Friday, October 31, 2008

The question is if and when the day will come when churches like the Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) will pay back the money their staff and clergy has stolen from the poor.
Die Frage ist, ob auch die Diebe in der Kirche jemals das Geld zurückzahlen werden, das in den letzten Jahren in den Kirchen gestohlen wurde.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On 18th of October I got the following Mail from Vicky Ntetema/BBC Dar es Salaam,
Her Undercover Video can be found here
she writes:

"Sad News: Mariam Stanford (28) is fighting for her life today in a Ngara Hospital, Lake Victoria Zone after would be killers severed her right arm with machete as she was walking home last night. The BBC Kiswahili Service reported this yesterday.


(extract from the BBC Investigative Report broadcast in July 2008)

This part of my report has been forwaded to the Albino MP Al Shaymar Kweygir who this Saturday will be launching an NGO for albinos in Tanzania and on Sunday, she will include this report in her statement to President Kikwete on Sunday when he will be gracing Albino demos and rally.

On 17th December 2007 after filing my report to BBC World Service that since September it was feared that four albinos had been brutally murdered and also that one body had been exhumed and limbs chopped off, I knew it was a serious problem which needed some form of investigation. My focus was on two areas: Who was responsible for these grisly murders? What is being done to stop the killings of innocent people who are born with a problem of skin pigmentation? But the 19th victim in March 2008 and the inaction of law enforcers even after the endless pleas by Tanzania Albino Society to protect the albino community and the arrests of the killers made me stop everything and start the investigation into the murders. How can anybody keep quiet after listening to a statement like this one here below from an albino?

Christopher Dandendekye once said: “Even if the police would take up the case and arrest the culprits, it won’t help. It will be just like pruning the trees but the roots are still intact. So what we are saying is that we want to ensure that the root is destroyed. We have to identify the witchdoctor who has evidence that albino body parts can bring wealth. And if this proves to be true, and bearing in mind that the economy of this country is poor, then we the albinos will sacrifice ourselves in order for our fellow Tanzanians to get rich.”

President Jakaya Kikwete had in March condemned the killings and ordered the police to arrest witchdoctors, their clients involved in the macabre killings and the hired murderers and also those medicine men and women who bring about enmity in the community by telling their clients that they are being bewitched by their relatives, neighbours or work colleagues.

My sources ranged from local government, the police, religious and traditional leaders, fellow reporters, victims’ families and the general public and the speech by President Jakaya Kikwete when he condemned albino killings and ordered a crackdown of witchdoctors, their clients and hired killers? Here is what he said in March:

“Experience shows that those who are being killed for witchcraft beliefs are elderly women who are accused of bewitching people and killing others. Such murders are deeply rooted in the Lake Zone in Mara, Mwanza, Shinyanga and even Tabora regions. They are carried out by a group of hired gangs and those who have been instructed by witchdoctors after tarot reading or fortune-telling… that their relatives are sick or have died because these old women have bewitched them. And the victims’ families decide to take revenge against those who have bee named by the witchdoctors.
“Some of the killings are instigated by superstitious beliefs that one can be a very successful businessman or woman and also in mining or fishing activities if they use human organs in their rituals. Others even believe that if one puts a child’s arm when producing local alcoholic brew then the beer will be sold like hot cakes at a pub. This is ABSOLUTE RUBBISH!”

According to the Tanzania Albino Society, 173 people had been arrested, but there was no official confirmation of the arrests of the people who had killed albinos. And more people with albinism were being killed. The images of limbless bodies and remains of victims with albinism have been permanently ingrained in my brain. Some of them were as young as 12 months old.

Some of the grisly murders and events there after:

a seven month old baby Kija Mbogo Marashu snatched from her mother’s embrace in the middle of the night and left limbless outside the family hut while just like a mother hen protected the rest of the victim’s siblings; How heartless these people are to make a mother choose either to save the lives of three of her children or surrender her baby with albinism to the killers and keep quiet!

Nyerere Rutatiro, the Magu 50 year old father of two whose legs were hacked while still alive in front of his epileptic wife Susannah outside their hut where they were having their evening meal the man as they were having their evening meal; the plea to President Kikwete for protection of people living with albinism like Winifrida Rutatiro and her six year old son after the murder of his brother Nyerere in Misungwi;

the mutilated body of a nine year old Wazia, whose mouth was stuffed with sand and was left to die with one leg and a hole in her neck from where blood was drained while she was still breathing in someone’s sugarcane farm in Sengerema; the sobs of the mother of the late Wazia murdered on her way from school and who is worried about her other albino daughter going to the same school;

a whole family of three and an unborn baby brutally killed for a limb of ten year old Rebecca in Naymikoma village; the brother of Rebecca, who lives in hiding after murderers massacred the whole family when they tried to defend her;

Jovin Majaliwa brutally murdered at his home by a group of unidentified men armed with machetes severing his right foot and his private parts in a remote village of Biharamulo District soon after returning home from his banana plantation in and waiting for his evening meal and then killers turn against the wife causing grievously bodily harm and left for dead as she tried to raise the alarm;

Bibiana, the ten year old girl in a Geita hospital who is not only maimed by her attackers who left with one of her legs but also very scared that they may come back for her other leg;

the 17 year old Vumilia in Ilungu, Magu Dustrict ghastly murdred on her way from her day job of selling peanuts; the 25 year old Elias Yusuph from the same village, who has decided to arm himself with machete, whistle and a club to fight potential killers when they attempt to attack him for his organs, hair and blood;

the mutilated body of the 30 year old Kenyan from Kisii, who was killed after a business fellow country woman she trusted brought in henchmen to kill her for her body parts;

Grieving parents, relatives and friends, scared and frightened albinos, graves built with concrete, stones and metal bars within days of the burial, mutilated bodies of innocent albinos, including infants, charred bodies of suspected wizards;

the laughter of witchdoctors when talking about the price of albino organs and the mention of the police collaborating with the sangomas who would stop at nothing when it comes to looking for riches;

inefficiency of some police quarters or failure to act promptly on information provided by victims or their families and failure to implement the President’s directives and prevent more murders.

