Monday, February 28, 2011
PRESIDENT, MIN. OF DEFENSE AND CDF URGED TO RESIGN OVER GONGO LA MBOTO BLAST
By Beatus Kagashe
The Political Platform Reporter
Dar es Salaam. Calls are mounting for the resignation of President Jakaya Kikwete, the Defence and National Service minister, Dr Hussein Mwinyi and Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), General Davis Mwamunyange, after last week’s explosions at the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) barracks at Gongo la Mboto suburb in Dar es Salaam.
Analysts and members of the public want the leaders to step down as a way of showing accountability and responsibility for the tragedy.
But Dr Mwinyi and Gen Mwamunyange have already made it clear that they would over their dead bodies never resign over the bomb blasts.
Those interviewed said it was unbelievable that the incident had hardly in two years happened again under the same leadership, pointing an accusing finger at the national leaders allegedly for being lousy.
The Democratic Party (DP) national chairman the Reverend Christopher Mtikila is determined to see to it that authorities linked to the blasts are made accountable. He will file a case to force the ouster of Dr Mwinyi and Gen Mwamunyange over the devastating bomb blasts.
The Rev Mtikila said the TPDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Gen Abdurahamani Shimbo, would be among those he would seek for their ouster. “I am consulting lawyers to see if there is a possibility of removing the President’s amnesty to ensure he is included in the trial,” he said.
The army officials should pay for their negligence, which caused the blasts, he said, stressing that the President should have stepped down immediately after the explosions instead of lying to wananchi that he would form a team to investigate the cause of the balsts. TPDF has already formed a team of experts to investigate the incident, but the analysts and members of the public argue that the team would not be useful, as it would make public findings of the probe secret as was the case with Mbagala bomb blasts.
A Tabata Kimanga resident, Mr Richadson Sakala underscored the need for the leaders to resign, admitting, however: “There is no need for relocating the camps because the explosions resulted from mishandling and laziness. Why should a medical doctor be appointed Defence minister, afterall?”
Mr Hadhija Omary wondered why the government failed to learn from the Mbagala bomb blast, stressing that accountability should begin with the top officials allegedly for their irresponsibility.
“Why should we be made to believe that the explosions resulted out of the will of God, while the Mbagala incident was a wakeup call, yet nothing serious was done to avert a similar disaster,” he queried.
Another Dar es Salaam resident, Mr David Mwita, said it was high time Dr Mwinyi immediately stepped down, as it was the second time the incident occurred under his leadership.
“It is the people’s lives at stake here,” he said, blaming the incident on the President for appointing leaders on the basis of friendship instead of merits.
The Official Opposition in Parliament too called for the resignation of the minister and the CDF immediately after the explosions rocked the TPDF barracks at Gongo la Mboto suburb. At least 20 people were feared killed and over 300 injured by the blasts, which saw all 23 armouries at the military camp reduced to ashes.
The Mwalimu Nyerere International Airport situated hardly five kilometres away from the military camp was closed for about 20 hours, leading to hundreds of passengers trqavelling to local and international destinations stranded.
“Shortly after the Mbagala bomb explosions, the minister and the CDF promised the nation that such an incident would never happen again,” the shadow minister for the ministry, Mr Joseph Selasini, reminded reporters at Bunge grounds.
The minister and the CDF were in the same posts when a similar tragedy occurred at Mbagala army barracks in Dar es Salaam about two years ago, killing nearly 30 people and destroying property worth billions of shillings.
No report has to date been made public after the government formed a team to investigate the Mbagala bomb explosions.
Mr Selasini called for an independent inquiry or a special parliamentary investigative team on the Gongo la Mboto army barracks bomb explosions.
Many Tanzanians interviewed by various print and electronic media backed the Opposition camp’s stance, including relocating army barracks away from residential areas to avert recurrence of similar spine-chilling disasters.
“Since they have broken their own promise, it is high time they resigned,” stressed Rombo MP on a Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) ticket, cautioning that the leaders would be vindicated by the people should they refuse to resign.
Others argued in the interviews, however, that there was no need for the leaders to resign because the disaster did not result from sabotage, but was a mishap just like any other accident.
The argument is, nevertheless, pre-empting the investigation, let alone lacking any evidence indicating that the incident was free from sabotage.
President Jakaya Kikwete chaired an emergency Defence and Security Council meeting immediately after the fatal Wednesday night incident.
The council involving ministries of defence, finance and home affairs, among others, could not only respond to Tanzanians’ mixed reactions, but showered the TPDF with praise for ‘properly’ handling an inferno at the barracks.
The Defence and Security Council could dismiss the call for relocation of the five by three-hectare army barracks, which have been there for over 40 years without threatening lives or welfare of the barracks and the surrounding communities.
The council could have reminded the critics that the heavy artillery kept in the barracks’ armouries was capable of causing harm to lives and property situated as far as over 100 kilometres away. Afterall, the barracks and the armouries were strategically located at the area for the security of the country’s largest commercial city, which still serves as capital.
“When things go wrong, these leaders must agree to shoulder the burden of responsibility by resigning of their own accord before the President drafts their dismissal letters,’’ the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation executive director, Mr Joseph Butiku, was once quoted as saying in an interview with a local newspaper.
“Public leaders must be ready to take responsibility. Those who can’t do that are not fit to be public leaders,’’ he said when commenting on public leadership ethics.
He cited the example of former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Dr Mwinyi’s father, who once resigned as Home Affairs minister in Mwalimu Nyerere’s government following the murder of innocent civilians in Shinyanga Region.