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A Repatriate's Plight-- Justice for Sohooba Keith Smith

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Ether, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. Ether

    Ether Senior Member

    #1
    Sep 4, 2012
    Joined: Mar 16, 2008
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    Nitashukuru kama kuna mtu mwenye info zaidi kuhusu hili suala la huyu Mtrinidad aliyefungwa na kunyanyang'anywa shamba lake huko Arusha na hilo shamba kuuziwa Mjerumani. Natanguliza shukrani.
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    Seeking justice and the return of Ndamakai Estates, Ltd., a 1,750-acre coffee and wheat farm near Ngorogoro, Arusha, Tanzania, stolen in a conspiracy in 1987. The owner of the property, Sohooba Keith Smith, repatriated to Tanzania in 1980 at the invitation of President Julius Nyerere, and purchased the property legally under the terms and conditions of Repatriation, but fell victim to conspirators aided by corrupt Tanzanian officials. Ongoing corruption and lack of media exposure has has obstructed justice in this ongoing international case.


    On May 1, 1980, Sohooba Keith Smith, a native of Trinidad and resident of the U.S., took his family and his life's earnings, purchased a spectacular 1,750-acre coffee estate in Arusha, and repatriated to Tanzania to "fulfill the dreams" of his ancestors. In September, 1994, he left that country under house arrest, his land and assets stolen, having spent the last seven years in Tanzanian prisons. His fight for justice and the restitution of his repatriated land occupies him to this day.

    Smith's case illuminates the difficulties encountered by those who attempt to correct the errors of history without governmental or community support. For 24 years, his home, located in a region where the vast majority of large agricultural estates are owned by either European or East Indian businessmen, was occupied by European businessmen, admitted to the property in a deja-vu of history, by corrupt African lawyers and politicians. How could a great grandson of slavery return home, buy back a piece of the land that was stolen from his ancestors, and have that heritage stolen once again by Western commercial interests in the very heart of Africa, in full view of the entire community and with the tacit approval and complicity of government officials? Sohooba K. Smith's sojourn in Tanzania began in 1979, when he was invited to repatriate to that country by President Julius Nyerere, in the waning days of Tanzania's experiment with socialism. Mr. Smith was part of a group that included, Jackie Robinson's son, David Robinson, Ikaweba Bunting, and other Western repatriates. He purchased Ndamakai Coffee Estates, a magnificent mountain property and the last large estate before the wilderness of Ngorogoro Crater, from Kiran Amin and the Patels, an East Indian family who owned several properties in Kenya and Tanzania and were eager for foreign exchange. Unable at first to speak Kiswahili, but overjoyed to be home on African soil, Smith's relative wealth and status as one of only two black land-owners in the area, ironically made him mzungumousi (a black white man) to the local Mbulus, and thus a target for exploitation by the Africans as well as Europeans and Asians in his community–not at all the homecoming that he had anticipated.

    Equipment disappeared from the farm even before his family moved in, and continually during his tenure. Herds of livestock were stolen, crops set on fire, watchmen were attacked and nearly killed; the problems escalated over a period of seven years. Smith appealed to the U.S. Embassy for help at the onset of trouble and was advised to, "seek assistance at the grass roots level and work his way up." He made continual reports to local police, local and regional government officials, and eventually to a Member of Parliament. He arrested and filed charges against the bandits and thieves plundering his property on many occasions, but received no assistance or protection from the authorities.

    In the early spring of 1987, Dev Kapoor, the Acting Judge who'd overseen the sale of the estate, informed Smith that he'd transferred all his business records to an African lawyer, E.N.K. Loomu-Ojare, who, he stated, would "better serve him." Shortly afterwards, on May 11, 1987, Mr. Smith arrived home to discover that armed intruders were plotting to murder his Tanzanian wife and children and drive him, finally, from the property. In attempting to apprehend these men, Smith was forced to shoot one of them in self-defense. Immediately afterwards, Mr. Smith drove the wounded man to Oldeani hospital and waited until he was examined and stabilized, then drove to the police station to report the incident and see to the arrest of the other intruders. Later that evening, however, the wounded man was removed from the hospital by his associates, without police escort, and after travelling for several hours on rough mountain roads. the unfortunate victim bled to death in their car later that night. Mr. Smith was arrested the next morning, removed from his home and charged with murder. The only lawyer in Arusha willing to defend him, Mr. Ojare, fraudulently obtained the keys to the property, fabricated a bill of sale and admitted a German expatriate, Peter Kersten, onto the premises within three weeks of Smith's arrest. By the first week of June, Smith’s family had fled their home and German tenants were occupying the property and availing themselves of his personal possessions. Aided by Mr. Kapoor, Mr. Kersten negotiated final details with the Amin/Patel family, and Smith's defense was turned over to Friederick Kinabo, Mr. Ojare's mentor. Mr. Smith fasted and pleaded with every prison and government official he could reach to investigate what was happening on his property, to no avail. At his trial, the witnesses for the defense included the local policemen and District Officer Paul Mangatinda, who attested to the years of vandalism, harassment and thievery that Smith and his family had endured. Athough the Assessors who rendered their opinions to the court, found that Mr. Smith had acted in self defense and should have been charged only with manslaughter, Mr. Kinabo's weak defense, and the reported payoff by the prosecution witnesses to the police and judge, effectively sealed Smith's fate. Judge Chua, (an associate of Mr. Kapoor's), overturned the Assessors' opinions, convicted Mr. Smith of murder and sentenced him to be hung.

