Magazine article New African

Miracle Cure in the Tanzanian Bush?

Magazine article New African

Miracle Cure in the Tanzanian Bush?

Article excerpt

Somewhere in the hinterland of Tanzania, a traditional healer is turning heads with his miracle cure. Government ministers and money-men in helicopters, poor people in rickety buses, foreigners from Europe and the Middle East - all are beating their way to the humble abode of Ambilikile Mwaisapile, an old retired pastor of the Lutheran Evangelical Church, to get healed from chronic diseases. Harid Mkali was there recently, and returned with a fascinating account.

What on earth was I doing--being thrown about in the back of an ancient 4-wheel drive jeep in the middle of the African bush on one of the roughest roads imaginable - me, who complains about the jolting on London roads caused by the ever-increasing number of sleeping policemen?

I had been persuaded by a Tanzanian colleague (a fellow diabetic) to come to this remote region of Loliondo in northwest Tanzania, close to the Kenyan border, to "kunywa kikombe cha Babu"--to drink Babu's cup.

After 75 km of tarmac road from Arusha, we turned off into the bush. The "road" to Babu's passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth, much of it being a barren, lunar landscape of lava rock and dust from ancient volcanos (whoever said that volcanic activity leads to fertile land?).

The only signs of life in these parts between the few villages are the thatched Masai compounds or manyattas, the Masai people themselves and their herds of cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys. It is a mystery where they and their animals drink, as the local Lake Natron is a soda lake, and only flamingoes like to drink from a soda lake, I am told. Apparently the Masai know where to find fresh streams coming from the mountains--streams which in the wet season must make this so-called road really impassable, judging from the number of dried-up river-beds we crossed and drove along.

Babu (which literally means grandfather) is the Rev. Ambilikile Mwaisapile, a 76-year-old retired pastor of the Lutheran Evangelical Church, who says he heard a call from God some years ago to leave his home in Babati to the southeast and settle in the remote village of Samunge in Loliondo District, where he was instructed to gather the bark of a certain tree and make an infusion which would cure many chronic ailments, including Aids, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.

Babu's reputation has spread since he started dispensing his cup last year, evidenced by the number of vehicles, including a ramshackle collection of buses and trucks, trundling over these awful roads.

A significant number of "wageni" (foreigners) are also coming from overseas, especially from Kenya and the Middle East. The road from Kenya is ironically much shorter and better, and people can make it in their own saloon cars.

Those with the means are now able to visit Babu by helicopter, at about [pounds sterling] 900 a head, replacing a 2-3 day nightmare road journey with a 2-hour return trip from Arusha, with no queueing.

We had been told that the queue to see Babu was often up to 2 days (including at least one night), so having been unlucky with a flat battery just outside Babu's village (thank God not in the open bush!) we were delighted to find the queue was quite short, this being Babu's first day back since travelling for a family funeral (it seems that Babu's family did not move with him from Babati).

After a few hours inching forward in the queue, our vehicle arrived at the dispensary--a humble thatched shelter by the roadside with an elderly man inside ladling out his "dawa" (medicine) from large plastic pots into small plastic cups. …

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