Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tanzania: Nchemba's Defence On Besieged Jamiiforums
Photo: The Citizen
Home Affairs minister Mwigulu Nchemba.
By Athuman Mtulya

Dar es Salaam — Home Affairs minister Mwigilu Nchemba has posted comments on JamiiForums, the same social media platform that has been under attack by the government in recent months.

Mr Nchemba took to JamiiForums on Wednesday to defend himself against accusations that he was a suspect in the disappearance of Chadema cadre Ben Saanane.

He posted comments a few days after JamiiForums co-founder and managing director Maxence Melo was charged with using a domain not registered in Tanzania, failure to comply with an order to disclose data in his possession and obstructing police in an investigation.

Police, who are under Mr Nchemba's docket, detained Mr Melo for three days before he appeared in court last Friday. He was released on bail on Monday after spending seven days in custody.

Mr Nchemba, who joined JamiiForums in February 2012 and is classified as a verified member, said Mr Saanane was a friend of his, adding that he was closely following up the matter.

He said he was as puzzled as other Tanzanians because he had been in touch with Mr Saanane on the week he disappeared.

Mr Nchemba was responding to allegations levelled against him by a user known as "Technically", whose post was titled "Is Mwigulu Nchemba the first suspect in the disappearance of Ben Saanane?"

In the post, "Technically" said Mr Nchemba was a politician who could not be trusted. He also posted a video clip showing former Chadema secretary-general Willibrod Slaa criticising Mr Nchemba before he became a Cabinet minister.

"Mwigulu Nchemba, who is now the Minister of Home Affairs, should provide answers on the disappearance of Ben Saanane, the seven bodies fished out of the River Ruvu, the killing of four police officers in Mbagala, Dar Salaam, earlier this year, the 2013 grenade attack in Arusha and terrorism charges against Frederick Lwakatare," "Technically" said.

According to the JamiiForums user, Mr Nchemba accused Mr Lwakatare, who is Chadema security director and Bukoba Urban MP, of being a terrorist without providing any proof.

"Technically" also accused the minister of being behind the June 2013 grenade attack, which killed four people and injured about 60 during a Chadema rally in Soweto, Arusha.

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"On the Mbagala killings, it is highly likely that he (Nchemba) has something to do with the incident. How come he was the first person at the scene and was in police fatigues while he is not a police officer?"

Mr Nchemba said in response that the issue at hand was a person's life, and there was a need for one to get facts right before commenting.

"Don't just come up with unfounded allegations and link them with this issue, which is still a dark mystery to his (Saanane's) relatives and close friends," the minister said in his post.

He added that Mr Saanane was his personal friend. "We know each other very well. My whole family, including my children, also know him...I was in touch with him until the week he went missing."

Mr Nchemba said "Technically" should not pretend he was closer to Mr Saanane than him.

"If you were close to him, you would have understood what I'm saying. Just follow my communication with Ben since 2014, and you will see how close we are. I still believe God is watching over him...our country has not reached such a point."

Mr Saanane, who is the policy and research advisor to Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, disappeared last month, but the exact date he was last seen is still a matter of conjecture, with some sources saying he vanished on November 18 and others November 24. Efforts to find him have since proved futile.

Mr Nchemba also refuted claims that the seven bodies pulled out of the River Ruvu three weeks ago were buried without any attempt being made to identify them.

"The bodies were badly decomposed, and had to be buried as soon as possible, but we took some samples, and you ("Technically") are invited to identify them should you want to do so. We said that it was likely they were illegal immigrants since we also found a group of 81 immigrants in a nearby forest. However, we are not 100 per cent sure who the victims were, and we are still investigating."

Commenting on the killing of four police officers in Dar es Salaam, Mwigulu denied that he was the first to arrive at the scene.

He said Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander Simon Sirro, Inspector General of Police Ernest Mangu and Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda arrived before him.

"This is character assassination. Why comment on such sensitive issues based on hearsay?"

On Mr Lwakatare, Mr Nchemba said he was ready to meet the lawmaker and "Technically" for talks, and would resign from his ministerial post and parliamentary seat if it was proven he lied about the Chadema politician.

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