How fear of funerals curbed Satao’s murder trial

Written by Ahmed H. Al-Bashir, CNN

For Kenya’s Capital radio, some have taken time off to mourn the passing of Jean d’Arc. For Nairobi’s East African Movie, Kanuvs, they’ve been busy rehearsing for an African film festival. In Tanzania’s Albino theatre, the lights keep flickering until production is delayed by a phone call.

For the National Drama Theater in Kampala, Ugandan daily paper Leader is a bigger business than usual, with advance sales exceeding expectations. These locations and many more are going through somber hours of honor for Satao Abateru, a Ugandan pastor killed by four unidentified gunmen outside his home in Tanzania’s Mwanza.

On Monday night, with Satao lying on a stretcher in open casket during the State funeral, poets, storytellers, poets, musicians, politicians, Nobel Laureates and other high-profile mourners descended upon the cramped Kigoma Mashelera stadium.

In the aftermath of Satao’s death on March 27, dozens of people were arrested in a monthlong manhunt and have since been charged. Their alleged victims — 13 people. And the funeral of these 13 people was somewhat scuttled and delayed.

The two men charged are not from Satao’s neighborhood. His friend and fellow preacher, Yahaya Mohamed Oromah, and Mahadu Juma Yayha, were arrested and eventually charged on May 3, with having conspiracy to commit murder.

Victim of a ‘provocative, hate speech-filled’ sermon

The sensational murder has taken a form that is international in scope, threatening — and yet paradoxically facilitating — crucial investment, youth job creation and development across the region. It’s now all hands on deck, with fear of a social and financial vacuum being avoided.

Meanwhile, the question that needs to be asked is how should we respond?

Satao’s death is emblematic of the fear in which we live in the coming years. Just as the fear of Zika infection was the deciding factor that closed the book on every kind of tourism and other efforts to enter the country for these humanitarian and environmental concerns, the fear over Satao’s death is effectively keeping a vast section of the Tanzanian population from being placed on one side of the decision process, that which will decide Satao’s burial.

After a year of lies, covers and cover-ups, you’d think the people responsible would have learned something.

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