Tanzania People’s Defence Forces soldiers on there vehicles were capture wile driving to Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam, yesterday during clashes between rioters and security personnel
FOUR Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) trucks and a Land Rover full of heavily armed soldiers arrived in the Kariakoo section of the city in the afternoon and took control of the streets, signaling that the people should disperse.
The soldiers were reportedly called in at the request of the police, who asked for back-up to patrol the streets of Kariakoo just in case the riots get out of hand.
But Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone commander Suleiman Kova told a local radio station that TPDF men were there on their own business and declined to say more.
Police engaged with the small groups of protestors who eventually coalesced into a big crowd with the intention of marching to State House.
Tensions built up even more after the police blocked the group near Msimbazi police station in Kariakoo as the protestors attempted to make their way to Ikulu.
Business came to a standstill in many parts of Kariakoo as most shops remained closed and traders vacated the busy section of the city for fear that they might get caught up in the kind of religious clashes that have rocked Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar this week.
According to leaflets distributed in Temeke, Kinondoni and Kariakoo, the demonstrators were making their feelings known about the desecration of the Quran and the arrest of the chairman of the Council of Islamic Organisations, Sheikh Panda Issa Ponda.
They were also demanding answers on the disappearance on Tuesday of Sheikh Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed, the leader of the Association of Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, popularly known as Uamsho.
Fliers at the scene suggested that President Kikwete was on the side of Christians after he visited churches that were destroyed last Friday by angry Muslim youths who were protesting at the 14-year-old’s action.
The drama began after he got into argument with his Muslim friend, who said the holy book had the powers to turn any one who defiled it into a snake or he would go mad. “The President is defending Christians,” said one demonstrator. “We all witnessed when he visited churches and consoled the kafir who defiled our book.”
Minor confrontations were reported in Mtambani mosque in Kinondoni and Kichangani mosque in Magomeni but they did not last long after police intervened. A police helicopter hovered over parts of the city to beef up security. At least 50 people were arrested in the fracas.
Relative calm returned Kariakoo around 4pm yesterday but security was still tight as darkness dark fell.
Before the soldiers were called in yesterday, Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander Suleiman Kova told a local radio that the TPDF would be deployed if the situation remained tense.
Spots check by our representertive indicated tight security at Saint Karoli Lwanga church in Yombo Dovya. Priest, nuns and other workers had to leave after they received threats that youths would invade the church after Friday prayers.
Zanzibar still tense
In the meantime, reports from Zanzibar said violent clashes continued for the second day yesterday. One person was shot dead by police at midnight on Thursday.
M2S leant that Salum Hassan Muhoja, 30 and a resident of Regeza Mwendo on the outskirts of Zanzibar, was shot dead near Amaan as he passed by a bar and guest house destroyed during Thursday’s clashes. Police fired live bullets and teargas canisters as they confronted scores of youths demanding the release of Sheik Hadi Ahamed, whom they believe is in the police hands.
Meanwhile, there are mounting fears that the violence could get out of control—and eventually pose a threat to national security and stability.