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By Rosemary Ekosso


Thursday, March 20, 2008.


There used to be a blogger in Arusha, Tanzania, called Tunduzi who sometimes wrote human interest stories. The blogger remained anonymous, but admitted to working for the international tribunal based there. He has unfortunately gone off the ether, but I was able to obtain one of his stories, written in 2006, I believe, which I reproduce here for your amusement.


There was a meeting held recently about a tortoise. Yes, you read right. A tortoise. There has been some sort of urban legend circulating about a tribunal employee who picks (or at least used to pick) up local girls in the street, take them to his house and ask them to let their mammary glands be interfered with by a tortoise.


After that, the girls generally died, it was said.

It so happened, the story goes, that on one occasion, a girl who was picked up and taken to the man’s house managed to end up in hospital after her breast-feeding episode. With her dying breath, she told the medics the story of how a man had picked her up in the street, taken her to his home and made her indulge the tortoise.


Before she could reveal the name or other identifying particulars of this strange pervert, she died, thus conveniently preventing anyone from finding out if the story really is true.


I had heard it myself some months back, and treated it with the seriousness it deserved. I found it to be on a par with those stories told by holy-rollers of astral-travelling grandmothers who crash-land onto people’s roofs in shanty towns and admit to an astonished audience that they are night-travelling witches who forgot how to get back into their bodies.


Then one of these holy-rollers started sending around an e-mail of “the-devil-walks –among-us school” of religious literature, pointing the finger at one particular African community.


The version that had previously circulated in Arusha was that the tortoise fan was a West African.


It should be said here that one of the manifestations of the xenophobia of Tanzanians is a fixation on the supposed mastery of witchcraft by West Africans.


Then a particular country was named. The mail went far and wide, and concerned citizens of that country sent it back to Arusha for confirmation, with, I suspect, a certain amount of gleeful enjoyment of the pseudo-religious excitement of it all.


I find that the fascination of holy-rollers with the sexual shenanigans of non-holy rollers is a clear statement on the actual purpose of most prayer groups. What a person does with his or her clothes off should, I think, be that person’s business.


Well, the maligned community was up in arms, of course. National image, never a particular consideration in other matters which I feel are more deserving of attention, was invoked, and a meeting was called.


The saner members of the community either stayed away from the whole thing or made constructive suggestions. Letters were written. The madder ones, sensing a bit of publicity in the offing, began to go into the usual inflammatory mode.


The source of the malicious gossip, at the time Tunduzi was going to press, refused to be drawn on the origin of this interesting story.


Tundizi watched, amused, through the eyes of an esteemed informant.


What are the lessons to be drawn from this? The first is that one should try to be above that particular kind of fantastical gossip. No reasonable person would believe such a story, and one must never worry about the opinions of unreasonable people.


The second lesson is that one must never trust a story originating from one of these Christian fundamentalists like the lady propagating the rumour. They are past masters at the art of drawing attention to themselves, and will stop at nothing to seem more interesting than they really are.


Their fascination with the supernatural, in terms of black magic, is astonishing. One would think that if people believe in a God who was born of a woman who had never had sex, and who then died and came back to life, they would have enough supernatural excitement to occupy their every waking moment. But no. They have to find it elsewhere.


As I have mentioned before, there are always strong sexual undertones in these stories of the supernatural and perceived and propagated by the Chosen. This is an obvious result of an unhealthy sex life.


There is something strange about sexuality. If it is denied or subsumed to social constraints such as the appearance of being good and holy, it will come out in strange ways.


Rosemary Ekosso is with the Internation Court of Justice, the Hague, Holland. She blogs at www.ekosso.com


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