A Still Unexplained Murder

COLD sweat was written on the faces of lecturers and administrators at the University of Dar es Salaam and further afield, in the wake of the shooting in cold blood of political science don Prof. Athumani Livigha, on the doorstep of his residence at Bun

. Early write ups on his life reminded newspaper readers of the killing a few years back of Prof. Jwani Mwaikusa of the Faculty of Law at the Hill, also as he entered his house at Salasala, on the same northern outskirts. A pattern now, for years.

Back during the second phase government it was then Deputy Minister for Industries, Prof. Nicas Mahinda who met the same kind of death, shot dead in his house by people whom police later said were workmen, perhaps foremen and labourers, who in a way grouped or massed at his house, implying there was money they were demanding. The matter must have become grave and not much discussion took place as someone drew out a gun and finished of Engineer Prof. Mahinda, and his public career. Convictions weren’t heard of.

Unquestionably the most far reaching and memorable of these attacks and assassinations of university dons before their residences was late 2013 when veteran law faculty administrator and member of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) Dr Sengondo Mvungi was invaded by machete wielding thugs at his house near Kibaha, and perished. It was the only instance in which political foul play was mooted in some quarters but was not followed up by any organised entity, as no such hallmarks could be identified. They seem to have been a criminal gang acting on its own, and if there was a specific assailant hatching that incident, organisational ties weren’t evident.

Only in the case of Prof. Mwaikusa did an explicit explanation come up, and those cited in that explanation did not say a word, despite that there was plenty of what could be described as libel in what appeared in the newspapers. It was said that the law don had been entrusted with powers of attorney over a commercial project carried out by a Catholic secluded entity in Ruvuma region, apparently working outside church or other regulations.  Padres at that entity were displeased with controls exercised by the shift of decision making on administrative and financial issues requiring the owner.

With Dr Mvungi, while there was a rush to look for political causes, specifically of militancy concerning the radical propositions of the first draft of the CRC, little seemed sufficiently urgent in that direction. Instead focus was directed at his law practice, where at least one issue surfaced, of removal of residents at Gerezani area close to the busy Kariakoo commercial zone, now expected to become a bus confluence. The specifics were not clear but it was a collective issue where certain quarters could have imagined revenge.

In this instance nothing has so far surfaced but glimpses at the late Prof. Livigha’s life might offer some indications, firstly the idea that he was staying alone is a measure of exposure to appetites on the part of various quarters, for instance in relation to appropriating such property. Similarly many plots are contested in the city, and when one lives alone it becomes easier to think of being harmed as there will be no prolonged pains of evacuating a family from that house. In a Scripture sense, having all the comforts of life and opting to live alone in a non-commercial entity is to ‘enter into temptations,’ as one simplifies issues for hunting spirits in others, devil spirit, to unleash its claws.

In an extended manner there is also the possibility often encountered, that one lives with wife and kids while still poor, and when success makes itself felt skips that environment and opts for a freer place. In case that was just a matter of convenience where for instance the family prefers to stay in town, closer to schools or office, there is exposure of the first sort, but in case there is injury in the self respect of the family, chances of being harmed by that first sort of exposure are enhanced. Harm in life is often judgment, or sin that fate entails, an aspect of life seen in Scriptures – but hardly preached directly.

At the same time, the late Prof. Livigha was a key member of the Open Society Foundation in its Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project, whose report for 2013 pulled no punches as to worsening conditions of society in the country. It extensively documented rising intolerance and violence among various quarters of society, which was alarming enough despite that the report was compiled before the Panya Route phenomenon came up. The latter was a successor to marauding gangs of a previous epoch taking the chilling name, Kosovo, in reflection of killings in ex-Yugoslavia towards the end of the 1990s. It is a periodic fever of group robberies, terror.

Unlike in the case of Dr Mvungi where his advocacy or courtroom work would have contributed to the case being resolved in one or another against this or other stakeholder or plaintiff, defendant or other, this time it is less a matter of the don’s contribution to the report, but living to what it said. It is as if the death of Prof. Livigha by gunshot should serve to underline the urgency of the matter especially for Open Society Foundation (who for organisational purposes prefer a plurality of foundations). This assassination is a wake up call for the don’s colleagues in Open Society to take the issue of open society with greater urgency than society seems to realise right now to stem violence.