Sohooba Keith Smith has been fighting for justice for 25 years. Dr. Willibrod Slaa, Secretary General of CHADEMA, explains the forces hampering his efforts in this 2009 interview.
On May 1, 1980, Sohooba, a native of Trinidad & resident of the U.S., took his family and his life’s earnings and purchased Ndamakai, a spectacular 1,750-acre coffee estate in the mountains of Arusha, in order to fulfill the dreams of his ancestors. In September 1993, he left that country under house arrest, his land & assets stolen, having spent the last 7 years in Tanzanian prisons. How could a great-grandson of slavery return home, buy back a piece of the land that was stolen from his ancestors, & has that heritage stolen once again by colonial interests in the very heart of Africa, in full view of the entire community & with the tacit approval & complicity of government officials?
Sohooba repatriated to Tanzania at the personal invitation of President Julius Nyerere, a visionary leader who forged a nation built on the principles of unity & collective responsibility. But 14 years after Nyerere’s death, Tanzania has strayed far from the principles of its founding father. Sohooba’s tenure on his farm was marked by repeated attacks, thefts & arson. Though he pleaded for help from the police & local authorities, he received no assistance and the violence culminated in a tragic confrontation in 1987. Arrested for defending his life & family from armed intruders, Sohooba’s property was stolen 3 weeks later by a German expatriate, Peter Kersten, an African lawyer, E.N.K. Loomu-Ojare, & an East Indian Advocate, Dev Kapoor, in a disturbing replay of history. Sentenced to be hung, he spent 7 years in prison, before being pardoned by President Ali Hassan Mwynyi in 1993. Advised that it would be too dangerous for him to investigate the state of his home & property, he was sent back to Trinidad with nothing but the clothing on his back. His valuable farm & all the assets that he worked for over a lifetime have remained in the hands of illegal occupiers ever since and his children in TZ have grown up without their father.
Sohooba’s case has been exhaustively investigated. Evidence found by the Tanzania Legal and Human Rights Centre, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau and by the Tanzanian Foreign Ministry itself, has proven that Sohooba is the legal and rightful owner of Ndamakai, now known as Acacia Hiils/Tembo Farms, yet the government allowed this valuable estate to be stolen yet again in late 2007, AT THE CONCLUSION OF ITS OWN INVESTIGATION. This blatant disregard for civil and human rights is the hallmark of a government that has grown increasingly brutal and repressive, far removed from the principles and practices of Mwalimu Nyerere.
The theft of Ndamakai has been sanctioned by the highest levels of the Tanzanian government and was raised in Parliament in July 2011…with no repercussions. Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe, a major obstructor to justice on this issue, continues to hide in plain sight. INDIFFERENCE PROLONGS INJUSTICE. None of the serious lawbreakers in Tanzania are ever held accountable, investigations and outcomes of investigations notwithstanding. Until this changes, the people will remain powerless, frustrated and at the mercy of an inherited colonial system, that the Ruling Party seems determined to embrace, to their countrymen detriment.
Sohooba Keith Smith’s story is an affront to the memory of those ancestors who survived the Middle Passage to live out their lives on the Caribbean and American shores. International and Tanzanian viewers – we need your support, your voices, and your outrage.
Please email the T&T & TZ governments via the TZ Ambassador to the UN at email@example.com to Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Minister Rambachan, at firstname.lastname@example.org. and utilize social media to show your support and solidarity.
Mungu ibariki Tanzania. Pamoja tu tashinda.