3started to welcome significant numbers of western aid workers and tourists in the1990s. Zanzibar’s economic and political transition has, however, been a troubledone and the islands remain deeply divided between supporters of CCM, the“Revolutionary Party” that has ruled all of Tanzania since the one-party era and CUF,the Civic United Front, which dominates Pemban politics and is now the nation’smain opposition party.
and other published sources make muddled reference to differentepisodes of diabolical terror and mass hysteria in post-Revolutionary Zanzibar. As faras I know there have only been three, and the mother of recent spiritual plagues took place in 1995, in the run-up to Tanzania’s first multi-party elections, which were heldin October of that year.[5: Popobawa chronology, 1995]In the first week of Ramadhan, the month of daytime fasting, men and women in andaround the southern Pemban port town of Mkoani began to complain of nocturnalspiritual assaults. The culprit was subsequently identified as a
, evil spirit, andgiven the name Popobawa, a label which people remembered from a similar panic inthe years following the Revolution.A typical assault involved somebody waking up in the night to find themselves beingattacked by an amorphous or shape-shifting intruder, which was most frequentlydescribed as “pressing” or “crushing” their chest and ribs, and of suffocating themuntil they had difficulty in breathing and passed out. Other unusual events mightprecede or accompany or perhaps replace this standard experience: including strangesights, sounds, smells and other sensations. (One of my favourites is the man whowoke up with a start to the sound of an alarm bell, looked to one side and saw a tinydog with a rotating green light on its head. He then watched in silence, struck completely dumb, while this dog itself began to revolve, turning faster and faster,getting bigger and bigger as it did so, and the light on its head becoming brighter andbrighter. This whirling illuminated growing dog subsequently turned into a humangiant so tall that his head and shoulders were invisible.) Sometimes the victims werechildren, subjected to the kinds of abuse that we might associate ourselves with a