These are the images that cannot be erased from my memory and they could not just go unexposed.

This new “trend” of ritual killings is what drove me to the remote villages of North-western Tanzania . Armed with my normal recording kit, a couple of secret audio and video recording equipment I embarked on to this somehow scary and adventurous journey to investigate albino killings and also find those who are behind these ghastly murders which are rife in the Lake Victoria Zone especially in Mwanza, Shinyanga and Mara regions. Farming, Livestock keeping, Fishing and Mining are the main activities of these provinces. I went to more than ten witchdoctors. Since last November when the nation became aware of these witchcraft ghastly practices 28 albinos had been murdered, several graves with remains of people living with albinism were desecrated. Shockingly, orders of leg and arm or wrist bones of albinos were in demand. With living albinos, the killers were going for the blood, arms and legs which witchdoctors regard as ‘essential ingredients’ in the magic potions used to make one wealthy.

I also had to dress the part. It is an area where women are not treated kindly (in the villages) if they are in trousers, the most comfortable wear for journalists on duty trips. I bought head gears, blouses, long skirts and dresses, African brocade for wrappers, khanga, Tanzanian traditional wrapper with slogans, flat shoes and trainers (for smooth and fast running in case of emergency). Even the preparations for a meeting with the Hamas spiritual leader in Gaza, the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and venturing into the Al-Alqsar Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem six years ago was easier than entering the land of witches, wizards and sorcery.

Hailing from a Christian family and having an elderly mother who spends 90% of her time reading the Bible and having sisters and a brother whose lives hang on the evangelical churches of the born-again worshippers, it was not an easy farewell evening. “Why do you have to go there if you believe in God?” They are following the devil and you want to visit them?” “Let someone else do the research.” My elder brother, who many years ago converted into Islam after falling in love with his Moslem bride, discouraged me by instilling fear in me. “I can understand why you do not believe that witchdoctors can harm you, because you have been educated and lived in Europe for many years. But that region is famous for its ritual killings and when sorcerers detect any wrong move and your mission is exposed, you may be the next victim. But since both the Christian and Islamic scriptures condemn witchcraft, it is clear that sorcery exists and can be used to destroy people’s lives.”

It was such comments and the magnitude of killings of albinos that made me determined more than ever to face the unknown to find out who was behind these ritualistic killings. With the BBC backing, it was time to go.

In a nutshell, two of them promised to get me magic concoction mixed with ground albino organs. The starting price is US$2000 for albino organs. There must be something connected to wizardry in the August month, because both living in separate remote villages asked me to go back on 15th and 25th August respectively.
Another one told me said that the police are also some of their customers and that he can make a special potion mixed with ground stuff from male and female private parts, among other things to enable people steal from the bank and wholesale shops without being caught.

Mwanza which is leading in these murders claiming with 11 of them to its name also has the highest number of at least 3,000 registered witchdoctors. Albinos have become an easy target of these witchcraft murders since November 2007. The bodies are left limbless and sometimes with a huge hole on the neck where blood would have been drained. Families not only grieve because of the loss of their loved ones but are also shocked at the state in which the bodies are left by these murderers. The Sukuma tribe sometimes bury albinos in their houses and would tell neighbours that they have gone away to other regions. It became clear that the parents or relatives were protecting their dead from the body snatchers who would take the relevant organs to the witchdoctors. In Tanzania , graves would normally be left for more than a year for the earth to settle before erecting tombstones with cement concrete with metal rods and stones.

I met a registered traditional healer who uses African herbs to cure ailments in Magu, the town that shares the name with the district which is known to be the hub of sorcery. I listened to the medicine man’s rendition of how conmen and also what he called foreign witchdoctors lure locals into trusting them, before hiring murders to organize raids on homes of albinos just after sunset.

So there are traditional healers and witchdoctors! However, the law in Tanzania that gives them the mandate to operate does not differentiate between these types of witchdoctors. The former are herbalists and the latter are associated with sorcery including the use human organs to perform their rituals or to bewitch someone on behalf of their clients. But sometimes they can kill or defame a person as part of their special witchcraft tournament between rival groups. At these meets, usually at night and not a place for the faint hearted or non-members of the witchcraft groups, experts demonstrate the use of hyenas, owls, snakes and other animals accepted in their midst and also how to maim or harm other human beings using with various methods.

One Magu witchdoctor Dr. Lucas who is sometimes invited by major football clubs during matches as a technical personnel told me that he is also used to bring about victory to a group that pays him acceptable fees. He even boasts to bring rain to his neighbourhood when the rest of the country is under the drought spell. Villagers support his claim saying that as result of his expertise which has not been scientifically verified, the harvest is always in abundance. Do, I believe in that stuff? Seeing, is believing!

However, the thought of being one of the witchdoctors’ “targets” to prove that they can destroy the life of a human being if they want to (and may be especially those who do not believe their magical powers like me) crossed my mind. And my brother’s words were still fresh in my ears.
But the will to continue with my research that started in March was stronger than the desire to turn back. I had started my investigation and so I should complete it, I told myself. There is no half business in any job.

The consultations procedures ranged from talking to a sticky branch of hedge plants to telling a chicken my problems. These are regarded as intermediaries between the witchdoctor and their ancestors and a jinni. I presented the same case to all of them and got different solutions. The idea was for the client to return for a further problem-solving process or the final solution. The arrangement was for me to find the $2,000 and inform them when they call in August that I was ready with the cash. The date would be set and I would travel to their villages, make the down payment wait for a day to be handled over the parts and then pay the balance before they grind the bones and roast and grind the hair for the “magic-make-me-rich” concoction.

All of witchdoctors were not happy when I declined their invitation to spend a night or two in their homes.

“Why are you in a hurry to get out of here? At night is when we carry out the rituals at the cemetery and spilling some mixture at the crossroad.”
Now there are things I was prepared to do in the name of the BBC investigation, but night time graveyard performances or spending a night at a wizard’s or witch’s homestead was not one of them, I thought.

