Yesterday I watched a video clip recorded during a street encounter between local police officers and former Minister Malima. From the clip it appears that Mr Malima came out of his car and a gang of 3 officers approached him ordering him to go back in his car. While Mr Malima was trying to get certain explanation from the officers, one of them approached him, and fired his weapon in the air in an effort to intimidate the Minister.
My take on this incident is that, first and foremost, let’s be very careful not to use this incident of one bad, crazy police officer and paint all TZ cops with a broad brush. There are thousands of people who wear uniform, wake up every day and work their butt off to keep us safe and reinforce the law in a truthful manner. It is dangerous and unnecessary to attribute one bad police officer’s misconduct to the general behavior of all law enforcement officers in the county.
Having said that, the issue is not however, what this crazy police did, rather what he said during the encounter. Which is “I’m the government, I wear a flag on my belt, I took an oath, I have the load of the government’s power on me, why do you people not respect me, why do you people not respect the government?’’ His statement is very familiar to what many Tanzanians have heard, especially if you have had any encounter with our Government officials.
Now, let’s take a step back and look at the forces that would drive a police officer to unjustly open fire intimidating the public while seeking respect from them. In reality this incident has been precipitated by series of events. My opinion is, this incident happened as a result of other episodes we had witnessed in the past.
I can go as far as in 2006, when a senior government official shot and killed a Daladala bus conductor in front of passengers over a road rage. The senior official who was responsible was acquitted of the charges. The son of the president overstepped his bounds and gave orders to senior government officials like they are his personal servants. A minister, single handedly made a policy to halt centuries of our traditional marriage practices. A government official walked into the Radio station, commanding broadcasters to air his contents.
The list is long, a national security officer forced Member of Parliament (former minister of information) to vacate the public place under a gun point. Senior Government official attempted forced local vendors to sell Tanzania movies only. A senior government official declared prohibition of certain alcohol beverages without parliamentary legislation. A senior official demanded Tanzania musician to stick to love songs, only. I can go on and on and on, but the common denominator here is, if you get the power, you can do things out of the legal boundary and get away with it.
We can blame this young crazy police officer for acting irrationally in the name of the government, but let’s not ignore the big picture here which is a deep troubling pattern of systematic abusive of power and lack of respect for the rule of law in our system and now is trickling down to our local law enforcement officers.