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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Secret Ballot evokes Reprisal

Courtesy of The Guardian newspaper
The recent countrywide secret ballot to identify suspected killers of albinos, the elderly and drug dealers has sparked off acts of retribution following the killing of a schoolteacher in Meatu District, Shinyanga Region, on Tuesday.

According to Meatu District executive director Andrew Juma, whose account was confirmed by the police, the schoolteacher, identified as Peter Nicolaus, was killed by unidentified armed gangsters in front of his house as he tried to escape after suspecting them of waylaying him.

Juma said preliminary investigation by the police indicated that the killing of the Ng’hanga Primary School teacher in Lingeka village followed days of rumours that he served as an informant for the police and was working with them to stop crime in the area.

“On Tuesday evening heavily armed people laid siege to Nicolaus' house. The assailants were reported to have returned to the village basically to avenge for information leaked by the deceased that he had submitted their names to the police as suspected criminals,” said Juma at a news briefing.

Interviewed neighbours said right from the beginning they knew that Nicolaus was doing the right thing to fight crime in the neighbourhood but suspected that something terrible would happen to him.

“Criminals have a network which is quite extensive. They (criminals) are quite unforgiving and ready to commit any crime.

Many people around this place refused to take part in the secret ballot for fear of reprisal similar to what happened to Nicolaus,” a resident, Hamidu Magadula, said.

Another villager, Rozaeli Mbwilo, said Nicolaus's family was traumatized and his death had shocked many people in the village and instilled fear in people who might be ready to expose bad elements in the community.

“This is why I refused to cast my ballot against criminals because the suspects would come to know about it and start looking for those against them and retaliate in a shocking manner as it has happened to Nicolaus.

We are in a dilemma; although we want to get rid of criminals we also don’t want to be killed this way,” Rozaeli said.

When asked to comment on measures taken to stop such killings, a police officer said, “The matter will be discussed with higher authorities to make sure that people and their property are secured.”

With the upsurge in albino killings, especially in the Lake zone, the government took some measures to redress the situation. The first step was revocation of operational permits of traditional healers said to have contributed to the killings".

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