I was relieved when the Lamadi witchdoctor bragged that the graveyard rituals were not a woman’s job. Phew!
“It’s a heavy war with the spirits, demons, ghosts and your enemies”, he told me.

“Who are my enemies?” I asked him. Two of your closest friends who share everything with you including eating from the same table, he said with a strange grin.

Six out of ten witchdoctors are operating illegally. I met three female witchdoctors who performed fortune telling sessions telling me that I was bewitched my either my close relatives or friends and that if the price is right they have the power to neutralise the “enemy” powers and even make them suffer. This is what President Kikwete was fighting against in March when he ordered the arrests of witchdoctors as opposed to traditional healers. The latter use alternative medicine to treat ailments in the same fashion as Chinese medicine all over the world. However, in Tanzania there is no distinction between these two groups in the law and both receive the same license.

Some of the witchdoctors I visited had old German and English coins some with holes in the middle, sea cowries, pebbles, nails, nuts and bolts, screws, crosses with the little figure representing Jesus and beads which they would shake in a red or white cloth and throw them on the ground while incense sticks burn from four corners. A sticky green stems or old money notes are put between Quran pages. Then the witchdoctors would speak in Arabic and Sukuma language and then translate or use an interpreter to get the message through to me.

However, Dr. Tatu, a 28 year old woman in Nassa village of Magu District was the only one who refused vehemently to hold a session of looking into my past, scrutinising my present and predicting my future saying that it was now against the law since March this year when President Jakaya Kikwete banned such activities all over the country following a series of albino killings. She was very careful in her response to my questions. At some stage she asked me whether I was not from the police trying to set a trap on her!

‘No, she could not have known about my mission!’ I comforted myself.

I was given some herbs to treat my body after paying the initial consultation fee and another $20 for the colourful ground herbs in six separate packages wrapped in thin plastic bags (the type which is banned in Tanzania , by the way).

She however, told me to prepare a minimum of $200 and her fare for the return trip to my mining site in Geita (the gold mining district) for her to cast a spell and wash the area and also to the Indian Ocean site where my fishing nets were for her to sprinkle some magic contortion so that I become wealthy.

“What ingredients will be in the magic potion?” I asked. “That is the witchdoctor’s secret,” she told me laughing until her body and head in red and white headgear shook.

In a remote village of Bughati , kilometres away from the main tarmac road to Kenya where we had to cover a long distance on foot as the hired car could not cope with the cattle paths, I met two female witchdoctors on one Friday. One of them who performed half a session of fortune telling, told me that I was not successful in my mining and fishing business because my aunt who has six daughters was jealousy of me and so she has bewitched me. “Unless I counter the spell, your business will go down the drain and you can even lose your life,” she told me while sitting by the door which separates the middle room from the chamber which seemed to store her medicines and some other stuff.

I thought of the contents of the big clay pots at the corner of this dark room. Snakes including pythons which are sometimes used in typical Sukuma traditional ngomas or dances in public gathering. The tribe is known for keeping these dangerous creatures in their homes and dancing with these huge venomous snakes at public gathering. Although the dancers say that they remove the poison and teeth from these deadly reptiles, a man was killed last year by his own snake in front of the crowd. I was on the alert and had to position myself near the door so that I make a quick gateway in case I detect some unusual movements from the room. But what if the hyenas were to break loose? Jujumen and women in this Lake Victoria Zone live with these carnivorous mammals. They may not harm them, but certainly I was not ready to become anybody’s meal.

After paying the consultation fee, I was asked to go back on Saturday, the following day for further consultations and magic potion at a price of more than $500 plus return fare and accommodation and meals allowance while visiting my business sites. “There are some ingredients including fresh blood which I need to get somewhere else in order to make a talisman which you are supposed to wear all the time,” she told me.

“Where will you go to fetch these ingredients and whose blood is it?”

She laughed shaking her head from side to side and looked straight into my eyes. “You ask too many questions. It is evident that this is your first time to a witchdoctor,” she told me.

Phew! For a moment I thought she had spotted my hidden recorder which kept on slipping from its position causing me to pretend scratching the side of my body while adjusting it. The confidence that I started with when I set off began to weaken.

Was I being bewitched by these sangomas? No way! After all, I do not have an aunt dead or alive who has six daughters. My only aunt on the paternal side and who died more than 20 years ago had two sons (older than me) who are also deceased. My only aunt on the maternal side had four daughters and five sons. But the most important thing is that I am a broadcast journalist who is not interested in the mining and fishing businesses.

The encounter with jujuman number three was in a village called Gambusi, the most feared area in the Lake Zone. Situated in the diamond and gold Shinyanga region, the compound had about eight mud and stick with thatched roofs huts surrounding three miniature apache hut style structures in the middle. The centre one was adorned by two huge Ankole cow horns. Some men were playing a traditional game with small round dried wild seeds which they put in holes on a wooden thick board, known as bao in Kiswahili. Two others were playing a game of draft using cocacola and fanta bottle caps.

Some of the women on the other side of the compound were busy with what seemed to be cooking preparations. One took firewood into what looked like a kitchen as it had two sets of three stones on which cooking pots would rest on an open firewood flame, another was doing dish-washing, another came out of a barn behind the men with a wicker winnowing tray. A boy and two girls and brought cows, goats and sheep into the compound and led them to a pen just behind the huts.

In Mwanza the police informed me of Gambusi that it was a no go area because, “once you are in you cannot get out after they give you a potion to drink so that you see the real city which is different from the village ordinary people see”. So the police are aware of the evils going on in this hamlet known as Gambusi Kuzimu? And why aren’t they taking any action?

“What action?” they laughed. How can one fight witchcraft forces? They asked.

