More than twenty years ago I was part of a live band playing music at a club somewhere in South America when a chap sneaked on stage and withdrew a gun.
When I saw a weapon waving at me and at such a close range, I stammered mid sentence which made everyone alarmed. Why has the singer suddenly stopped?
By now it was roughly ten seconds since the chap had found his way to the stage; and no sooner had he exposed his gun and made his presence felt than he grabbed the microphone.
Meantime, three of his mates quickly materialised, armed and equally menacing.
“Everyone get down, or I will shoot Jimmy Cliff here.”
(Despite the serious danger I found that funny; thieves with humour and bullets at their finger tips...)
Everyone went down, ladies were robbed off their jewellery, men let go their pouches, fear loomed. But mid way, the hotel’s security guards managed to call the police and what followed was a shooting spree. No-one died, a few people were injured, yet unfortunately, the crooks escaped.
Few years later.
Beginning of 1993 I was going to a huge concert in Salvador Bahia, north eastern Brazil. Two well known and respected musicians headlined an outdoor gig. One of them, Gilberto Gill( pictured during the Montreal Jazz Festival of 2008), would later become Minister of Culture.
So we are in a large fully packed bus around four in the afternoon. Passengers of various nationalities including local Brazilians are chatting and happy. We have just driven past the splendid seaside area of Rio Vermelho (Red River) when I notice a group of four suspicious looking young males. Unlike the rest of us none has a female partner. They are closely studying and surveying us. As soon as the bus gains speed, one walks down to the end, he does not sit but maintains a vigilant position while his mate stays mid way; the other two take strategic areas- near the door, and next to the driver.
However, none of the travellers take note of this unusual activity. By then I have been in Latin America for half a decade and become street wise and how robberies commence.
I whisper to my three companions that we should conceal some of our belongings (those days we did not carry mobile phones)-i.e. watches and purses.
“How do you know they are robbers?” One of my foreign companions whispers, doubtfully.
“Trust me, do as I say.”
It is a sensible rule to have a bit of money for handing over to violent gangsters such as these. Being totally empty handed means a kiss of death. So we hide most of our cash under the seat, leave a little ready and wait.
Within two minutes the place resembles Iraq. One woman who argues with the gangsters is pistol whipped. Her equally argumentative male pal is sliced by a knife across the shoulder. Screams and shouts hover across the bus. A pregnant female vomits. In brief, we are robbed; the guys leave after five minutes. We drive to a police station but it is too late.
Here is a simple lesson.
Armed robberies are common across the world; but in certain parts worse. In the last couple of weeks we have witnessed an upsurge of very violent armed heists in Tanzania. A group of students going to a funeral were robbed 19.8 million shillings and their coffin broken in Singida early December. One blog (By Dewji Blog) had 54 comments plainly expressing disgust with such low –life, immoral, actions.
The car that was carrying a coffin to a funeral seen here in a report by writer Nathaniel Limu- pic courtsey of Dewji Blog....
Still in December, a Dar es Salaam Asian man and his mother were held at a gun point and forced to hand over laptop, money and house keys. The eight robbers were reported to be on motorbikes. They had AK-47 and sophisticated, assault guns.
The Asian circulated a letter across the internet, wondering what has become of the former harbour of peace i.e. Dar es Salaam...
Reports of tourist muggings especially in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam increased in 2012 including murder of a Greek female in September.
This is history in the making. WE used to be a peaceful country. Things are changing. We have more jobless, uneducated, poorer, desperate people. A growing class of wealthy, driving highly expensive cars now litter our congested roads. We have immoral leaders, some who are not interested to deliver, though a few are honest. It is going to get worse. Wherever there is a wide gap of rich and poor, you find organised crime.
Next phase shall be the very rich arming themselves to the teeth. That shall equally make robbers better armed, ruthless and uncompromising. This means total war. And war equals more suffering. Unless social changes help alleviate poverty and create opportunities for most, the future is as unsafe as it is violent.
Published in Citizen Tanzania...