Thursday, March 07, 2013

Tanzanian Journalist Absalom Kibanda Sent to S.A. for Treatment


By Abela Msikula

The Citizen CorrespondentDar es Salaam.

Tanzanian Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal Visits the Injured Mr. Kibanda

As the manhunt for the two individuals who violently assaulted seasoned journalist Absalom Kibanda Tuesday night moves into higher gear, the firebrand chairman of Tanzania Editor’s Forum (TEF) has had to be flown to South Africa for specialised medical care. The journalist, who is also the group managing editor for New Habari Corporation, was grievously wounded following a vicious attack as he came home from work right outside his house at Mbezi Juu in Dar es Salaam. He suffered serious injuries to his left eye. His assailants also knocked several teeth off him and hacked off a finger on his left hand. Just before he was flown out, the TEF chair told local reporters he believes the incident has something to do with his work as a journalist.

After the incident, Mr Kibanda was rushed to Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH)’s Orthopaedic Institute (Moi), where doctors referred him to a South Africa hospital for further treatment.

The Citizen witnessed him being airlifted at Julius Nyerere International Airport. He left aboard Flight Link around 4pm.

Following these brutal events, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Said Mwema, has assigned four detectives from the Police Force headquarters to beef up investigations into what happened that fateful night, but no arrests had been made when we went to press yesterday.

However, Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander, Mr Suleiman Kova, and Kinondoni Regional Police Commander, Mr Charles Kenyela, said they had formed a joint investigation team to look into the matter.

A statement by minister of Home Affairs Emmanuel Nchimbi said IGP Mwema’s decision is meant “to increase efficiency.” At JNIA, Mr Kibanda shared the harrowing details of Tuesday’s events with the local press.

“I was approaching the gate of my home at midnight. While I was waiting for my gate keeper to open it, two people approached my car and smashed the window screen.”He went on: “As I was trying to escape through the passenger’s door, they grabbed me and began hitting me.” The assailants, he said, attacked him with heavy tools and sharp metals.

“I heard the third person who was off my sight encouraging his colleagues to shoot and finish me…but the two were resisting. An interesting thing is that, they were addressing each other by a title ‘afande’[literally translates ‘Sir’] normally used by police officers,” he noted.

He said when the gatekeeper opened the gate and saw what was happening, he called for help, and the attackers fled.Dr Nchimbi’s statement said Mr Kibanda was found about 30 metres from his car. Nothing was taken from him despite the fact that he had two cellphones and a laptop in his vehicle.

He becomes the fifth journalist to be attacked within the past six months. Two journalists were killed and three others were seriously harmed during this short period.

In September last year TV reporter David Mwangosi was killed by the police in Iringa as he covered a political rally. In January this year Issa Ngumba – a Kakonko-based correspondent with Radio Kwizera –was found dead in the forest with bullet wounds in his body.

Last November, an editor working with Business Times Limited, Mr Mnaku Mbani, was shot and seriously injured by suspected robbers who were attempting to hijack the vehicle he had hired for the day. The following month Shabaan Matutu, a journalist with Free Media Group, was shot in his home by the police in what law enforcement called ‘a case of mistaken identity.’

Mr Kibanda was scheduled to appear in court yesterday as part of an ongoing treason case against him and two others: former group managing editor for Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) Theophil Makunga and Tanzania Daima columnist Samson Mwigamba.

They are alleged to have published a “seditious” article in 2011. Following this violent assault on Mr Kibanda, the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court adjourned the case to March 26.

(Additional reporting by Rosina John and Bernard Lugongo)

Local journalists help carry TEF chairperson Absalom Kibanda onto his SA-bound medical flight after he was violently assaulted outside his home in Dar Tuesday night. PHOTO

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