DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA — The body of 33-year-old Tanzanian Nemes Tarimo, who was killed fighting for Russia in Ukraine, is returning home for burial.
Tanzania says Tarimo agreed to fight for the Wagner Group in exchange for being released from a Russian prison, the second African known to have died that way.
During a press briefing, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Stergomena Tax said Tarimo’s body was on its way home early Tuesday from Russia.
The minister confirmed Tarimo was serving a seven-year sentence in Russia before he joined the Wagner Group of mercenaries.
She said the group promised Tarimo, who was sentenced in March of last year, that he would be released and paid after fighting for Russia in Ukraine.
Tax said it should be noted that according to the country’s laws, no Tanzanian is allowed to join the army of any country except the Tanzanian Army. She said all Tanzanians should ensure they comply with the laws of their country and the rules and procedures provided.
Tax said Tarimo went to Russia in 2020 to pursue a master's degree at the Russian Technological University in Moscow.
Tanzanian media report he was arrested on drug-related charges, sentenced, and then offered his freedom if he went to war.
Tarimo’s family say his friends in Russia, where he was studying before his arrest, confirmed his death in late December.
Speaking to VOA Tuesday, his mother Luoida Sambulika said family members were waiting for the body of her son because they were told it would arrive soon. Sambulika said he will not be home until his body arrives.
Tarimo’s death in Ukraine mirrored that of Zambian national Lemekhani Nyirenda, who was also a student in Russia arrested on drugs charges, then promised freedom if he fought for the Wagner Group.
News of Tarimo’s death circulated on social media last week with a video showing Russian men in military outfits holding candles around what was purportedly his casket.
In the video, a picture of Tarimo, two medals, and a certificate are placed on the casket, which is draped with a flag of the Wagner Group.
The group has been accused of rights abuses from Syria to Ukraine to the Central African Republic.