Face to Face’ with Zanzibar Urban West Police Commander Hassan Nassir Ali about the Death of CUF leader Ali Juma Suleiman
October 3, 2017
Dear audience, welcome back to another episode of Face to Face. This is Mohammed Khelef, from Swahili Redio Deustche Welle and today, we’re speaking with Police Commander for Urban West District in Zanzibar, Mr. Hassan Nassir Ali about the tragic death of Ali Juma Suleiman last week in an incident that involved his assault, abduction, and, in the end, admission to the hospital, where he died. This incident has shaken social media and been discussed across the globe. Welcome, Commander Hassan.
HNA: Thank you.
MK: First of all, what does the police know right now about this incident?
HNA: Thank you, brother. First, let me say, we offer our condolences to the bereaved the relatives and friends. There is not one person here in this Region who is pleased by this death. It is an unfortunate death. But what matters is that the police have been investigating deaths like these, not just this one. Unfortunately, we were told that unidentified assailants entered the house. They called him.As he himself was able to say, and we all heard him. Then he was very severely beaten. The police were told that he ended up near Maili Saba, that people went to pick him up. They took him to the hospital, where he died. May God lay him peacefully to rest. But what matters is, the investigation is just beginning. We know that when there has been a death, it’s hard. But it’s good that, before he died, he provided a lot of information about what happened. So the investigation itself, mine, or ours, will not be hard. But right now, it’s far too early to say what happened. The people who assaulted him are criminals, like any criminal. The police force has a lot of information, and steps will be taken.
MK: In his own words, as he spoke from his hospital bed at Mnazi Mmoja, he says that when he went to the Madema Police Post to request the form you call PF3, to permit him to seek medical attention, one of the officers at that post said: “Incidents like this, attacks on people, today” – he meant that very – “are really numerous.” That means that it was no surprise to you, the police, that there are armed bands committing these crimes. How do you see it?
HNA: I am the spokesman for the Police in Urban West. What’s said by a person without authority, we request that you take it no more seriously than if it were wind. I myself say: It’s not that incidents like these have increased very much. There haven’t been that many. You’ll find that in this whole year, we have two incidents like this. The first resulted in death, maybe… in the month of… I don’t remember. But maybe in May. But now, in September, we have this one, which is worse. But it’s our responsibility as police to ensure that things like this don’t keep happening. To look for those who did it, and take legal action against them.
MK: According to his neighbors, his children, and Ali Juma himself, the people who came to assault him night were officers. They were in uniform. They had the vehicles. They had weapons. Inside of Zanzibar, is it possible that there are armed units like this, with vehicles and radio equipment, who are not government forces?
HNA: No. No. No. Because if the police force does something, they do it properly. And other security organs that operate in our region, we communicate with them, we share information. But we don’t know this one. And we called a meeting of the Defence and Security Committee immediately after this happened. We discussed this. There’s not one government agency or unit that is responsible for this. But crimes in which people are killed, that has happened now and then. The perpetrators don’t have to be affiliated with the government. I don’t have one bit of evidence, not one, that suggests that this is being done by state-supported units. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t know. And I have no evidence whatsoever.
MK: But surely it’s not the first time, Commander, that you are hearing about the armed units, which people are calling ‘Zombies,’ ‘Janjaweed,’ ‘Ubaya-ubaya,’ and by other names, and which have been committing crimes in the neighborhoods. And are there no reports of any arrests in connection with these cases? They demolished a radio station a few years ago. They beat people in the streets of Tomondo, in Michenzani, and so on. But there’s not been any news about any steps taken against these groups, or against these people, who are referred to as “unidentified persons.”
HNA: First of all, here in Zanzibar, there are no “unidentified persons.” Surely this is a passing thing. We’ll catch them. But I have not heard anything about ‘Zombies’ or ‘Janjaweed.’ I’ve sometimes heard about ‘Ubaya-ubaya.’ And every day, we triumph, because we are many, and we are on the side of justice. These other groups, I know nothing about them at all. I have no evidence.
MK: Okay, let’s talk about your police procedures, when something like this happens. Do you have a policy of issuing an official statement, to the public, or to the families, or does that only happen when you’re asked for one?
HNA: I talk to the press. I have spoken thoroughly about this, just like you and I are speaking now. All the reporters who are in Zanzibar, some of whom work on the Tanzania mainland. We are not in the habit of concealing news. That’s why I organized for all reporters to come . But if a reporter has a specific reason for coming to see me, they come, I give them information. We don’t hide information. We have a good relationship with the press. That’s why we succeed in so many things. So we don’t hide information until somebody asks for it.
MK: I’m speaking of this very particular case. He died . He was buried . He was assaulted night. Was there any public statement from the police?
HNA: Maybe I should say what happened. After that man died, we consulted with the family, and people who say that they are leaders of his party. We did a post-mortem together, in cooperation. We finished. They went to bury him. They decided to carry the body on foot over a great distance. We provided security until they had buried him. And today, , I issued a statement to the press about where we are in this matter which all of us condemn. And we’re sure that we will determine who the perpetrators are.
MK: Thank you. And now the final question is about the condition of security overall in your district, Urban North, which is an important district in Zanzibar. What are the current conditions regarding people’s safety in Zanzibar? What is your assessment, as the person who is responsible for ensuring people’s safety?
HNA: The security conditions here are calm. It’s calm, people are going about their business as usual. Incidents like these that have occurred – this incident that has occurred – Is serious. It is displeasing. But that’s why where here. If a challenge arises, we deal with it. This is a challenge like other challenges. We will resolve it. I assure the people of Zanzibar, the people of Unguja Urban North, Zanzibar, that our district will continue to be peaceful.
MK: And what about the role of politics, in terms of security? Zanzibar is peaceful. Politics comes in cycles in Zanzibar. If you live in Zanzibar, elections are the time for politics. The election is over, and people are trying to make a living. There’s no politics in trying to make a living.
MK: Is what you mean to say that that politicians do not intervene in questions of security?
HNA: No. If I understand you. Here in town, there’s only brotherhood. Every day, we assess the security threat. No. Politicians don’t intervene in our work. They’re free. They go about their business. There’s a time for politics. A season. And it’s not yet, now.
MK: So. Thank you again, Commander Hassan Nassir Ali. Police Commander for Unjuga North District in Zanzibar, for being on ‘Face to Face’ today.
HNA: Thank you.