9 Oct 2012

Independent report on killing of Mwangosi is out

Report cover
The first report into the killing of journalist Daud Mwangosi in Mufindi on September 2nd is now out.

This not the report commissioned by the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Nchimbi (which is also due to be published today). And it is not the report being prepared by the police. 

Instead, it comes from two leading media institutions - the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and Tanzania Editors' Forum (TEF) - produced by their three-person team of John Mireny (MCT), Hawra Shamte (Mwananchi / TEF) and Simon Berege (Tumaini University, Iringa). Although produced by the media industry, the report can be reasonably considered to be more independent than either of the official reports.

A first read through the report (which is available in both English and Swahili) makes it clear that the report is hard-hitting. It appears to be thorough and well analysed. And it is highly critical of the police, particularly Regional Police Commander (RPC) Michael Kamuhanda.

Key points:

1. What went wrong?
The report makes a interesting comparison between two similar events held in Nyololo by Chadema on the same day, at which two party offices were opened. The first opening passed peacefully, though with some confrontation between the police and Chadema officials, as well as between the police and the journalists. The report calls this "Sanity Scene A". The second opening went horribly wrong, called "Bloody Scene B" in the report.

The report asks what was the difference between these two cases, why did one pass peacefully and the other end in violence and a brutal killing?

In answer to its own question, the report points the finger at the police, specifically RPC Kamuhanda. The Regional Crime Officer (RCO), junior to the RPC, had been in command at the first office opening, but his boss was not happy:

"According to eyewitnesses, the RPC summoned the RCO and openly expressed anger over the ‘peaceful’ handling of Chadema affairs at Sanity Scene [A]."
"Apparently, the RCO retreated before approaching Bloody Scene [B], and the direct command of police decisions and actions at Bloody Scene [B] was left in the hands of his boss – RPC Kamuhanda." 
The report also notes evidence that the police - not Chadema - were responsible for the situation at Scene B turning violent:
"One of the confounding aspects of the bloody drama at Scene B was the presence of very few civilians (Chadema cadres and journalists combined), outnumbered many times over by police. Eyewitness accounts and still pictures and video clips prove this beyond any shadow of doubt." 
"All hell broke loose when the RPC ordered the arrest of Chadema leaders at the scene. In response to the orders, according to eyewitnesses, police first violently stormed into the party’s office, firing tear gas canisters and ordering party leaders to surrender. M4C [Chadema] regional leader Kigaila [then] pleaded with the few followers and office bearers around “to surrender by sitting down and raising their hands”. [Journalists at the scene] testified that although Chadema cadres complied with their leader’s (Kigaila) pleas that they sit down and raise their hands to signal surrender, police went on to fire live bullets and tear gas canisters into the air while using batons and boots to punish journalists and other people around.
"[A woman eyewitness] submitted that she saw reporter Abdallah Said running towards the RPC’s vehicle and pleading with him to order the commander’s subordinates to stop beating Mwangosi. The RPC didn’t heed the reporter’s plea and, instead, rolled up his vehicle’s left window door mirror. A few seconds later, a horn blast was heard from the RPC’s vehicle and there were simultaneous explosions of tear gas canisters that instantly killed Mwangosi. The woman asserted that Mwangosi was killed under the close watch of RPC Michael Kamuhanda. For Abdallah Said and the woman witness, the coincidence of the horn blast and the explosions remains a big puzzle. 
"There clearly was use of unwarranted force on unarmed people at Nyololo village. What was witnessed was a battle pitting armed police against defenseless journalists – surely, a battle of stones against eggs. Some restraint on all parties to what happened, armed police in particular, could have easily forestalled the tragedy we ended up witnessing."

2. Was the killing pre-meditated?
The report makes it clear that there is some evidence (though not proof) that the killing of Daud Mwangosi was planned beforehand:

At a press conference held on the day before the killing, "Daudi Mwangosi was the only reporter who asked the RPC such ‘hard questions’ at the event that the latter became visibly annoyed." The RPC responded that “This is an order and police won’t entertain any argument on this issue.”
"After the press conference, as journalists were walking out of the regional police headquarters, police officers whose identities were not immediately established cautioned journalists against 'venturing' to Nyololo to cover Chadema political activities owing to so-called potential risks." 
"Shortly after the morning press conference at the RPC’s offices journalists in the briefing chamber recounted that one unidentified plain clothed police officer approached Mwangosi and remarked: 'What is the point if going to Nyololo to cover Chadema activities may end in your own demise?' Mwangosi retorted: 'If I die today, my remains will not be buried in the ground but in the hearts of the people.' It was as if he was predicting his death."  
"Since all that the journalists were carrying were cameras, notebooks and pens and most were familiar faces and names to Iringa police officer, it is safe to conclude that police were all out to hunting down journalists they were familiar with." 
"The MCT team has ruled out the question of mistaken identity. The eight journalists present at Nyololo village could easily be identified, especially so after peaceful state of affairs at the Sanity Scene A."

3. Was there an attempted cover-up? 
The report documents in some detail various attempts to hide the truth of what happened in Nyololo.

First, the report documents that there were attempts to prevent other journalists from reporting on what they had seen:
"IPC Deputy Secretary General Francis Godwin, a freelance journalist who said he witnessed the Mwangosi killing, recounted that two police officers chased him deep into the bush at Nyololo village and he was forced to abandon his car, only to return deep at night to recover it." 
"Even after the journalists had learnt that they were facing an uncertain future vis-à-vis the law-enforcers and some had begun taking cover in surrounding bushes, police still pursued them and aimed tear gas canisters at those seen fleeing." 
It then documents the later statements by various police and other government authorities, and how they contradicted the clear evidence from the scene.
"Authoritative but contradictory police reports on Mwangosi’s killing were accessed through different media outlets beginning on the Monday of September 3, 2012. The respective official authorities had retracted none of the statements until the time of compiling this report." 
"On the one hand, the Home Affairs Minister admitted on September 4, 2012 that Daudi Mwangosi was killed by a ‘mishandled’ tear gas shell, the following morning the Iringa RPC appeared on national television seeking to blame the ‘crowd of Chadema supporters’ for throwing a heavy object that exploded and killed Mwangosi alongside injuring several other people including three police officers. Eyewitnesses and facts on the ground as captured on video and in still pictures show that there was no ‘crowd’ of such supporters but rather journalists and no more than a score of Chadema leaders, who were well outnumbered and overpowered by the police contingent. Yet, the RPC swore that there was an unruly ‘crowd’."

4. A final question
The report notes that one police officer has been arrested and charged with killing Mwangosi. And then it poses a question:
Why the pick only on this junior police officer when at least six other police officers under the close watch and direct command of the RPC Michael Kamuhanda are closely associated with the journalist’s harassment, torture and killing? Why the rest are still on the loose baffles logic."