“You must only drink one cup”: Revisiting the tension between “Kikombe cha Babu” and biomedicine in Tanzania

Alexander Makulilo


In 2011 tens of thousands of people from all over East Africa flocked to Loliondo in Tanzania seeking a cure for several diseases, including diabetes, tuberculosis and HIV. Ambilikile Mwasapile, a former Lutheran pastor, administered a miracle dose popularly known as “kikombe” charging about $0.33 for his concoction per patient. The Ministry of Health while concluded that the dose in Babu’s “cup” was safe, it did not endorse such drink as a “cure.” In this paper, I revisit the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 2002 in order to understand the tension that exists between traditional health practice and biomedicine in providing health services in Tanzania. Using modernisation theory, I argue that although the 2003 National Health Policy declares that traditional medicine and biomedicine are complementary to each other, the law seeks to modernise traditional medicine. Consequently, traditional medicine has always been treated as lacking scientific validation, efficacy, safety and quality. This in turn has posed serious health risks to users of traditional medicine.

Keywords: Tanzania, Modernisation, Ambilikile Mwasapile, Biomedicine, Traditional Medicine


Alexander Makulilo, Associate Professor, University of Dar es Salaam Email:makulilo76@udsm.ac.tz

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