A forty-plus man wearing a white T-Shirt and Khaki trousers with a mobile phone on the belt asked me whether I brought a chicken. What for? I asked. He laughed and said that I was forgiven because he realized that I was a novice in the business. He demanded two dollars for a tiny three week old chicken and three dollars for fortune telling. I was then told to get out of the compound, face south-east, where I hail from (Dar es Salaam) spit on the bird’s head, back, tail and on my hand and have a heart-to-heart talk with the chick revealing all my problems.

“Will you be listening?” I asked him.

“No! I am just showing you what to do,” he said and went into the compound.

I first came across the name Gambusi when I was in Sengerema District on the shores of Lake Victoria on my first week of the tour. Here a man came into the worship place of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. It was on the second day of a seminar on “Looking into my Faith” headed by Pastor Jacob Kituu of Mwanza. The congregation were praying for redemption when from nowhere a man calling himself Shillinde from Magu shouted that he wanted to confess. The local pastor Daniel gave him the platform even though he did not know anything about him, apart from the fact that they share a name.

“I am asking God for forgiveness and please pray for me so that my sins are washed away,” Shillinde told the congregation.
“Tell Jesus what you have done to deserve His redemption,” the bishop said.

What he narrated was too much for anybody to take in at once. Some of them left with excuses that they were needed home as they did not expect to stay longer than the normal seminar and prayer hours.

“I am a wizard from Gambusi. Not the ordinary Gambusi where ordinary human beings live. I come from Gambusi Kuzimu where you people can only enter after we give you special medicine to drink and wash your body with. We have trains, buses, electricity, tap water, cement blocks houses with corrugated iron roofs, our own hospital and decent shops. But now I want to stop these harmful practices give my life to God,” Shillinde began while overwhelmed with hiccups from time to time. A glass of water was brought for him. The congregation raised their hands in the air, calling Jesus to reign and fill the church with his love and blood and save his lost sheep.

Now there are times when I as a journalist had to say enough is enough and leave for more factual and real renditions. This one could have been extracted from pages of a fiction book on a story set in a country other than Tanzania , I thought, as I started leaving the church.

“I was eight when I was crowned the third vice president of the Gambusi branch of the Lake Victoria Zone witchcraft association after killing a school boy of the same age,” Shillinde continued.

I looked back and standing by the door, I could hear the congregation sighing ‘Oh my God! Jesus Christ!’

Still I thought that he was one of those attention-seekers. The lean and tall man looking not more than 25 years of age sipped the water from the glass.
“I was taken to a high ground, but I could not see the ground and we were travelling using either wind, hyenas or winnowing trays. My grandmother, the president, my father the first vice president and my aunt the second vice president told me I was now ready to be given bigger tasks. They told me that at three, I was given a pint of fresh blood to drink and pieces of human flesh and some herbs to chew and swallow.”

At this point he started throwing up some fresh blood. It came with some black and grey hard stuff. The rest of the seminar participants left the church in a hurry calling the name of Jesus as they reached the door. This is when I got out my BBC digital camera and audio recorder. I had earlier during the week explained to Pastor Daniel that I had introduced myself as a journalist and asked for his comments on albino killings in the area. I asked for permission to record the rendition and take photos.

The two pastors asked Shillinde whether he could speak to a reporter. Permission granted I prepared my gear and by that time only one woman and seven men were left sitting in a semi circle in front of the alter listening to Shillinde in the middle.

I approached him with my microphone. “When you feel nauseating please let me know so that we halt the interview,” I explained. I may be inquisitive, but being covered with a sorcerer’s vomit is not part of job description. Sorry, I am not a medical professional.

“I swallowed a palm of a baby,” he said to everyone’s astonishment.

“Shillinde, you were only three years old, how could you have swallowed a baby’s palm?” I asked.

He laughed and looked at his hands. “That’s easy. Fat or oil is smeared over the palm and my granny shoved it slowly into my throat. I have done that many times to other children who are brought by their parents to the association. But I just wanted to ask you not to call me Shillinde because that name is associated with witchcraft and the past. Call me Daniel, which is my Christian name now.”

Everyone looked at Pastor Daniel who was forced to smile. But I, on the other hand, was feeling nauseating from Shillinde’s narratives.

Where was his mother when all this happened? Shillinde told us that his mother was expelled from her marital home by her husband when he was one year old because she was against witchcraft. “Twice my mother arranged a meeting with me in the ordinary Gambusi village trying to persuading me to run away from wizardry. I told her to leave things be as she may get hurt. I have never seen her since I was twenty-something.”

“At eight, I killed three boys of the same age as me from different villages,” he bragged.

“How did you do it?”

“Not all of them at once. I preyed on the first one for a week. I knew he liked certain types of sweets. My father put some magic potion in the sweets. When coming from school I gave him one. He knew me as we played together when I was not in Gambusi Kuzimu. At night, I went to his house. He was fast asleep. I opened the door for my father and aunt. They took the boy away and cut his tongue. In the morning his mother went to wake him up. She saw the body, but it was a trick my father made because the boy was with me in our Gambusi Kuzimu house.”

“Excuse me! So whose body in the boy’s clothes and face was there, Shillinde, I mean Daniel?”

He laughed again clapping his hands he said, “A thing that looked like the boy. And when they buried him, they thought he was their son. But if you go there now, you will not fimnd the body because that boy is a 41 year old man now working on our rice and cotton farms just like many others. I used the same method to kill the other two.”

“Tell your children, not to take sweets from anyone even people they know. Give them money to go and buy them from the shops,” Daniel warned us while looking around.

At this moment, my brain ran down the memory lane and landed at the Muhimbili National and Referral Hospital a few months back. The police arrested a 12 year old boy and his mother after he was caught with a fresh skull of a three year old Monica at the hospital gates and a torso of the same girl was found in his mother’s toilet more than twenty kilometres away from the hospital. The picture of the police officer connecting the small head with blood-stained pleated hair to the smartly dressed torso came flashing back to my brain. Did the accused youth use sweets to lure innocent Monica who disappeared from her aunt’s home one evening without a trace? The case which has attracted many Tanzania because of the nature of the crime and the alleged young murderer still continues in a Dar es Salaam court.

