Arusha police admit case of mistaken identity in arrest of Belgian

20Sep 2018
Edward Qorro
The Guardian
Arusha police admit case of mistaken identity in arrest of Belgian

POLICE in Arusha Region have set free a Belgian national who they earlier mistook for being Susanna Nordlund, a Sweden-based blogger who was in 2015 declared a prohibited immigrant in Tanzania for suspected espionage and incitement activities.

Arusha regional police commander Ramadhani Ng'anzi.

Catherine de Graeve, who holds Belgian passport number EN298121, was arrested by immigration officials on Wednesday last week (September 12) in Ngorongoro District when she had gone to attend a friend’s wedding.

Briefing the media here yesterday, Arusha regional police commander Ramadhani Ng'anzi acknowledged that de Graeve’s arrest was due to confusion over her real identity.

He said De Graeve, who works as a volunteer with the non-government organisation Hope Foundation based in Arusha, spent four nights in detention before being released without charge.

“As you know, Nordlund (the Swedish blogger) is not allowed to enter Tanzania. So when the police and immigration officers received a tip-off that she had been spotted in Ngorongoro, it was their duty to act swiftly and decisively,” RPC Ng’anzi said.

Only after a forensic check was it established that the person arrested (De Graeve) was not the person that the police and immigration officers were looking out for, he explained, adding:

“The two have a striking resemblance… hence the mistaken identity.”

According to the regional police boss, De Graeve was taken to the Namanga border post for the forensic examination after immigration officials confirmed she had entered the country through there.

The blogger Nordlund, who holds Swedish passport number 82562397, was declared a PI in Tanzania three years ago on suspicions of being engaged in espionage activities against the country, including inciting members of the Maasai community to fight government plans for their eviction from the Loliondo area.

She has for many years been the author of controversial articles on her self-run blog titled ‘Views from the Termite Mound’ about what she described as threats from the Thomson Safaris and Ortello Business Company (OBC) against Maasai tribes people owning land in Loliondo.

Just last Sunday, the blogger ran an article titled ‘Release Clinton and Ingrid! Stop insanity and abuse in Loliondo’, where she blamed the government for having a hand in the arrest of De Graeve.

Excerpts from the article: “On Saturday 15th September, I was informed that Clinton and Ingrid had been taken to Arusha and were still under arrest. I heard from one person who went to Arusha Central Police station to check, which is brave indeed by current Loliondo standards, even if those working there are busy with a variety of thieves (those in 2015 were quite charming and sincere compared to Immigration officials) and probably don’t have much of a stake in bizarre repression in Loliondo, but the only information this person could obtain was that nothing would happen until Monday…”

“Since I hadn’t heard any other reason for the arrests than the very strange belief that Ingrid would be me, I got a photo of myself under an apple tree holding my passport, and my laptop showing that it was 15th September. I posted this in social media to prove that I wasn’t arrested in Tanzania.”

“Then, and only then, late Saturday evening did someone directly affected and with first-hand information break the silence.”

“Those arrested (at least my experience in 2015) sleep on concrete without any blanket, unless some night worker brings something after everyone else has left, and the cells are infested with mosquitos. There’s no lamp, so it’s pitch-dark. Neither is there any water or toilet, only a bucket.”

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