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Peace is a lens through which you can see Zanzibar

ZANZIBAR is relatively secure as compared to its crime stained major city counterparts like Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Mwanza.

Street mugging, robbery and pick-pocketing incidents are rare, if any, on the Indian Ocean’s semi-autonomous archipelago’s avenues where wananchi are commonly seen strolling the streets freely and peacefully, even at late night hours.

But, that is the general situation, which doesn’t necessarily imply that the archipelago, which venerated its 56th Revolution Day recently, is crime-free! Drug and sexual abuse remain top among the most serious problems that haunt Zanzibar. “Drug abuse and trafficking are a challenge in Zanzibar,” concedes Zanzibar Police Commissioner Mohammed Haji Hassan.

He, however, rules out any possibility of the law enforcers surrendering to the drug barons. Through teamwork with other defence and security agencies, the police have devised effective strategies to suppress the felonies’ perpetrators and completely transform the islands into the haven of peace.

According to Commander Haji, all Zanzibar’s five regions—Urban West, North Unguja, South Unguja, North Pemba and South Pemba—have received special instructions on the best way to fight the social and economically ruining business.

“...and, all Shehias have been instructed to secretly submit reports on suspected drug dealers, distributors and abusers to the intelligence officers deployed in their respective areas,” says the Islands’ police chief.

The recently released police report on crime rate for January-December 2019 period shows that the law enforcers apprehended 496 suspects, 17 of them women, over drug transportation, sale and consumption charges.

During the year, according to the six-page police brief, over 683 kilogrammes of abusive drugs were confiscated, with bhang’s over 660 kilogrammes dominating the catch. Other drugs with their quantities in brackets were Heroine (over 11 kilogrammes), Khat (10.9 kilogrammes), Cocaine (960.7 grammes) and Valium tablets (10.3 grammes).

But, what seems as sustained spirit against the crime, Zanzibar police in collaboration with Dodoma-headquartered security force, on January 4, 2020 embarked on a special operation, which has helped to arrest 10 suspects—three drug dealers and seven users.

A senior police officer blames the difficulty in the fight against drug in the Islands’ geographical location. “Zanzibar is surrounded by water, providing criminals with many illegal entry routes. The police are trying their best but it remains difficult,” he says.

Women and children are seemingly the endangered species in Zanzibar due to the high rate of sexual abuse against them. Rape, sodomy and defilement are rife in the Spice Islands, according to the police report.

During the period under review, the police reported 826 sexual abuse related cases, a five per cent rise from 786 cases, which were reported in the previous year. Interestingly, one lady was among the 787 suspects arrested behind the sexual crimes.

“It has baffled us too to have a lady linked to sexual abuses,” says Commander Haji, attributing the escalating sexual offences to technological advancement, leniency to offenders, moral decay in the society and witchcraft beliefs.

He, however, maintains that despite a 13 per cent crime increase from 2,531 major offences in 2018 to 2,911 felonies last year, Zanzibar remains generally safe and peaceful.

The police commissioner assures that the law enforcers are determined to quell all criminals to make the Spice Islands the haven of peace, with drug trafficking and abuse, gender violence and traffic offences as this year’s priority areas for the law enforcers.

The police report further shows declining road accidents as compared to the previous year—2018. In 2019, the police recorded 311 accidents, 142 of them fatal, with 162 people dying, 19 of them women. In 2018, there were 319 accidents, 140 of them fatal, with 163 people dying, 33 of them women.

The police, according to Commissioner Hassan, recorded 10,355 traffic related cases, which generated over 279m/- as fines, a slight decrease from the previous year’s 14,682 cases, which generated about 347m/- in fines.

Speeding, reckless drivers, narrow roads, ramshackle vehicles and drunkard drivers are the main cause of road accidents and traffic offences, according to police.

Commander Hassan pledges sustained police operations, patrols and impromptu searches in the intensified fight against any type of crime, imploring all Zanzibaris to refrain from wrong doing and embrace the culture of reporting all crimes to the defence and security agencies

THE first day I came into close proximity ...

Author: Masato Masato, Zanzibar

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