Tanzania’s Execution of Kenyans Jeopardizes the E.A Federation

Published on 11th September 2007

Kenyan citizens living in Tanzania are now under close scrutiny and suspicion from police and members of the public following a spate of crimes allegedly committed by Kenyans. Vehicles bearing Kenyan registration plates are not only stopped at every police roadblock but plain-clothes policemen also trail them.  According to Tanzanian police, suspected Kenya criminals have gotten away with at least 5 major bank robberies over the last 6 months alone.

Last week, a record 14 suspected criminals, 13 of them Kenyans, were shot at close range. The 12 men and one woman had bullet wounds on their chests and heads. Some of the victims had past criminal records in Kenya. The mystery surrounding the killings in the northern Tanzanian town of Moshi, puts to test the fate of the proposed East African Federation. What the Tanzanian police called “a botched criminal attempt” took a diplomatic twist with the Tanzanian government warning, “Kenyan criminals could jeopardize the process towards regional integration”.

While Tanzanian police maintain that the suspects were planning to stage a major bank robbery and rescue other Kenyan suspects held at the Karanga prison, Kenyan detectives say that they were all killed at close range and it is not clear if they were actually planning to rob the said bank. This raises questions as to the real reasons behind the execution.  

Tanzania advocates for a gradualist approach towards the East African integration, contrary to the rest rooting for speedy integration. After the 6th ordinary session of the EAC Heads of State meeting in August this year, Tanzania was categorical that the regional integration would flop due to among other reasons: tribalism in Kenya and Uganda, crime and competition mainly from Kenya. With this in mind, last week’s execution seemed to put the final nail to the proposed EAC federation’s coffin unless Kenya and the other E.A countries allay Tanzania’s fears. Tanzania’s minister for Internal Security, Mr Bakari Mwapachu, highlighted this when he said, “we are concerned about the rising criminal activities involving Kenyans…they are carrying weapons here as if we are at war. This will make us rethink the East African Community idea, because our citizens are now living in fear”.

According to the Kilimanjaro Police commander Mr Lucas Ngohboko, the 13 Kenyans killed last week (and had rented an operation house 6 kilometers from Moshi) had boarded 3 vehicles which the police had been trailing for a while. Only one out of the three vehicles was spotted at the execution scene while the other two vehicles with six occupants apparently drove off.  

The reasons create a rather suspect scenario, picture this:  3 vehicles but only one bullet ridden Suzuki Vitara found while the rest disappear in thin air with 6 occupants on board without a trace. Fourteen fully armed individuals squeezing into such a small vehicle when they had 3 at their disposal driving in the outskirts of Tanzania planning a robbery and a rescue mission from a prison. A FIERCE GUN battle that leaves all the 14 suspects dead from bullet sustained wounds and not a single police gets a scratch from the battle? Media frenzy awash with congratulatory messages to the police by Tanzanians as 13 Kenyans are declared dead. A fire-spiting Tanzanian minister of security issues warnings that such crime will make his people rethink the proposed East African Federation because they are now living in fear out of crime perpetrated by Kenyans.

The suspects should have been arraigned in court because it is clear that police had overpowered them. However, no individual should take advantage of the freedom of movement of people and goods to commit crime and violate any other individual or group’s property rights. If the culture of reaping where one has not sown is condoned, men will leave and satisfy their wants by seizing and consuming the products and labour of others. The law should stop this fatal tendency to plunder. 

As Frederic Bastiat puts it in his book The Law, “Self preservation and self development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of fruits of his labour, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted and unfailing.”  Plunder and suspicion will not only halt all the gains yet to be reaped from the East African Community, but it will also impede progress.

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