They are flocking there on foot, bicycles, vehicles and even in helicopters in search of a miracle cure dispensed by a retired Lutheran pastor.
The sleepy village of Samunge in Arusha, Northern Tanzania, is teaming with thousands of ailing people from all walks of life who have heard that 76-year-old Ambikile Mwasapile, has discovered a miracle cure for all types of diseases.
But on Tuesday, the Tanzanian government announced it was temporarily halting the inflow of thousands of people streaming to Samuge Village believing that they can be cured of such ailments as Aids, cancer and diabetes, among others.
The move announced by the Arusha regional commissioner, Mr Isidore Shirima, came as a humanitarian crisis was building up around Samunge Village where the pastor-turned-herbalist has, for the last few months, hosted a multitude of patients out to get his herbal medicine.
Mr Shirima said torrential rains have rendered the village inaccessible while long queues of vehicles running up to 20km from the village had necessitated the intervention.
In an interview with the media from his Arusha office on Tuesday, the Mr Shirima said due to the rough terrain, most vehicles are stuck on the way and supply for basic services like food and other amenities such as toilets and shelter could not be guaranteed.
“It is not the intention of the government to stop anyone from receiving the medicine. However, we are pleading with the public to understand we are acting to forestall any catastrophe,” Mr Shirima said.
The administrator said they have communicated with outlying regions to pass the word around and educate those intending to travel to the village to wait for the situation to improve.
The Arusha Regional Police Commander, Mr Tobias Andengenye confirmed yesterday they were working on modalities to control traffic flow into the village.
He said the security personnel would also liaise with Mr Mwasapile over the matter. The herbalist’s small compound has been overwhelmed by the large crowds while the rains have compounded the preparation of the herbs from a local shrub called ‘Mugariga.’
Over 10,000 patients are spending up to four and five nights to access the old man. In a recent interview with The Citizen, the widowed former pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania and some of his close associates were planning to establish a “grand prayer house” and “home for the sick” not far from the village in Loliondo District.
“More people from all over the world will come to witness this miracle and God has shown me where and how to establish a worship area and shelter to accommodate and heal the sick,” he said in the interview.
A Cabinet minister from Kenya was said by an immigration official to be among high dignitaries from Kenya who visited to get the treatment during the weekend.
Several Tanzanian MPs have been spotted at the village drinking the herbal medicine, which Mr Mwasapile claims was shown to him by God who had “powered it with his word to treat and cure the sick”.