By Andrew Silumbu
Police in Mangochi on Wednesday used teargas to rescued 86 boys from traditional initiation camps (Simba) where they were being held three weeks after schools opened on September 8, 2014.
Mangochi Police Public Relations Officer, Inspector Rodrick Maida confirmed the raid which he said happened in four villages in the area of Traditional Authority Namavi in the district.
He said a non – governmental organization (not mentioned for fear of reprisals) which works towards promotion of children’s rights and chiefs intervened to have the boys released.
Inspector Maida said efforts by Traditional Authority Namavi to convince the initiation counselors to release the children proved futile, forcing him to seek support from the NGO who also engaged the police to forcibly rescue the boys.
“The Ngalibas (initiation counselors) were arguing that they had a right to decide on when to release the children,” Maida said.
The traditional initiation ceremony marks one’s graduation from childhood to adulthood. The initiation rites involve circumcision for males and normally last for a month.
But Inspector Maida said initiation counselors in the four villages decided to extend the period to three months(August to October).
“It was yesterday at around 10 O’clock in the morning that police officers from Mangochi led by T/A Namavi and other three group Village Headmen stormed the initiation camps, setting them ablaze and ordered the immediate release of the initiates to go back to school,” said Maida.
This did not go well with some people in the area who started stoning the police, forcing the law enforcers to use teargas to quell the situation.
And according to Inspector Maida, no one was injured in the fracas and that the police have made no arrests.
The incident on Wednesday came hard on the heels of a Go back to School campaign which a local NGO Campaign for Girls Education (Camfed) launched across the district to allow many children enroll and remain in school as the first term commenced on September 8.