"Arusha is the country's diplomatic town, whatever transpires within its vicinity is taken seriously by international communities and the ongoing invasions of large scale farms in Meru may scare investors away," the Regional Commissioner, Mr Magessa Mulongo said recently.
Hosting a number of international organisations, institutions and conferences, in addition to being one of Tanzania's main tourist destinations the last thing Arusha wants is to see foreigners are protected.
The animosity in Meru against settlers who run large scale farms is escalating into dramatic scenarios. The invasions recently took on a sinister turn when villagers in an attempt to seize a large scale farm were caught up in a scuffle that left one person dead and several others injured.
Villagers from Poli and Seela Sing'isi in Meru district invaded Mito Miwili Farm owned by Pulses and Agro Commodities Company, armed guards fought the invaders off. Godlove Laeli, 24, suffered gunshot wounds and is admitted to the Mount Meru Regional Hospital.
Arusha's Regional Police Commander (RPC) Thobias Andengenye confirmed the incident which happened on the night of April 28, adding that about 40 invaders armed with bows and arrows, bush knives, double-edged swords, spears and axes destroyed several items on the farm. The villagers set the farm house ablaze, destroyed four tractors and a large barn.
The invaders allegedly also looted whatever they could lay their hands on. Authorities as well as farm owners are still calculating the value of both the vandalised and stolen property. Mito Miwili farm invasion by villagers is the third in less than one month. In recent days Dolly Estate in Maji ya Chai saw its gate and part of an electric fence ripped apart by hordes of neighbouring villagers claiming that land belonged to them.
Earlier on, in April armed villagers from Nduruma, Nkoanrua and Akheri invaded a farm that belong to Machumba Estate and attempted to divide it among themselves. The riot Police came in to stop the invasion just in time. So far the attacks on the farms are blamed on politicians who during the parliamentary campaigns for the recently held Arumeru by-elections, reportedly promised to give land occupied by settlers to the landless locals.
Apparently, the residents of Meru took the words seriously and decided to go ahead and grab land. The promises were made by politicians from the two strongest parties during the campaigns. The parties are Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA).
It is alleged that one such politician praised the people of Meru recently for taking steps into wrestling back their land from foreigners, saying Tanzanians have had enough of being trampled by state-backed foreign investors. Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Said Mwema has commissioned a special team to pitch camp in Meru District to investigate the actual cause of the ongoing wave of invasions.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr Issaya Mngulu has started work in Meru in collaboration with the regional security committee. However, Mr Mngulu did not divulge how many people will be part of the team. "We are going to stay here indefinitely," said Mr Mngulu, explaining that there is no limit to the number of days that the team is required to accomplish their mission in Meru and that the team will only leave once the problem has been solved.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police who is on the team, Mr Engelbert Mkoko, stated that it is a professional undertaking which will leave no stone unturned.
"There are speculations that invasions of the arms have been incited by politicians but our team will decide if that is the case or there are other deep rooted motives," said the police officer. Meru District has a total of 20 large estates belonging mostly to foreign investors.
"Our investigations will go hand-in-hand with mass education, teaching and advising local residents in Meru not to listen to politicians who drive them into riots," said Mr Mkoko.