Battered Tanzania editor flown to South Africa for medical care

Tanzania Editor's Forum chairman Absalom Kibanda is helped onto his SA-bound medical flight after he was violently assaulted outside his home in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday night. FIDELIS FELIX | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The manhunt for the two individuals who violently assaulted veteran Tanzanian journalist Absalom Kibanda Tuesday night has moved into high gear, as the editor was flown to South Africa for specialised medical care.

The senior journalist, who is the group managing editor of the private New Habari Corporation and the firebrand chairman of Tanzania Editors' Forum (TEF), was grievously wounded following the vicious attack 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 from his left hand.

Just before he was flown out, Mr Kibanda told local reporters he believed the incident had something to do with his work as a journalist, for which he faces a treason trial.

After the incident, Mr Kibanda was rushed to Muhimbili National Hospital's Orthopaedic Institute, where doctors referred him to a South African hospital for more treatment.

Following the brutal event, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Said Mwema, has assigned four detectives from the Police Force headquarters to beef up investigations, but no arrests have been made yet.

A statement by minister of Home Affairs Emmanuel Nchimbi said IGP Mwema’s decision is meant “to increase efficiency.”

Harrowing experience

At the Julius Nyerere International Airport, Mr Kibanda shared the harrowing details of Tuesday’s events with 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 cell phones and a laptop in his vehicle.

Fifth journalist attacked

He becomes the fifth Tanzanian 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 region 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, the 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

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