Friday, August 03, 2012

Tanzania security detail: Why we cannot afford failure in the national ID exercise

As had been widely expected, the implementation of the national identity card exercise is in a shambles, yet given the importance and seriousness it deserves, this exercise is simply so key to the country’s national security detail that Tanzania cannot afford to fail.

How can it fail when both its national security and sovereignty heavily depend on the success of getting it right? Unfortunately, what is going on the ground saddens every Tanzanian who has the interest of this nation at heart. What we hear from those we have entrusted with carrying it out differs quite considerably from what they do; they have double mouths, so to speak.

Initially, they said it was the onus of ten-cell leaders to go round their respective areas armed with exercise books -- duly provided by the authorities -- for registering names of members of the households under their jurisdiction. This was to be one of the preliminary stages, followed by other stages that would include the filling in, by all members of the household, of their names.

However, at Tangi Bovu, Mbezi Beach in the Kawe Ward, many many people have been ‘deliberately jumped’ and later directed to get letters of introduction from their respective ten-cell leaders!

According to whispers, the ten-cell leaders’ apparent reluctance to register members of households in their areas -- in their own exercise books – stems from the fact that they been “denied their allowances.”

According to national ID authorities, the registration exercise is free of charge, but the authorities have not gone public on whether or not the ten-cell leaders are being paid anything for their effort.

But the way ten cell leaders and others are behaving there is strong reason to believe that there is a big problem as far as payment of allowances is concerned. Indeed, no grassroots leader, or any other official for that matter, would ‘jump’ some households if one had been paid “at least something” for that effort.

The same allowance problem appears to be linked to a similar dilemma at Ukonga Mombasa, where area residents say the exercise has almost grounded to a halt after the same grassroots leaders are also reported to have been denied their rightful allowances.

“They say there is no money … this is why the concerned officials have decided to abandon the exercise,” a resident at Ukonga Mombasa told Whisperer.

Meanwhile, the national ID drive whose implementation, starting with Dar es Salaam, has coincided with Burundi refugees being told to return home, has seen a number of refugees flocking to Dar es Salaam in their effort to change their nationality. “These people don’t want to go back to their country…they say Burundi is not yet safe…fighting is still going on. There have been no respite,” a source told Whisperer.

One area which has a high number of Burundi nationals stretches from Kawe to Mbezi Beach, Mbezi Juu, Tegeta, Boko and Bunju.

However, what makes the concentration of these refugees more alarming is the presence, among them, of armed groups in Boko and Bunju who have been raiding – normally at night – any solitary houses with a modicum of affluence setting them apart from other residences in those areas.

According to grapevine, the groups which are usually armed with AK47 machine guns have often rendered inept our poorly armed police officer – who prefer to look ‘the other way’ during night patrols.

During the day, however, members of the marauding groups assume a completely new role – such as selling fruits but come night, and in a typical guerrilla setting, they get armed set off to the isolated mansions!

At Tangi Bovu, for instance, the refugees have become quite conspicuous at meetings of a religious group that belts out its sermons late into the night. And, according to whispers, at 11.30pm on Thursday this week, some residents found a group of close to 30 Burundi toughies huddled together, apparently holding a (secret?) meeting.

The residents are positive the Burundi group was up to something ‘unholy’ and were conversing in Kirundi – but are said to have suddenly switched into spirited ‘Christian’ the moment they were spotted!

Witnesses say members of the group appeared to be new in the area and it is not known what they were doing in the area -- close to midnight.

Burundi nationals and other foreigners are flocking into Dar suburbia at a time when the government is under pressure from MPs at the ongoing parliamentary budget session in Dodoma over apparent government failure to stem the tide of foreigners in our midst, especially those whose conduct gives cause for suspicion.

The directorate of immigration has particularly come under scathing criticisms from the legislators over its alleged failure to curb the influx of illegal immigrants. It is due to the same failure that a few months ago that we witnessed the deaths of 40 Ethiopians near Dodoma – who apparently died as they were being transported from Kenya across Tanzania to Zambia.

According to Tanzanian authorities, the 40 Ethiopians died from lack of oxygen in the truck in which they were travelling.

The MPs have since questioned how such a big group of foreigners could ‘illegally’ travel over 600km to the centre of the country without being noticed by the country’s security organs that include, among others, the police and immigration officials.

Other whispers confide that there are a number of Kenyan and Ugandan lecturers working without permits at the Gongo-La-Mboto Campus of the Kampala International University (KIU). Instead of dealing with the problem, we hear that immigration officials have been ‘collecting bribes’ from the culprits so that they could look the other side – and the Tanzanian lecturers who dared to report the matter to the authorities were shown the door (read sacked!).

And by the way, are the police and other national security organs not aware of these developments? If not, then what are they aware of?

At the Mwenge Bus Terminal meanwhile, different religious groups have been transformed the area into one huge pulpit for religious sermons – all going on until very late in the evening.

If political parties are not allowed to hold their public rallies past 6pm, why are these religious groups -- some of which have been attacking other faiths in the country -- allowed to continue with their public speeches beyond 6pm?

Source: The Guardian Sunday

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