    Three weeks after Smith's conviction, instead of preparing his appeal, Mr. Kinabo sat down with the German occupier, Peter Kersten and drafted a new sales agreement for the purchase of Ndamakai.
    Mr. Smith spent three years as a condemned prisoner facing execution, pleading for the government to investigate the theft of his property. At his mother's insistence, the Trinidadian Government wrote to Tanzanian Foreign Minister, Benjamin Mkapa, asking for an investigation, but received no reply or assistance. With the grace of God and the intervention of Barbara Smith, who wrote to President Mwynyi and traveled to Tanzania with Trinidadian High Commissioner Frank Sealy, Smith was eventually granted a full pardon by the President in 1993.

    Mr. Smith was granted permission to leave the country as a Prohibited Immigrant, provided he did not return to Arusha to collect or investigate the state of his property, which he was told would be "too dangerous". On the day he was to depart however, he was refused passage by the airline pilot because his status had inexplicably (and fraudulently) been altered to that of a Deportee, which meant that he could not travel without an armed escort. As a result of this deceit, Smith was hidden for 13 days in the dungeon of the Dar es Salaam police station and then held under house arrest for several weeks. Told that he "should not be pursuing the proceeds of the sale of his farm with such vigor, but should be grateful that he is alive", Mr. Smith returned to Trinidad with his life intact in the fall of 1993.

    One cannot put a price on the years of liberty that were taken from him or the grief and damage it has caused him and his family. Mr. Smith brought all his assets with him to Tanzania when he repatriated in 1980, but he left that country 14 years later with nothing but the clothing on his back. His 1,750-acre estate, and all the personal assets that he accumulated in a lifetime, have been in the possession of illegal tenants since the day he was arrested.

    After returning to New York in 1995, Mr. Smith began corresponding with every Tanzanian and Trinidadian government official who he felt might be able to assist him. In 1997, Diane Gurwitz, an American video producer, interviewed him and began to investigate his case and correspond with government officials in Tanzania. Mr. E.G. Hoseah, Director of the Tanzanian Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) replied and opened a formal investigation into Smith's claims. Soon afterwards, Mr. Smith received a letter from then President Benjamin Mkapa's office stating that the position of the President was that, "governments are not responsible for properties left behind by convicted individuals". The government advised Smith that they could not act on his behalf to "trace and collect his properties", and suggested that he seek legal representation in Tanzania.

