“Tanzania can no longer avoid having forensic scientists”
COURT and Police records indicate that crimes are on the rise in Tanzania. Criminal activities are increasing in number and in magnitude. Some of these are well organized crimes, both in blue and white collar jobs, as well as cyber crimes predominantly taking place in our banking systems. Counter measures, therefore, are indispensable.
There is only one area of human life that all people are supposedly equal – that’s before the law. But the law is just and has two sides; even breakers of the law have their constitutional rights. All suspects are actually presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.
This happens only when someone is connected to a crime in a manner that takes away any reasonable doubt. Much as the rights of suspects are to be upheld, criminals shouldn’t get away with crimes. They should face the fullest extent of the law when convicted – that’s justice. But that is a process that needs good skills and respect for the law.
Our prosecution process has been very ineffective for years. We, in fact, have not had professional prosecutors. Police officers have been taking the stand as prosecutors. But there is a colossal deficiency in the practice of using police officers as prosecutors: they didn’t train as prosecutors but rather as police officers.
And with such an amount of deficiency, suspects retain a powerful advantage on their cases. Criminals may easily get away with crimes, sometimes murder, not because they are innocent but because their plaintiff has failed to prove them guilty beyond doubt.
One of the very popular high profile cases in the country was the Zombe Case. This was against Abdallah Zombe and other police officers who were alleged to have been involved in the murder of innocent civilians on the disguise that they were buglers. Charges were drawn and the witnesses were tabled.
For those who followed the case, especially from its very infancy stage, they were well convinced that these officers were guilty. The case began with an investigative committee. Findings suggested that these police officers were involved. They were dragged to court. The case went on with its strange twists and turns.
Witnesses, one by one, took the stand under oath and gave their sides of the story. The case seemed to have much straightforwardness. But when the verdict came, it was that which was least expected: NOT GUILTY!
The verdict of this case aroused a lot of sentiments because most of us, “laymen” were (1) convinced that they were guilty and (2), forgot that proof was to be made beyond any doubts. However, even the elite of in the legal sector were of the opinion that this was not about proof as much as it was about competence in prosecution. I concur with them.
Judgment on this case, and other similar surprises, makes it necessary for our colleges to start providing Forensic Science courses at various levels: undergraduate level, graduate level, and possibly post-doctoral level. Forensics is defined as the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to a legal system.
This may be in relation to a crime or a civil action. Forensic scientists believe that human beings can forget. Human beings can be threatened and probably be compromised in any way; but science will always remain uncompromisable and unbiased. Science is precise and consistent. It adds much credibility and eliminates bias in a prosecution process.
I have made a small study and found out that there is no any university college in this country which offers a degree course in Forensic Science as a separate course of study. I was highly surprised to hear that this nation has only one forensic scientist working with the Ministry of Health.
With the amount of diversity we have recently found ourselves in, we should be prepared to enhance our legal system with all supportive measures by professionalizing our police force and other responsible law enforcement organs. Well trained prosecutors combined with forensics officers make a perfect combination before a court of law.
History indicates that many a times we find ourselves a step behind change. We do not prepare for change. Change normally finds us off-guard. We delayed preparing doctors for our hospitals – it’s now highly costing us. Tanzania is believed to have a doctor-patient ratio 1:30,000 among the worst cases in Africa, probably only better than Malawi. For us to rise to the recommended ration of 1:7500 we need to train doctors fourfold of the current number.
Our neighbors Kenya and Uganda seem to have better ratios than us (of 1:15000 and 1:8000 respectively). We completely forgot to prepare geologists. And that too is costing us a fortune in our mining sector. Now times are changing and we’re still not learning from our past mistake; and “the only real mistakes in life are the ones from which we don’t learn.”