I had to stop the interview. As I went outside for fresh air, Daniel threw up again on the floor. Four huge heaps of fresh blood lay on the cemented floor of the Lutheran Church .

A woman, who was introduced to us as a church helper had removed the first pools of blood. When I asked her why she even mopped the place without consulting the police who might have taken the sample to the hospital to determine what was causing Daniel’s condition of vomiting blood, she told me, “The pastors say that he is repenting, hence there is no need to call the police.”

What is he is sick?

Jesus will heal him, was the answer.

When I re-joined the group inside the church Daniel looked at me and said, “You are feeling bad just listening to my rendition! Can you imagine what I am going through now? I have run away from home in Gambusi Kuzimu. The association has killed my grandmother, its president because she could not tell them where I was after hearing that I have decided to repent in church. They think that I will spill the beans. My wicked Aunt and father who turned me into a wizard from my infancy are holding my wife and son as ransom. If I do not return, they will kill them, that is the message. But I know that they are already dead. They were drowned in shallow waters of Lake Victoria , the other day. I cannot fight them. This is why I am here. Please help me,” he pleaded while turning to face Pastors Jacob and Daniel.

“Why don’t you go to the police and tell them where this village is and ask them to arrest members of the association?” a typical question from a journalist.

“I want the church to help me with repenting my sins first and then when I am saved, I will go to the police. But if you think that the police will overpower the association of witches and wizards, you are gravely mistaken,” he looked straight into my eyes and shook his head.
“How do you know while you have not tried?”

“Do you know that in our midst we have policemen working for us?”

Daniel went on to tell me that the police are powerless. But that he will let them know about his crime so that he is free from the guilt he has been carrying since the beginning of this year when he for the first time entered a Magu Church for the purpose of finding a suitable prey for their up coming August to October festivities. Sometimes, he said they go out to public gathering and get their preys as a sign of being very daring and fearless. “This way, you gain more points over other competitors.”

“However, a hand touched my shoulder as I was peeping at the door studying the next victim. That silent communication with people who are not from our association, changed me. Suddenly, I felt like running to the front of the church. Without knowing I was surrounded by many people who started praying over me in the name of Jesus. I surrendered. I was not alone. Some of my friends from Gambusi Kuzimu were there. They saw me and tried to call me to return home. I cannot return home now. Some of them went to do research on the most powerful man in the congregation who can be a hindrance to our mission. It is called witchcraft espionage. We have members in the church as well. But none in this church so far. That is why I came to hide here.”

Daniel was exhausted. The women brought milk for him. He said that he is not used to drinking milk. Blood has always since the age of three been his drink which now he cannot take. And the stomach was rejecting all other meals which ordinary human beings consume.

As his voice became weaker and weaker, I asked the pastors to take him to the District hospital and also inform the police. They said they were going to do that after praying for him.

I was extremely tired. Not from work, but from Shillinde Daniel’s rendition. What is the world of Tanzania coming to?
The night was full of nightmares. The next morning, I went to visit an albino family which had lost a daughter to ritual killings. I was in a fishing village when Pastor Daniel called to say that Shillinde Daniel was admitted in hospital.

At a Catholic Church hospital doctors told me that Daniel was anaemic and that he needed blood. However, no donor had come forward and he had no relatives in that patch of the wood. .

“What blood group?” I asked.

He was A+.

Without thinking twice I asked the doctors to screen my blood and drain a pint for him.

My host said it was a crazy idea. He could not understand how I was ready to donate blood to a man who has just confessed in church that he was a killer since he was eight and a sorcerer since he was three.

He is just another human being who will die if he does not get blood today, was my response as I was lying in the laboratory bed for the process to comment. After filling in the consent form, the technicians were busy looking for the suitable vein. An hour later I was out of the hospital on my way to the hotel.

My mother and siblings went ballistic and demanded that I returned to Dar es Salaam immediately. That was very unchristian, I told them. What happened to forgiveness and saving lives!

“Now that the wizard has tested your blood through the hospital tubes, how do you know whether he will not use his witchcraft to suck the rest of your blood? Why do you always want to go for dangerous projects?”

You have been watching too many Dracula films, I told him.

With Shillinde Daniel in hospital male ward number 1, I decided to go to the infamous Gambusi village. When witchdoctor number three asked me to tell the baby chicken my troubles, I listed two issues:

1. Looking for wealth in fishing and mining business
2. Searching for my neighbour’s brother Shillinde

Mzee Kufungile Mulunguti must have quickly cut the chick’s throat when I was looking for the money in my handbag. It did not take even a minute. He put the headless chicken while still shaking its body under a blue medium size basin. He took the money, equivalent to three dollars from me and started to skin the tiny bird with a very small sharp knife without even removing the feathers. It was done with such a precision that did not allow any tissue to go to waste.

While talking in Sukuma language, the jujuman pushed the knife through the back of the chick and exposed its internal organs. He started scrutinizing each and every one of them and shaking his head in sadness. He kissed his teeth and called his interpreter, between 50 to sixty years of age.
He said things that I did not understand. The tall lean man told me that the witchdoctor is unhappy with his findings.

“The chicken shows that you are in a coffin because someone has put you there,”

For the first time in my career, I stared at a potential interviewee without uttering a word while mouth was as dry as an empty well during severe drought.

“Do not worry! Mzee Kufungile Mulunguti will solve all your problems,” the interpreter re-assured me.

When I finally found my tongue, before asking any questions, I looked around just to re-assure myself that my colleague Osoro and my driver George were still around and that the car was still there.

Were they planning to exterminate me and send my coffin home in case I do not agree to any of their demands? I pinched myself just to make sure that I was not hypnotised and that my body was still active.

We were sitting behind the main hut, the first on the left from the gates and which I was told was the key room where the sangoma performs rituals on his clients and patients. There was no way I was going to enter that hut willingly. I promised myself. An owl cried on the tree behind us. I looked up, but I did not see it.

