Source: Tanzania Daily News
Safina Kombo (75) is a woman who lives in Butiama District, Mara Region. This old lady fears for her life, because brutal killings of women in her area have become rampant to the point of forcing older women to seek refuge in safer areas.

Mrs Kombo often fails to attend her maize and cassava 'shamba,' because some young men have threatened to kill her for reasons best known to them. It is not only Mrs Kombo who is unsecured, but majority of old women like her have already left the place, fearing to be killed on wrong traditional beliefs.

Women who decide not to move usually face hard moments to earn a living, simply because they are not free to move around. Mama Kombo's cry has prompted Musoma Rural MP, Mr Nimrod Mkono, to take some measures aimed at ending these killings. He also intends to task some government officials for failing to address the problem.

"If this trend continues and we have police and other government machinery in the district that shows that we have not been serious enough in tackling this problem," he insists. Mr Mkono is among the people much aggrieved by these brutal killings of women in his constituency, especially at Nyanja division in Butiama District, where a woman was killed recently and parts of her body parts amputated. Mr Mkono last week decided to leave the Constituent Assembly (CA) sessions in Dodoma and travelled back to his constituency to address the women killings.

"Our mothers and sisters are being killed. We need to take measures now to stop this situation," he says. According to him, the government uses a lot of financial resources to shield wild animals like elephants and rhinos, but do very little to protect women in rural areas, whose lives are being threatened by negative cultural beliefs.

Mr Mkono was specifically saddened in Mugango village recently, where one woman Anastazia Man'gombe (42) was killed while working in her farm. Such atrocious killings have become rampant in areas surrounding Lake Victoria, such as Nyakatende, Etaro, Nyegina and Mkikira villages where killers frequent often.

When she visited Butiama recently, CCM women wing national chair person Mrs Amina Makilagi said that the women killings should not be related just to superstitious beliefs, but rather be taken as normal criminal offences. "The killings are being covered by such beliefs so as to occult the evidence.

If it is true that the perpetrators are looking for women, then how come they mention the name of a person they wanted?" she queried. Some people in Mara Region still believe that the killings should not just be limited to wrong traditional beliefs, but be taken in a wider context of being against the fundamental basic human rights.

"If the killers are looking for women, a house may have many women, so they would have the chance to pick any of them. But these killers usually mention name of the person to take away," says Maria Mwita, adding that there are reasons to look for such culprits. It is true that failure to arrest perpetrators of the ongoing fetish killings of women in Musoma Rural and Butiama districts has spread fear, affecting economic activities of women living in this area.

Other people believe that these contract killers target women and girls whose body parts are cut off and used in witchcraft in the belief that they attract wealth, especially in mining and the fishing industries. They allege that the head and private parts of women and girls are being used by both miners and fishermen in rituals aimed at enabling them, to make rich finds of minerals or huge catches when fishing.

Most women in Butiama are said to be living in constant fear and they have scaled back their participation in economic activities, especially those running late into the night. Mary John who resides at Mkikira vilage says that the inaction on the part of the police force is partly responsible for the killings, as up to now I have heard of no one being arrested in connection with the killings."

"I am sure if the police had played their part effectively in stopping these kinds of behavior, such a trend would have been stopped. I urge the police to conduct an in depth investigation and I am sure, culprits shall be arrested and later arraigned," she says. Such situations are said to be making women live in fear, as most of them fear engaging in socialeconomic activities, some of which are usually done during the night.

It is true that police arrested 15 people in connection with recurrent killings of women in Mara Region, whose body parts were cut off and taken away, but their cases are still pending in court. The killings of women in this area have caused fear to defenseless targets -- women and girls, causing them to stop their routine activities such as praying or going out to fetch firewood and water.

Despite the arrests, the public still fears that there are no steps taken against the killers or whether they have been tried before a court of law. Local organisations fighting for women rights have a role to play in making sure that women killings in Mara Region are addressed effectively by the relevant authorities.

The Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) alongside other partners, for example, are currently undertaking a programme to 'liberate' women. Known as Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GEWE II), the programme focuses on tackling issues of gender based violence by advocacy, but also providing humanitarian aid to the victims to women living in fear like the ones in Musoma Rural District..

Upon completion, GEWE II is expected to have contributed to the improvement of the living conditions of women in places like those in Mara, where women continue to suffer unnecessary killings despite the fact that the current constitution assures them protection and freedom to move from one area to another.

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