Magereza tanzania ni jehanamu

Inkoskaz

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Nov 6, 2010
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Following the publication of a prison diary which turned out to be the first ever book to elucidate vividly the situation in Tanzanian prisons, The Express was inspired and hence conducted an interview with Rev Kamara Kusupa one of the founding members of political pluralism in Tanzania and the NCCR-Mageuzi party, through our staff writer Elias Mhegera here are the excerpts


1. Qun: Please kindly give us your brief historical background?
Ans: After having pursued formal education I was employed by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) in 1978 up to 1980, by then it was known as the Anti Corruption Squad, it was later transformed to the Prevention of Corruption Bureau (PCB), and later on to the current PCCB. After writing a letter to the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in 1980 condemning what I termed as lavish expenditures by the ruling party, I was sacked from my job. After having stayed idle for the whole year of 1981, I decided to join evangelistic duties, and hence I joined a three years diploma programme at the Dodoma International Bible College 1982-85, and thereafter I went on with my religious duties up to the time of introducing multiparty politics in Tanzania.


2. Qun: What made you to join active politics despite your religious duties?
When I heard that Reverend Christopher Mtikila had joined active politics during the wave of change for multiparty politics I was inspired, so I immediately joined in 1990, and I was part of the 11 people team which found the National Committee for Constitutional Reforms (NCCR) which later was transformed into a political party the National Convention for Construction and Reforms, while retaining its acronym.


3. Qun: What went wrong and what were your initial feelings when you were imprisoned for five year plus?
All troubles started after I had presented to the UN a paper where I claimed that some small miners had been buried alive in Bulyang’ulu Shinyanga due to some investors major mining plans, things were never the same for me again. So I was sentenced for having being an accomplice in fraudulent money, my term started in 2001 and finished in 2007. My initial feelings were fear and hopelessness, but I regained confidence after having joined other inmates.


4. Qun: What did you learn after having stayed in prison for sometime?
It is rather saddening to find that in a country which has a good reputation of having maintained peace and tranquility there are such pathetic conditions in the prisons. Apart from the human rights violations that are conducted by some prison officers but also mixing of prisoners but those at tender ages are at a disadvantage. For instance it is due to those intolerable conditions that some prisoners accept to be engaged in homosexual practices, the prison warders and the Government in general has not done enough to get rid of these immoral acts. So there three dimensions of this problem, in the first place it is the psychological trauma which goes hand in hand with the life in prison, but secondly is mistreatment from the prison officers, and thirdly is mistreatments that are conducted by inmates among themselves.


Moreover through my experience after having interviewed a good number of inmates I discovered that prisons in Tanzania are not places where people can be transformed but they are places which can destroy people even more because they still retain the characters that were institutionalize during the colonial era. I also learnt that a good number of inmates have been implicated to crimes which they did not commit simply because legal service are expensive for those with limited means.


I can argue with confidence that corruption in the Police Force by some officials as well as in the judiciary causes a lot of pain to those who can not bribe these unscrupulous officials. Family conflicts for properties after deaths of parents or even matrimonial conflicts between married spouses are some of the reasons which cause an influx of inmates while such situations could have been resolved amicably at the family level.


I also learnt that prison warders also live in poor conditions a situation which forces them to act brutally against prisoners as one way of reducing their psychological stresses. Poor hygienic conditions have reduced the dignity of human beings to large extent while the sizes of many prisons are small, able to carry only a quarter of the existing populations.


It is also a common practice that some prison officials steal some goods that were meant for prisoners particularly food items, eating utensils like plates and some working tools which could have reduced the burden of work to them.
5. Qun: And how did you feel as days for leaving the prison were approaching?
I was not assured of my self because it is a common practice that one’s jail term can be extended on various grounds including mere fabrication of cases.


6. Qun: Now that you are back to a normal life what do you suggest to the Government in order to improve lives of inmates?
As you did see in my book I dwelt in the 60 last pages of the book on suggesting what should be done. For instance it is not proper to deny prisoners proper media coverage because this can push the Government to act immediately. Medical care should be improved because that is tantamount to the violation of human rights. A good number of inmates die because they lack proper treatment, also due to contamination, and for the fact that such congestions make them amenable to communicable diseases. In this case the common ones are tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/Aids due to homosexual practices and sharing of things of sharp edges like razor blades during cutting of hairs.


There is a need to establish permanent health facilities like dispensaries and hospitals in all prisons particularly the big ones like those of Ukonga in Dar es Salaam, Butimba in Mwanza and Isanga in Dodoma such prisons should have specialized medical facilities and doctors who knows well the circumstances facing prisoners.


Another important transformation to be made is to improve halls of residence for inmates because they do not reflect the current level of development where prisoners are supposed to produce good furniture and many other items. Communication should be improved so that prisoners can get in touch with their relatives all over this country particularly when they are in need of services like legal counsel for appeals.


Food being a basic necessity and a human right issue should be delivered in time and the quality that reflects that prisoners are human beings too, regardless of other issues surrounding them. Parole and many other reliefs that are provided to prisoners must be awarded on grounds of fairness and equality because under the current situation always there is a lot of lobbying by relatives who are outside the jail to the extent that corruption is part and parcel of the game for one to be considered. It is time that now repressive laws must be removed both in the courts, and in the prisons themselves. It is claimed that working conditions in the judiciary are poor to the extent that some legal personnel like magistrates come up with rulings which are inhumane and reflecting the laws that were institutionalized during the colonial era.
7. What strong message do you want to carry across to other politicians in the opposition and Tanzanians in general?
I want to assure them that soon I will be back in active politics because I had to take a break after five years of a grueling journey in the Tanzanian jails. This experience has reinvigorated me further rather than breaking me down.
 

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