Mzee Kufungile Mulunguti, gained this title which means old man, because of his work, said that the owls were just some of his security guards and they tell him everything.

Just what have they told you just now? I asked him

“That someone was approaching the compound,” he told me.

A man almost his age with twisted long hair in the Rastafarian style walked towards us. The interpreter told him that Mzee was busy with a client and that he should wait near the cereal barns where the other men were still playing the bao and draft games.

“Your heart is failing you just like this chicken’s heart. You see that red spot on the kidney, it represents illness in your organs. You will soon be limping as your legs will paralyse if I do not treat them. And these two intestines positioned one on top of another indicates that some of your closest relatives want to control you and are ready to kill you any time from now. You are in great danger,” he explained to me in Kiswahili while looking at the inside of the chicken.

The interpreter said this was what the chick told him. “Did you tell the bird about your illnesses?

All I want is to get rich and for my businesses to prosper, that is all. I also told the chicken to find a lost brother of my neighbour, Shillinde.
The witchdoctor said something in his language. The interpreter said that Mzee Kufungile Mulunguti wanted me to get better first and then he will make me rich and that matters that concern others should be presented by the persons-in-question. Witchdoctors like to work with their clients and patients on one to one basis not via someone else, I was enlightened.

Mzee Kufungile Mulunguti asked me for US$200 for the consultations and treatment of the diseases the chicken told him I had. I was supposed to spend two nights there before completing the process. But when I told him that I had only US$30 he told me to go back and return when I had the full amount.

“You come to a witchdoctor empty-handed, what do you expect? Free services?” he asked with an angry tone and then laughed his head off.
I promised to return with my friends from abroad who want to get wealthy if he promises to help me get rich, first, then treat my illnesses later when I have plenty of money. He said that if I had the right price he would make me a very successful businesswoman and in return bring him a lot of clients. But he insisted that I spent two nights there.

“Next time when I get rich,” I told him.

It was around 1630hrs East African Time when the three of us started the journey back to Mwanza almost 200 kilometres away using the cattle track that Mzee Kufungile Mulunguti showed us.

After driving for about twenty kilometres it started to rain and we got stuck on cotton soil trail.

It was getting dark and we could hear hyena noises from the bushes. Two of us could not push the car out of mud even though we tried very hard. It was scary.

“Do you know hyenas can chew up car tyres and have us as snacks?” George, the driver made things worse. No training in school of journalism can prepare media men and women for such a scenario. And this was reality!

A group of men approached us and told us that we took the wrong route as we were on paddy fields. A teacher and his students were on their way to another village when they heard the engine of our transport.

So the witchdoctor gave us the wrong direction!

The men helped us push the car out of the fields and throughout the 16 kilometres as rain kept pouring hard on us. The only person who was protected from the punishment of being beaten by rain, smeared in mud, mosquito bites and escaping from hyenas was George.

There was amount of money that we could pay these kind people we never knew for what they did for us. They made sure that we were on a safe dry road in another village, Nyangh’aya and where it was not raining before starting their journey to the village. What we gave them was a token of appreciation. They were our guardian angels. The car clock showed that it was 2340hrs. We reached Mwanza two hours later.

My mission was not over yet.

All witchdoctors had a number of old and young men and women working for them from dawn to dusk. They call them their “medicine children” who are not supposed to speak to clients and who will never look one in the eye. They walk with their heads down.

At one compound an old woman of about 80 years of age was sorting rice and putting in the bags while four people in their twenties of so sat down after returning from rice and cotton farms. I thought that was against the African tradition for the youths to sit while a geriatric does such a heavy job in front of them. When I approached her she had some swollen tattoo scars s all over her body, some of them were fresh wounds. That was creepy for me!

So when the witchdoctors suggested using a razor blade on me, I was quick to tell them that I was allergic to metals and needles of all types and that even at hospital they cannot pierce anything into any part of my body because my blood does not clot. That is not a problem, because there is cure for everything here, one of them said. No thanks, I am not that desperate.

All of them gave me different suggestions of who my enemies were, not by name but by description. None got anything right including my true identity. But that did not stop me from praying for my safety as that was the only defence I had.

When I returned to Gambusi with my three BBC colleagues from London and Nairobi (who stayed well away from the compound after going through the escape plans, in case of anything), we found that Mzee Kufungile Mulunguti was on safari. However, his nephew Dr. Malosha Kufungile, the rightful “heir to the throne” was there to receive me. He had been briefed by his uncle who was warming up the throne left by the late father of the 28 year old “president-in-waiting”. He knew what I wanted and informed me that he was going to be crowned on 4th August and three weeks later, he would find me albino blood, hair, leg and palms for US$2,000. Most of the murdered victims had their limbs chopped off. He charged me US$55 as part of initial consultations asked me to return with the money. [This information was relayed to the Mwanza Region Police, the Regional Administration and other relevant authorities.]

It was getting dark when my trusted friend and a fellow journalist, Osoro and I returned to join the BBC colleagues from London and Nairobi we left a kilometre back on the bus we travelled in from Mwanza city on Lake Victoria . Going out of the village took some time as it was pitch black. A man riding a bicycle misled us and we found ourselves going in circles. Kudos to our experienced driver who successfully drove the bus out of Gambusi, the “village of witches and wizards” where it is believed that an alien can vanish in thin air”.

I was forced to remember all the prayers my parents taught me to come out of that place untouched and in one piece! . We returned to Mwanza unscathed.

Never in my life had it occurred in my dreams that I will one day be sitting in front of a witchdoctor, sangoma or voodoo priests and priestesses. Coming from a religious family it was unthinkable to approach or even go near a compound of such people.

Although once or twice I came too close to being caught, none of the ten of witchdoctors I visited from Sengerema, Bariadi, Magu. Lamadi to Nasa realized who I was and why I was there. I thank not only my stars but Almighty God. I have heard how ruthless some of them are when they are cornered. However, I think two of them were restless and declined from conducting the fortune telling and were quick to condemn albino killings. One of them a lady said as I was leaving her compound and this was after the second visit, “You are investigators, aren’t you?” And another time when I thought I was about to be caught red handed with my recorder was when my handbag fell as I was taking consultations fees from my wallet. Phew, that was a close shave!

