The tourist hub of Arusha has been rocked by a series of unfortunate events which escalated into riots today, with unexpected clashes between opposition party loyalists and the police. A bomb attack on the evening of Saturday June 15th, is believed to be the cause of the riot. The attack took place at a political election rally organized by the main opposition party, Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), in a sports field near a residential area. The explosion was caused by a grenade which detonated near the podium were the leader of CHADEMA party, Freeman Mbowe, and other high ranking officials were addressing the party supporters. The party leader was giving a speech when an object was thrown at him but it landed in the crowd, exploding, and causing panic. Two more explosions were heard after, and evidence suggests they might have been caused by gun fire. Reports say three people were killed and at least 20 were injured.
Party leader Mbowe was unharmed during the attack and he announced on June 17th that CHADEMA will spend this week in mourning to honor the memory of the blast victims. The riots started when police broke groups of people who were trying to hold a memorial service at the scene of the unfortunate event.
This attack is the second of its kind in less than six weeks. A Roman Catholic church in the suburbs of the city was bombed on May 5th, also killing three people and injuring several others. The two attacks are not believed to be related. Last Saturday's bombing is considered to be politically motivated, while the church bombing from last month is thought to have been sectarian violence. Four Saudi Arabs and four locals have been arrested in connection to the May 5th bombing.
How has this affected the tourism industry?
Violence of this kind was previously unheard of in Arusha, which is the starting point for safaris to popular national parks, including the world famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The riots which took place today forced the police to close down some of the roads in the city, and caused many inconveniences. Tourists who arrived at the Kilimanjaro International Airport had to wait a few hours before they could be transported to their hotels in the city. These inconveniences coupled with the news of a volatile political environment could scare off potential travelers, and this may harm the country's economy.
Should tourists planning to visit cancel their plans?
There were 783,000 foreign arrivals in the country in 2010 and close to a million people are expected to visit Tanzania this year. The government should guarantee the security and safety of tourists by taking care of the internal strife before it escalates any further, and affects the tourism industry which is a major source of revenue for the nation. As discouraging as this news may seem, Tanzania is famous for being extremely peaceful, and the events of the last few days will likely subside by the end of the week.
For now, visitors should have no cause for worry. The two bombing incidents are being investigated by the police, and the government has given a statement assuring the public that they are using all the resources available to capture the terrorists responsible for the blast. Security will be much tighter in the city, tourists should take extra precautions and avoid going around the city without a guide.
Arusha is a small city in the northern part of Tanzania and the main gateway to many of the country's attractions. It is also a major diplomatic center, home to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and headquarters of the East African Community. Tourists who want to see the nation's famous national parks must pass through the city, which is the safari capital of Tanzania.
Photo Source: John John Mnyika via Facebook