DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA — The family of a Tanzanian student who was in prison in Russia says it has confirmation that he was killed fighting for Russia's Wagner Group of mercenaries in Ukraine.
Tanzanian media reported that Nemes Tarimo, 33, had been arrested on drug-related charges in Russia and was told he'd be released if he fought in Ukraine.
Tarimo's relatives said that in late December, they received information about his death from some of his friends in Russia. They later got confirmation of his death from the Tanzanian Embassy in Moscow. They said there were reports that Tarimo was killed in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, a site of heavy fighting in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Those reports have not been confirmed.
No one in Tarimo’s family has seen his body yet. A video circulating on social media shows men in military fatigues holding candles around a casket. In the video, a picture of Tarimo, two medals and a certificate are placed on the casket, which is draped with a Wagner flag.
Rehema Kigobe, Tarimo’s sister, said the family does not fully understand what happened to him. She said his relatives were hurt because they had seen news circulating that showed he'd been killed fighting for Russia, something they were not aware he was doing. She said he'd received a master's scholarship to study in Russia.
No military training
Some family members, like Alphone John, Tarimo’s grandfather, were shocked by the news that he'd been on the battlefield.
"We wonder how he managed to go to the war, because he has never undergone any military training, even at the primary level when he left here," John said through a translator.
Tarimo’s mother, Luoida Sambulika, said her son was polite, God-fearing and supportive.
"Nemes grew up to be a very handsome young man," she said through a translator. "He has been very respectful, calm and kind. He used to come out of school, and often you’ll find him at his computer, doing his work. He was not a person who prefers bad groups."
Last year, a Zambian national who had also been arrested on drug charges and convicted in Russia died in Ukraine while fighting for Wagner. Like Tarimo, Lemekhani Nyirenda was promised his freedom if he worked as a mercenary.
Several other Africans who immigrated to Russia reportedly were recruited by Wagner to fight in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Tarimo’s body apparently remains in Russia. The Tanzanian Embassy originally said it would be brought back to Tanzania by January 10. The embassy remains in touch with the family members and says it will notify them when Tarimo makes his last journey home.