14 Sep 2012

Mwangosi killed, a policeman charged. What next?

"Our pens and cameras are more than their bullets and bombs." Picture from HabariLeo
So finally a policeman has been charged with the murder of Daud Mwangosi. Given the apparent strength of the evidence, and the pressure that the media has put on the government - both through its coverage and its protests - this latest development should not be a surprise. There was no way out.

But we're left with an unsatisfactory half-resolution. There are still lots of unanswered questions.

One policeman may have pulled the trigger on the tear-gas gun that killed Mwangosi, but what about the others who were apparently beating him badly even before the fatal shot was fired? Are they going to be held to account as well or will they be allowed to escape punishment for their disproportionate and unprofessional actions?

What about the Regional Police Commander, who was at the scene, could see what was happening, and did nothing to stop it?

What about those even higher up the chain? Surely senior police officers bear some responsibility for allowing such indiscipline in the junior ranks. And why was there such a heavy police presence at a minor event in the first place?

There is of course a chance that IGP Mwema's investigation team and/or Minister Nchimbi's "committee" will prove to be thorough and effective. But to be honest we await their findings with more interest than hope.

And there is also the important matter of Francis Godwin, whose eyewitness testimony (more) and photos (warning: this link contains very unpleasant images) have provided such compelling evidence. He has gone into hiding with his family, fearing for his life, having reportedly received death threats. Francis performed an admirable and courageous service to the people of Tanzania by speaking out as he did, and he should not be allowed to suffer as a result.

When this blog last covered this case, we noted that there was an intense struggle going on behind the scenes in the Tanzanian media, between caution and courage, between hiding the truth and full disclosure. It is very encouraging to see that courage seems to have won this internal battle. Francis Godwin in particular has shown immense courage, and enough parts of the media - most notably Tanzania Daima, Mwananchi, Nipashe and ITV - have followed suit. The response of media and journalists' organisations such as MCT and UTPC (and many others) has also been commendable.

We now need to keep the pressure up. Will one policeman in court be all the justice that's done in this case? Will Francis Godwin and his family be OK?

But finally, lets see if we can end on a positive note. Can we hope that some good might come from Mwangosi's tragic death? It is possible that his killing and the reaction to it might have the effect of showing the government and the police that heavy-handed actions do their reputations more harm than good. This is, after all, the latest in a growing list of clashes. As a commenter on a previous post on this blog put it:
"I think the opposition, particularly CHADEMA benefits from police brutality, as it is a clear CCM own goal! Remember the last general elections, wherever police used brutal means to disperse CHADEMA meetings, they won the constituency. This happened in Arusha, Mwanza, Iringa and Mbeya. I have no doubts that CHADEMA will take over Morogoro in the next general election. If CCM wants to lose the next general election, they should continue to leave the Police loose, to suppress public meetings of CHADEMA."
There is some evidence of this debate happening within CCM, though the silence from other senior party figures is not a good sign. At the moment, the government and the police are doing a very good job of making Chadema more popular. Perhaps this tragic death will be the point at which the government and the police decide to change their strategy.

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Further reading: Daraja has put together a (growing) list of news articles, blogposts, videos, etc. on the killing of Daud Mwangosi and the reaction to it. Key articles are in bold type.

We have also posted a collection of related cartoons on our facebook page.