Tanzania – a Threat Assessment

My trip to Tanzania is not the first one, as you can see from the images on the right side. However, living in Dar es Salaam is a different thing to hiking up Kilimanjaro with a group of people or enjoying Zanzibar as a tourist. That’s why I checked up on security in general.

While the Swiss embassy service recommends avoiding demonstrations and warns against terrorism and kidnappings, the U.S. embassy mention every single incident that has occurred in the last 2 years. Acid attacks, bombs, fires, shootings and a rape. They warn against badly maintained public transport and travels at night, give advice on how to handle robberies (think express kidnapping) and how to dress in Stone Town, the Muslim capital of Zanzibar.

This got me the slightest bit worried and I asked a couple of practitioners who frequently visit the likes of Haiti, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Chad. Here is their advice: Have a trusted driver, ask the locals, be alert and mobile (think bug-out bag), choose locations to hang out with an eye for potential attacks, never take a hotel rooms on the ground floor, secure door with a wedge, don’t wear watch and jewelry, create a credible cover story why you are here (better not mention you are a rich Swiss banker), go to secure location at sunset.

Now I’m worried more. Why did I not practice martial art these past 30 years? I can’t even outrun potential attackers. Should I get a bodyguard? How can I dress down?

Luckily last year’s assignees to FINCA Tanzania gave me some tips. The greatest risk according to Lee are food and water. “To avoid robbery don’t  fit the profile of a victim”, he explained. “Don’t carry anything that looks valuable, no visible camera, no laptop bag, don’t wear bags hanging from the shoulder. If you have a backpack, wear it properly, so a robber on a motorbike can’t easily snatch it. Don’t hold anything in your hands.” He had gone on long walks in poor areas and found the people friendly and his health intact. Fabienne mentioned that I should leave my watch at home and confirmed the part about trusted drivers. Even they are afraid to drive at night, she explained.

Now I feel better. I might go home before sunset and go to bed early.  Not sure if that’s the best use of my assignment time…

(photo Curtis Perry on flickr)


3 thoughts on “Tanzania – a Threat Assessment”

  1. I just got my security briefing. There are apparently some major thievery hotspots around Coco beach and the Ubungo bus terminal. Plus some other smaller areas to avoid – “Local people will know”, was mentioned several times. I also need to keep an eye for an escape route in case of fire, so any apartment would have to be on 5th floor or lower. But not on the ground floor. And there should be solid locks and a peep hole in the door. Election coming up in October might be a breeding ground for demonstrations and violence in the weeks leading to it.

    Thinking of the house I was invited to stay in Nairobi I remember the nested structure of building security: 1. outer wall with gate, 2. house wall with door, 3. metal door on first floor to protect sleeping area. That’s probably what I’ll need, although Dar is different from Nairobi.

    There is also a good book on security in less secure areas. It’s titled “Everything that follows is based on recent, real life experience that has been proven to work”. Here you go.


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