In Lamadi a tiny rural town which lies at the junction of the roads leading to Kenya and Uganda the witchdoctor charged me $100 for the first session and said that in August he would give me the magic potion with albino and other human organs for a price. Dr. Makoma who used the Koran, old Tanzanian shillings notes and incense stick to perform fortune telling at a fee of US$100, said that he had clients as far afield as the East African neighbouring countries. He said that I was one day late as the vital organs have gone to another witchdoctor for a client in Bariadi. While I was there, a man came for a consultation - the witchdoctor said he was a police officer but he was wearing civilian clothes- a black T-Shirts with white labels over khaki trousers. He was made to wait until my session was over. I later was informed that the policeman told the witchdoctor that I was involved in a special investigation operation. That is when the threats started.

The policeman was one of his clients and tenants told him that I was an investigator. Dr. Makoma was very livid. He consulted his colleague another sangoma, ten kilometres from Lamadi, who I also visited.

It was here where I found two patients with their legs and hands tied with a sisal rope. The medicine man told me that they were psychiatric patients and that they were trying to escape. One of them, he said, had been dead for fourteen days and that he brought him back to life. I went to see the man, a very dark and tall patient in his late sixties. He was being nursed by his wife who had a sloppy mouth in a room with a very strong stench. The jujuman said that he cannot talk properly. The wife explained to me that he was out fishing on the lake when he suddenly fell off the boat and his fellow fishermen brought him home already dead. He had been in that state for a fortnight and his sons decided to bring the body to the witchdoctor.

Dr. Magoma had told me that dead people fished out of the lake made a good ingredient for magic potion to make people rich in the fishing industry. That week eleven children had drowned in Lake Victoria when their boat they were travelling in with their parents for festivities organised by the Seventh Day Adventist Church sunk. Twenty-nine adults swam to the shore, but their offspring did not make it.

I informed the police in Mwanza of the findings, including the witchdoctors’ illegal activities, their consiparcy to kill people living with albinism, the mention of some of the businessmen who have benefited from the sangomas in the region, the cooperation between the jujumen and the police according to the Lamadi witchdoctor’s personal account and gave the description of the villages I visited. They were surprised that I came back from Gambusi! “You are a fearless and brave woman! We cannot go there! We will work on the information you have relayed to us,” they told me.

“I am not telling you how to do your job, but I suggest you arrest them before the BBC broadcasts the report. Otherwise, they will go underground,” I pleaded with them on the phone.

I also relayed the same information to the Mwanza Regional Commissioner who promised to consult the police and work on the findings.

Dr. Magoma later called to say that he has been informed that I was an investigator and that does not please him. But who blew my cover? The local police who went for a magic potion was told to go the nect day by Dr. Magoma. He then bragged to me that he had taken very long to deal with my case and that the policeman "in black and white civilian top was not going to get what he had promised him because he was late and I cannot do overtime today". That night I received a chilling phone call blaming me for lying to them with the aim of destroying their career. They went through Magu hotels and guest houses. But I was already in Mwanza. A good Samaritan warned me not to return to the area and that I should start my journey back to Dar es Salaam as soon as transport was available. The two Lamadi witchdoctors had sent their henchmen to look for us.

I called the driver and warned him not to go to the land of wizardry. I informed Osoro, the journalist who accompanied me to those remote villages. He told me that he was aware of that and he was taking care of himself.

The next morning as I was boarding a delayed flight to Dar es Salaam , two civilian clothed security men approached me and asked where I was travelling to. Kenya , was my response. What worried me was that they knew me by name!

Osoro called to tell me that his two year old son had slashed fingers and wrists while still sleeping in their marital bedroom. His wife was terrified and asked him to inform the police. But who was the enemy? The couple took the toddler to hospital where he received the relevant treatment and told me that they put a Bible under the infant’s pillow who now sleeps between his parents.

In Dar es Salaam I kept on receiving anonymous phone calls. My identity was exposed and I had to edit the material in hiding.

On 21st July when the first programme went was supposed to go on air, I was at my mother’s place in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam trying to send the material by internet to London . My two laptops crashed. The electricity mains blew up.

When the programmes were broadcast, I was too scared to pick up calls which displayed “No number” after receiving threats from one of the witchdoctors. But who made the rest of the private number phone calls?

Some people called to say that they have spoken to the national security officers and that they are ready to give me protection. However, I did not ask for one and apart from one, the rest were anonymous.

I was also very surprised when one of the high ranking police officers in Mwanza called to blame me for broadcasting the report without informing the police. Now that was strange, but it told me enough about the impact of this investigative story on the whole country. It is human’s nature to apportion blame to others instead of taking full responsibility. I had gone through every major detail with the police before embarking on what they described as the dangerous journey and also narrated every finding after my encounter with the witchdoctors. I interviewed the Mwanza police on record after the investigation and I have written questions and answers from the police. I sat down with them for hours and they even showed me part of their official campaign with graphic images of some of the mutilated and charred bodies. So why was I being blamed now? The words of the Lamadi witchdoctor and the successive phone calls kept on rining in my ears. It was time to go underground.

The Director of Public Prosecution invited me to his office after some members of parliament in Dodoma called for the arrests of the witchdoctors and for the police to protect the BBC reporter who did the investigative story. He asked me to consult the Director of Criminal Investigations on the same day. A few days later I updated the DCI with some new development from the Lake Zone including the news on the witchdoctors who did a runner during the raid.

“What do you think we should do?” the DCI asked me? Arrest them and close all their businesses, was my response.

“It is not easy to do that because some of the politicians who hold public posts – especially during election campaigns, religious leaders, very powerful and successful businessmen and women, company executives who want to excel and promotion and even the police go to these witchdoctors because they believe in them and in witchcraft!” he told me.

