‘Mzee alileta madawa lakini hatukupona’: Ghosts of Loliondo 9 years on
In 2010, word quickly spread that one man in a Tanzanian village had discovered a herbal concoction that could cure chronic diseases including HIV and AIDS.
The little village of Samunge soon became a magnet, attracting people from all corners of Tanzania and the entire East African region.
Tens of thousands drove there, some flew in and landed in style, multitudes others still – determined to get a cup of the supposed wonder drug – trekked for days to the hilly village because it was a matter of life and death.
Their destination was the home of self-declared miracle healer Ambilikiwe Mwasapile, or simply, Babu.
The medical pilgrimage was a taxing affair for the already weak and sick; it took days and nights before they could get a cup of what they believed to be a miracle drink.
But what happened to the thousands who trooped to Loliondo seeking the so called miracle cure? Did they get well or did they retreat back to their various villages, to await what fate would bring their way?
This is their story.
Peter Kosh Mulumba bravely focuses on the future, but he also digs into his past to tell a story that he says society must never forget; the story of Loliondo.
Speaking to Citizen TV, a bitter Lumumba shows the indelible scars; the permanent reminder of a supposed miracle cure gone all wrong.
“Niliwachana na dawa…I got Menengitis… hii mguu ilikuwa ikatwe,” says Lumumba.
[“I abandoned my medicine…I got Menengitis…my leg was supposed to be amputated.”]
Beatrice Were, his wife, adds: “Mzee alileta madawa lakini hatukupona…wakati tulikunywa hiyo dawa tulikuwa na boils…baada ya kutumia tuliona ni kama useless.”
[“The old man brought medicine but we never recovered…when we began taking the concoction we had boils…but afterwards we saw that it was useless.”]
The sad tales from Loliondo may look like a chapter in the past but, for Robert Amakobe, it’s an ever present pain he has to endure.
Robert takes us to his sister’s grave; she, like many who trusted the Loliondo concoction, stopped taking her regular dose of ARVs believing herself cured.
“Nilifika mahali nikaambiwa dadangu kumeshindika sana [“It reached a point where I was told my sister was in too deep”]… it was already too late… since she was in stage 4 she did not make it,” he narrates.
The trail of death did not stop for members of NEPHAK, a support group for people living with HIV and AIDS, they lost tens of their members.
Miles away in Rongo, Migori County, yet another testimony that Loliondo was not a miracle cure manifests itself in Peter Ojunga; a lecturer at Rongo University.
Peter, while taking his daily dose of ARVs, recounts how they queued for days to get a cup of Babu’s supposed wonder drug.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, not the ARV dose he is taking, but the past that continues to haunt him.
“What really drove me is that if this thing is working …let it work for me…and I thought with this now, once I take Babu’s cups, I am healed,” says Peter.
“After 5am in June 2011, I joined 16 men and women…we travelled up to Loliondo. When we arrived, there was a fleet of vehicles…the rule was take the cup within the vehicles…and once you have taken the concoction, you are healed, have faith.”
He further adds that: “Nilipokunywa hiyo dawa, nikarudi nyumbani …nilisikia mwili ni kama vitu vinanochoma…nikadhani hapa virusi vimechapwa.”
Peter stayed off the ARVs for three weeks as instructed, and that took a toll on his health.
And whereas some of his colleagues lost the battle along the way, he lived to tell his story; capturing those Loliondo memories in a book titled ‘Determined to Live.’
Peter, in the book, tells the world the untold story witnessed nine years ago, and one that will serve as a constant reminder to many generations to come of an ugly past.
The many graves and tales of horror grimly paint the picture of a hoax that left many families mourning in East Africa.
The real impact of the Loliondo drink on those who took it may never be captured, but for those who lived to tell the story, it was an expensive experiment that took its toll on the very health they had gone to secure.
But what happened to Babu?
The second part of the cure that never was continues tomorrow as Citizen TV speaks to the man who ruined the lives of many in East Africa but has no apologies to make.
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