The Kiswahili dialect used in Tanzanian courts is partly to blame for the jailing of a Kenyan songstress and 13 of her band members in the neighbouring country two weeks ago.
Lady Maureen, whose name is Maureen Achieng Otiu, told the Sunday Nation that when she and the others were presented in court, language barrier sealed their fate.
“Their Kiswahili is not easily understood,” she said, hours after landing in Kenya after her release from a prison in Butimba.
“They read charges and we raised hands to explain how our passports were taken. But the magistrate did not understand us.
"He said, ‘Nimeshasoma, mmeshafungwa (I’ve read and you are convicted.’ They didn’t give us a chance to defend ourselves,” Lady Maureen said.
“Those who couldn’t understand Kiswahili also suffered in detention. When you’re told, ‘Chuchumaa’ (squat)’ and you don’t understand, guards hit your legs.”
The sentence handed by the magistrate on April 6 — one year in prison or a fine equivalent to Sh35,000 for every band member — marked the climax of Lady Maureen’s Easter trip.
All that, she said, was because of a promoter “tricked us into going to Mwanza for two shows on Easter Sunday and Monday”.
She said the Tanzanian promoter had been in communication with her for a while.
Sometime in March, she met the singer’s team in Mombasa and signed a performance deal with Lady Maureen’s managers.
“They agreed that every show would be Sh200,000,” Lady Maureen said.
But when the time came for the Sh200,000 down payment, the promoter could only raise Sh80,000.
However, the band decided to honour the deal. On the day they travelled to Tanzania, the promoter met them at Sirare.
The promoter took their temporary passports and headed to the border post ahead of them.
After the shows, the promoter disappeared and did not pick Lady Maureen’s calls.
Later, immigration and police officers arrived at her hotel and arrested her.
She and two other band members were freed on Wednesday after fellow artistes paid Sh167,847.
Seven others had been released by on Saturday but six are still in jail but are expected home soon.