Lucas Kusima is a member of the Tanzanian National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination. He is also a police officer holding the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police in the Tanzania Police Force. He holds a bachelors degree in law and is an advisor to the police reforms now underway in Tanzania. He worked as Head of Interpol in Dar es Salaam for four years and as Police Reforms Coordinator for six years prior to becoming an advisor to the reforms in 2012.
Why are you so dedicated to the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention?
I am a police officer and have been so for more than thirty years. My work has involved fighting crime in the streets, visiting crime scenes, conducting crime scene investigations and carrying out various police operations. Once I came across a scene where armed robbers had attacked a family of five. They shot dead all members of the family, except a baby girl of about nine months. I found this baby crying and clinging to the body of the dead mother, trying to suckle milk from the body.
This was a turning point in my life. I felt I had betrayed my profession because my responsibility involved protecting human life and preventing crime. Here I had failed and people had died. How would the baby girl cope with life without her family?
From that day onward I’ve dedicated my work towards prevention, rather than solving crimes. One component of the police reforms involves the community in policing. Crime prevention, or genocide prevention for that matter, is a shared responsibility. Everyone has a role to play.
What does a day or week in your current position look like? What does your work on the National Committee entail?
My work involves receiving situation reports from across the country and based on these reports I organize programs for public outreach depending on the security threat present. As a member of the Tanzanian National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination, I share this knowledge with members of the committee. The committee identifies risk areas and identifies conflict issues in those areas and draws up prevention plans. In this regard, we have so far worked in six regions to address issues of religious conflict and have successfully established peace forums for peace sustainability. I was privileged to be one of the speakers at these regional forums and was thrilled to see people receive our call wholeheartedly.
I also take part in committee activities, including when it is invited by other stakeholders to share best practices. I’ve offered my expert opinion on matters of interest to the committee many times as well.
What actions and policies do you feel are most effective in the long-term prevention of atrocity?
The most effective action or policy a country can take to bring about long-term prevention is to first ratify international and regional protocols and other agreements dealing with the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities. Countries should domesticate those regional and international instruments into their local laws. And this should go hand-in-hand with establishing national mechanisms for the prevention of mass atrocities. Educational policies of a country should also make it mandatory for curricula of the entire education system to include modules on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities so a culture of peace is inculcated into the minds of the citizenry right from childhood. Furthermore, national policies should address equality before the law and equal access to opportunities and wealth. This will help ensure that unequal groups do not emerge in the society and prevent the creation of breeding grounds for conflict, and eventually, atrocities.
Who or what inspires or motivates you?
I draw inspiration from our late president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. He was a great, selfless leader who wanted everyone to share in the national economy. He wanted all citizens to be equal regardless of color, religion or ethnic origin. He was instrumental in uniting Tanzanians and shaping our destiny. The peace and tranquility we enjoy as a nation today is ascribed to his visionary leadership.
I also draw inspiration from the chairperson of our National Committee, Felistas Mushi. She is a very strong woman who does not succumb to challenges. She is so charismatic that every door opens for her before she knocks.
My motivation is to see my country remain peaceful. The pain and suffering I have seen in conflict-prone countries, the hopelessness, the mental and physical scars I have seen in people who have gone through conflicts will always keep me going to make sure that my country remains sane for generations to come.
For a government official who may be just entering the field, what advice do you have to give towards effective work in genocide prevention?
A factor that can bring about genocide is the failing of government structures. Effective work in genocide prevention should start with strong government structures that adhere to the rule of law and have deep respect for human rights.