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NCJ Number: 162453 Find in a Library
Title: Combating Crime Among the Sukuma and Nyamwezi of West- Central Tanzania
Journal: Crime, Law and Social Change  Volume:24  Issue:3  Dated:(1995/96)  Pages:257-266
Author(s): S H Bukurura
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 10
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Netherlands
Annotation: This paper examines the rationale for, the operation of, and government challenges to the Sungusungu vigilante groups among the Sukuma and Nyamwezi of rural Tanzania.
Abstract: In early 1981, Sungusungu, village vigilante groups, began to be formed among the Sukuma and Nyamwezi. Their primary objective was to protect the lives and property of the rural inhabitants. They patrolled their villages and arrested and punished those whom they suspected of criminal activities. Their main targets were cattle rustlers and other rural bandits. In some villages, suspected witches were also arrested and punished. These vigilante groups were formed at the initiative of male elders knowledgeable in the art of divination and other ritual powers. It is around these elders at the village level that these groups organized to perform their functions. The elders, sitting in a committee, were responsible for the groups' daily administration. They heard and resolved disputes, imposed traditional fines, and controlled the funds derived from fines. Despite the increase in crime and the inability of the government institutions to cope with it, officials of the criminal justice system in Tanzania were not prepared for the formation and operation of the vigilante groups. Believing that only government officials should perform the work of law enforcement and adjudication, the police and judiciary opposed the vigilante groups. Police arrested members of Sungusungu groups, and judges and magistrates presided over these cases and imposed sentences. The primary concern of the police and the courts was to guarantee state institutions the monopoly on law and order, regardless of the failure of these institutions to deal with crime in rural Tanzania. The President had to intervene by granting an amnesty to some of the vigilante group members convicted by the courts. Sungusungu members report that the primary objective of their operations is the recovery of stolen cattle and other properties and their restoration to the rightful owners. This is followed by the rehabilitation, and not punishment, of the offending parties. They contrast their aims and methods with those of the police and the courts, which are primarily concerned with the punishment of offenders and less with the recovery of the stolen livestock and other properties. Unlike vigilante groups elsewhere, the Sungusungu groups arose within a cultural context. These rural communities have, as part of their traditional culture, a practice of working together to solve community problems; these mechanisms were either suppressed or abolished by the introduction of the nation-state. The failure of imposed systems stimulates the revival of old ones that proved effective for their adherents. 10 notes and 23 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Crime in foreign countries; Foreign police; Rural policing; United Republic of Tanzania; Vigilantes; Vigilantism causes
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