of disseminating policies that governs matters related with security and administration. However, she advised to keep on looking for the regional police commander who is a spokesperson of all events happening within a region to give facts as in accordance to the event itself as this is the procedure. Commenting over the issue, a Dar es Salaam based human rights activist, Josephine Bundala said in an exclusive interview that, “it is shameful to disgrace elderly people in public view and moreover without evidences tendered for any allegations leveled against them. However, she noted that, this is a great disgrace which is against the law and furthermore the action shown is a threat to their lives. In view of this however, she has recommended legal action to be taken in order to safeguard the lives of the suspects. The inhumane action by the traditional elders comes amid report of Legal Human Rights Centre (LHRC) issued in Dar es Salaam early this week which reveals that, there are increased deaths of old men emanating from witchcraft beliefs in the country. The report expressed concern about the growing trend of killings and revealed that, thousands of people lose their lives in Tanzania because they are suspected of engaging in witchcraft. The report adds that many killings occur in the northern regions of Mwanza, Mara and Shinyanga. The LHRC says that police statistics in the African nation show that at least 642 people suspected of witchcraft were killed between January and November 2011, a significant increase from the at least 579 witchcraft-related deaths in 2010. This makes for an average of 500 witchcraft-related deaths in Tanzania each year, but the actual figure is likely higher because many incidents are not reported. Most of the victims are elderly women with red eyes.

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