20 trampled to death during church stampede for 'anointed oil' in Tanzania

Published 05 February 2020  |  
One God - One Day - One Africa
Worshipers attend an evangelistic crusade rally Dodoma, Tanzania in December 2018.

At least 20 people were killed and as many as 16 others injured when a frenzy for "sacred oil" broke out at a Pentecostal outdoor worship service in Northern Tanzania over the weekend. The pastor of the service has been arrested, according to officials.

Thousands were said to have gathered for a worship service last Saturday at a sports stadium in the northern town of Moshi, which is located near Mount Kilimanjaro. The service was led by popular pastor Boniface Mwamposa, who leads Arise and Shine Ministry Tanzania.

According to Reuters, Mwamposa had been drawing huge crowds to his events as he promises prosperity and cures for diseases for those who step into what he labels "blessed oil."

"The stampede occurred when the worshipers were rushing to get anointed with blessed oil," Moshi district commissioner Kippi Warioba told Reuters.

A government spokesperson told the Associated Press that attendees were being ushered through an exit so they could walk on the "anointed oil."

Home Affairs Minister George Simbachawene told AP that attendees were instructed to rush to one side of the stadium at once to get anointed.

One witness who was present at the service, Peter Kilewo, described the scene while speaking with reporters. According to AP, Kilewo said that people were "trampled on mercilessly" and were "jostling each other with elbows."

Warioba said that the death toll could grow.

"The incident took place at night and there were many people, so there is a possibility that more casualties could emerge," Warioba said. "We are still assessing the situation."

Mwamposa tried to flee following the incident but was arrested on Sunday in Tanzania's commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, Simbachawene told media. It is not yet immediately clear what charges Mwamposa is facing.

Simbachawene accused the organizers of the event of not taking sufficient precautions as well as violating the terms of the permit for the outdoor meeting. Simbachawene said the worship meeting ran two hours later than permitted.

Simbachawene also stressed that the government will look into bolstering the requirements needed to register as a church.

Kilimanjaro regional police commander Salum Hamduni told the China state-run Xinhua News Agency that seven people have been arrested in connection with the stampede. According to Hamdani, a pastor from the Calvary Assemblies of God Church was among those who were arrested in connection with the stampede.

Police inspector general Simon Sirro told AFP that an investigation into the deaths in Moshi has been launched.

"Some churches are disturbing us and we will see what to do," Sirro said.

The stampede in Moshi is far from the first church stampede to occur in Africa.

The Tanzanian-based English newspaper The Citizen reports that 28 people lost their lives in the Anambra State of Nigeria in 2013 during a prayer event attended by over 100,000 people.

In 2014, 11 people were killed during a stampede in Zimbabwe as they rushed to leave a service led by Pentecostal preacher Walter Magaya.

In 2017, at least eight people were killed and 20 others injured during a stampede at a church event in Lusaka, Zambia.

Three people were killed and nine others injured during a stampede at Prophet Shepherd Bushiri's Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria, South Africa, in December 2018.

Courtesy of The Christian Post.

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