Background. Little is known scientifically about patterns of violence and peace in low income countries, especially in Africa. Mainland Tanzania gained independence without violence and has maintained political peace, which is rare for an economically poor nation with natural resources. It is not known if this peace is reflected in the realms of the community, family, and individual. What is the context of violent death in a politically peaceful country?
Objectives. To describe the homicide rate in Dar es Salaam (DSM) 2005, the individuals who were murdered, and the contextual circumstances. To test the feasibility of the Injury Surveillance Guidelines developed by WHO/CDC (Holder et al. 2001).
Design and methods. A mortality survey following the Guidelines, was instituted at Muhimbili National Hospital Mortuary. Quantitative variables were: sex, year of birth, date of death, residence, place and site of death, occupation, cause of death, weapon(s), events leading to death, and relationship of perpetrator. Qualitative data were gathered from participant observation, newspapers, and one open-ended question.
Results. The Guidelines were practical and easy to use. They were flexible enough that a new code for the variable of intent was adopted: Mob violence. Active surveillance was unsustainable.
The crude homicide rate of 12.95 per 100,000 is higher than the world average, but the lowest reported in Africa so far. The male and female homicide rates per 100,000 were respectively 23.7 and 1.7. The female rate was low compared with rates worldwide. The male:female gender gap of 14.03 was unusually wide. Unemployment and urbanization were risk factors for homicide death. Fifty percent of all homicides were victim-precipitated—males caught thieving and killed by citizen mobs responding to a cry for help.
Discussion. Partial passive surveillance is continuing through data in the Mortuary Ledger books. Mob violence is based on community self-policing against petty theft. The significance of the wide gender gap in homicide rates is not clear and has previously been seen in cities with rates of violence five times higher.
Conclusion. The Guidelines are suitable for low-income countries. More research is needed on community differences within DSM. Employment for young men with fair reimbursement and training is urgently needed.