    Finding legal representation for Mr. Smith proved to be both difficult and dangerous. The first lawyer contacted in 1997, Dr. Ringo Tenga, requested and received Mr. Smith's file before admitting that Mr. Ojare, was his "comrade" and that his involvement would thus present a conflict of interest. The next lawyer to begin investigations into Mr. Smith's claims, Evod Mmanda, was threatened by Peter Kersten and warned that he would be reported to President Mkapa for, "defending a murderer who never owned the farm." In 2002, the third lawyer to attempt to investigate Mr. Smith's case, E.F. Kapinga, was murdered in Dar es Salaam, shortly after receiving his file. Although there is no reason to believe that murder was linked to Smith's case, intimidation, threats, and bribery have attended all attempts to investigate Mr. Kersten, Mr. Ojare and the other conspirators linked to the theft of Ndamakai. In 2003, Dr. Willibrod Slaa, the MP from Karatu, the district closest to Ndamakai, read Mr. Smith's file and subsequently referred him to Mrs. Helen Kijo-Bisimba, the Director of the Tanzanian Legal and Human Rights Centre in Dar es Salaam, and the LHRC agreed to represent Mr. Smith. Within six months, the Centre determined that Mr. Smith's claims were legitimate, that he'd been the victim of theft and conspiracy and that the sales contract by which his farm was illegally resold was a forgery. Notice was served to Mr. Kersten through the Patels, to vacate the premises, and the criminal case was brought to the Arusha Police Department in 2004 for invetigation. The LHRC also contacted Trinidadian Foreign Minister Knowlson Gift, asking for diplomatic assistance and Dr. Slaa met with Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, who seemed likely to be elected Tanzania's next President. Although sympathetic, Foreign Minister Kikwete was reluctant to contradict President Mkapa who he felt had already rendered his position on the case. After a year-long investigation, and reports of bribery and threats to witnesses and police by Mr. Kersten, the Arusha police shut the case down by declaring the obviously forged document authentic, effectively blocking the LHRC’s attempt to open a criminal case in The Arusha High Court. This ruling coincided with the exit of outgoing President Benjamin Mkapa and the election of President Jakaya Kikwete, in December 2005. Mrs. Bisimba described the situation using the Tanzanian aphorism, "A far-away stick cannot kill a snake", advising Mr. Smith that diplomatic intervention and administrative assistance from the highest levels of government appeared necessary in order for justice to be served.

    On February 1, 2007, Prime Minister Patrick Manning met with President Kikwete and Foreign Minister Bernard Membe in Dar es Salaam, and spoke to the President regarding the long unresolved issue of Smith's case. The Foreign Minister set up a task force to investigate the matter and met with Dr. Slaa in Dodoma several times, assuring him that the matter would be quickly resolved and that the new government's position was that Mr. Smith's prior conviction and criminal case would have no bearing on the issue of his family’s stolen property. On September 30, Mr. Smith and Ms. Gurwitz met with Foreign Minister Membe, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, Minister Plenipotentiary Salim Ibwe, and the Ministry’s lawyers in NY, to hear the results of the government’s investigation. The Foreign Minister’s attitude was inexplicably hostile; the legitimacy of Mr. Smith’s ownership of the property was called into question, and the Minister reproached Mr. Smith stating, “you know, it was not a dog or a cat that you killed.” Insisting that the LHRC was too busy to handle such a case and that Mr. Smith, “should engage a lawyer in Tanzania whom he pays”, the Minister shed no light on his task force's findings, but nevertheless promised he would investigate the matter and communicate with Mr. Smith within one week, regarding the issue of the title deed and other documents that he wanted the task force to locate. The next morning in a follow-up phone conversation with Ms. Gurwitz, Minister Membe stated that he had just spoken with the previous owners (the Patels), by phone, and that Mr. Smith, "was not wanted back in Tanzania”. Ms. Gurwitz countered that this was probably true of the Patels, but that Mr. Smith's three daughters and friends in Tanzania felt differently. Before leaving NY, the Minister drafted and left a letter to Mr. Smith at the Tanzanian Mission to the UN, reiterating the points raised in the meeting, suggesting Mr. Smith seek assistance from the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau and taking umbrage with the suggestion that corruption may have hampered justice in the case thus far. The Foreign Ministry’s senior attorney, Irene Kasayanju, was nevertheless assigned to follow-up and investigate Mr. Smith’s claims in the fall of 2007. In a visit to the Moshi Land Office, Ms. Kasyanju found conclusive evidence of Smith's ownership of the property. While in the Land Office, however, she was also alerted that Mr. Kersten’s lawyer was reviewing and adding information to the same land records. In a subsequent meeting at the LHRC offices in Dar es Salaam in November, Ms. Kasyanju expressed fear and anxiety to Mrs. Bisimba about the threats made to previous lawyers investigating on Mr. Smith’s behalf. In December, in ameeting with Mr. Smith, Ms. Gurwitz and Ambassador Mahiga at the TZ Mission to the UN, Ms. Kasyanju presented her finding, and agreed to continue her investigations in Tanzania. Shortly before Christmas, in a phone conversation with Ms. Gurwitz, however, Ms. Kasyanju explained that she was having difficulty in locating the Patels, a key component to her investigation. Ms. Gurwitz informed her that Minister Membe had revealed that he spoke to the Patels on October 1st, and that the attorney should ask the Minister for their contact information. After this conversation, Mr. Kasyanju stopped communicating with Mr. Smith and his representatives. That same month, December, 2007, Portland Roasting, a U.S. based coffee company posted information on You Tube and on their website documenting their newest acquisition, “Acacia Hills Farms”. (formerly Ndamakai Coffee Estates). In March of 2008, while in his constituency in Karatu, Dr. Slaa learned learned that Ndamakai Coffee Estates had been illegally resold for the second time while the matter was under investigation by the Tanzanian and Trinidadian Foreign Ministries! How could the Tanzanian government fail to put a freeze on further sales of Mr. Smith's property while the issue was under active government investigation? One year later, on Christmas Day, 2008, the managing editor of IPP Media/Guardian newspaper in Tanzania, printed an article about Smith’s case, the first in what was to be an investigative series. Within a week of printing his article, that editor was re-assigned to another desk, and the newspaper dropped the story.

