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...