I was about to faint and so I sat on a chair in his office, sorted my equipment and went to the lounge to rest for a while before getting out of the office when my legs were strong enough to carry me to my hiding place – not my own home. With the advice from my London bosses, I was on the plane another country, running away from Tanzania , the country I love and will never trade it with any other in the world.

If the government guarantees my safety and security and if the witchdoctors are arrested and taken to court, I will feel safe again to walk the streets of the nation I so much love and respect.

The image of my country has been tarnished with the ghastly killings of people with albinism and the police inaction, NOT the BBC or Vicky Ntetema’s investigative report. Anyone who apportions the blame to the messenger has to ask this question: “Would he/she have been elated to continue hearing about the grisly killings of our innocent brothers and sisters with albinism?”

The time for rhetoric is over! It is ACTION time now! The police and government have to seriously deal with the culprits, ban the activities of witchdoctors, change the law on licensing the traditional healers and empower those who are qualified to treat ailments using natural herbs with education and skills to produce alternative medicines in special centres, protect the albino community and empower them by improving their health, education and fight against stigma and discrimination and every citizen should rise and be counted in the proactive campaign against these macabre killings!"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tödliche Entwicklungshilfe!

Im Bezirk Makete/Tanzania wurde zwischen 2003 und 2006 an einem Lutherischen Krankenhaus eine erfolgreiche HIV/AIDS Klinik aufgebaut, die hunderten Patienten das Leben rettete. Das korrupte und kriminelle lokale Umfeld, welches durch fehlgeleitete Entwicklungshilfegelder hauptsächlich von Gebern aus den Landeskirchen Bayern (Neuendettelsau) , Nordelbien (Hamburg) und Sachsen (Magdeburg) jahrelang tragend mitfinanziert wurde, führte schließlich zu Demonstrationen von Patienten und lokalen Vertretern der Zivilgesellschaft gegen die lokale Kirchenleitung. Die geforderten Konsequenzen und die Aufforderung zur Rückzahlung der Gelder führten zur Attacke der Tansanischen Kirche (ELCT) gegen die erfolgreiche AIDS Klinik, worauf wegen der deutlichen Verschlechterung der Behandlung dutzende Menschen starben oder nicht der lebensrettenden Behandlung zugeführt werden konnten. Dieser Fall ist nur die Spitze eines Eisbergs, da die Geber die richtige Verwendung ihrer Gelder auch in anderen Diözesen nicht offen und nachvollziehbar belegen wollen oder können.

Korruption und Diebstahl von Spenden- und Steuergeldern in der Höhe von mehreren 100.000 Euro wurde durch erstmals (!!) durchgeführte externe Buchprüfungen für die Jahre 2003 und 2004 für die Diözese Makete im Süden Tansanias zweifelsfrei belegt. Auch für die Jahre davor und danach (!) gibt es Hinweise auf Diebstähle von Geldern, die teilweise auch durch die interne Prüfung der ELCT (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania ) bestätigt werden. Trotzdem haben weder die ELCT, noch die im LMC (Lutheran Mission Council, in Tansania mit Sitzen und Stimmen vertretenen Gebermissionen in den letzten Jahren wirksame und gesetzeskonforme Gegenmaßnahmen ergriffen. Gelder fließen in kriminelle Kanäle, es kann vielfach nicht belegt werden, was damit geschieht. Die Spender werden nicht über die Größenordnung der finanziellen Unregelmäßigkeiten und Veruntreuungen vor Ort informiert und öffentliche und nicht überprüfbare Erklärungen spielen das Problem herunter, das Geld bleibt verschwunden und die Verantwortlichen ungestraft. Diese Situation scheint nur ein Beispiel zu sein, da kircheninterne Buchprüfungen für die Jahre 2004 und 2005 nur der Hälfte der überprüften tansanischen Diözesen und deren Projekte einen Prüfungsvermerk erteilen.

Vor allem durch die vom Totenbett wiederauferstandenen AIDS Patienten, die ich in den Jahren 2004 bis 2006 erfolgreich behandeln konnte und aufgrund des besseren Zugangs der lokalen Bevölkerung zu Information (via Satelliteninternet) kam es Anfang 2006 zu Protesten gegen die lokale Kirchenleitung. Das führte zur Aussperrung der HIV/AIDS Patienten und zur gewaltsame Schließung der Klinik mit Zustimmung der Gesamtkirche und ich war zur Ausreise und der EAWM (Evangelsicher Arbietskreis für Weltkirche und Mission in Wien) zum Abbruch des AIDS-Programmes gezwungen. Es kam in Folge zur groben Verletzung von Menschen- und Patientenrechten.

Die systemische Korruption innerhalb der ELCT und das Stillschweigen europäischer Geberorganisationen, sowie das weiter fließende Geld, haben dazu geführt, dass Menschen vor allem wegen nun fehlender Laboruntersuchungen unnötigerweise früh versterben. Es werden auch keine ärztlichen Untersuchungen mehr durchgeführt, was dutzenden meiner Patienten, welche bereits die lebensrettende HIV/AIDS Therapie nehmen, das Leben gekostet hat.

Die genannten Missionswerke stellen sich nach wie vor schützend vor die korrupte Tansanische Kirche und leisten, in dem sie erfolglos versuchen, die Korruption "kirchenintern" zu regeln, durch Untätigkeit kriminellen Handlungen Vorschub anstatt zu veruschen die Dinge anzuzeigen und den Gerichten zu übergeben. Die Öffentlichkeit in Tanzania und Deutschland und vor allem die Spender werden nicht aktiv und vollständig informiert. Transparenz scheint bei den genannten Werken eher die Ausnahme als die Regel zu sein. Spendengütesiegel existieren zum Beispiel nicht. Kontrollmechanismen scheinen nicht zu existieren. Zu lange wurde ohne ausreichenden Daten zur Kontrolle immer wieder Geld überwiesen.

Spenden, die so zu Finanzierung von Nepotismus und Korruption dienen, sind in Deutschland und dandern Ländern oftmals steuerlich absetzbar.

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