    In the spring of 2009, Dr. Slaa submitted the issue of Mr. Smith’s plight to Tanzania’s Parliament for inclusion in the upcoming summer budgetary meetings. The issue was slated for discussion on Tuesday July 21st, the day Foreign Minister Membe was scheduled to give his budget report to Parliament. In early July, Minister Membe assured Ambassador Mahiga that the issue would never be discussed in Parliament. True to his word, on Saturday, July 18th, Minister Membe flew to Dodoma to unexpectedly deliver his address to Parliament three days early. Dr. Slaa was in committee meetings on that weekend, as were many other prominent members of Parliament, and his early and unexpected appearance resulted in Minister Membe’s successfully sidestepping the subject, which could not be rescheduled, “due to budgetary constraints”. With the upcoming UN General Assembly Meetings scheduled for September in NYC, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings scheduled for late November, 2009, in Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Smith renewed appeals to the Trinidad Government for diplomatic assistance. He was supported in this endeavor by strong urging from both Tanzania’s Ambassador, Augustine Mahiga, and the U.S. State Department, who could regrettably, only advise Smith to seek action and assistance from his own government. On September 25th, Trinidad Foreign Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon met with Foreign Minister Membe in New York, against the advice of Mr. Smith and Ms. Gurwitz, who warned the Minister that her counterpart was hostile and that the matter should be referred to the Heads of State. As expected, Minister Membe expressed open hostility towards Mr. Smith to Foreign Minister Gopee-Scoon, insisting that Mr. Smith must bring his case to court "like anyone else" through private attorneys. This meeting had an adverse affect on the Trinidadian Foreign Minister's support, and in spite of numerous calls and letters to both Foreign Minister Gopee-Scoon and Prime Minister Patrick Manning between September and November, Mr. Smith’s case was not raised by Trinidad at CHOGM and a critical opportunity for resolution was once again squandered in November, 2009. In 2010, it was learned that the new occupier of Ndamakai/Acacia Hills, a Greek citizen, Leon Christianakis, had indeed illegally purchased the property from Peter Kersten, and that the land records reviewed by Ms. Kasyanju in 2007, were now missing from the Moshi Land Office. Meeting with representatives of the LHRC, Mr. Christianakis expressed his annoyance at Mr. Smith's posting a video about his plight on YouTube, claiming that his purchase of the estate was legitimate because the transaction had been drawn and handled by Tanzanian lawyers and government officials. Peter Kersten, he said, had left the country, "to pursue his dream of sailing the ocean". In July, 2011, Chadema representatives raised Mr. Smith's issue in Parliament. Scheduled to answer to these allegations three weeks later, Minister Membe simply avoided showing up, and Parliamentary rules gave no provision for demanding a response, written or verbal, from the Foreign Minister. As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. When Sohooba Keith Smith repatriated to Tanzania from America, he was taking the step many generations in the West have wanted and still want to take. His actions spoke the dreams of millions. How could Tanzania, a front-line State in the fight for freedom and liberation under the Honorable Julius Nyerere, allow and facilitate the ruination of a repatriated diasporic African family in favor of yet another European investor? There is international debate about how governments can go about making reparations to the descendants of slavery. In Mr. Smith we have an example of an individual who neither looked nor asked for a hand-out from anyone, but instead took matters into his own hands and decided to repair the errors of history himself. The injustice of his plight is demeaning not only to Africa, but to the memory of those suffering ancestors who survived the Middle Passage to live out their lives on Caribbean and American shores.

    The snake of injustice feeds on indifference.

    "A city is raised on the blessings of honest men, and demolished by the mouths of the wicked."

    Proverbs 11:11




     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 4, 2016
  2. M

    Mp Kalix2 JF-Expert Member

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    @Ether hii habari imeishia wapi?
    Waathirika wa staili hii wako wengi ni vizuri hatima zake ikawa wazi kwa Jamii.
     
  3. Obama wa Bongo

    Obama wa Bongo JF-Expert Member

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    any body here.................
     
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