‘KARIBU Jiji la Arusha!’ reads a sign at the highway bridge crossing River Nduruma in in Meru District, indicating that it was the gate into the City.
Like many rivers originating from the foot of Mount Meru, the Nduruma River valley happens to be a deep gorge with steep walls, featuring naturally polished smooth rocks. The river itself is not that deep with its water making circular waves around the smooth, but hard stones. However, if somebody tries to look from above, the river is in most areas shrouded by thick branches of trees, leaves and lush grass cover. Sounds like an idyllic place right? Wrong! Nduruma is one of the two most mysteriously feared rivers in the Meru District which flows from Tanzania’ second highest peak, cutting across the Arusha-Moshi highway and claiming lives en-route. With an unknown length, River Nduruma, is also a symbolic feature.
The water body historically separates the Meru people and the Waarusha community, tribes that at one time in the past were implacable enemies. When travelling from Moshi, heading for Arusha, one enters the precinct of the Wameru people soon after crossing the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) junction entering the King’ori area and the highway territory covers Kikatiti, Maji-ya-Chai, Usa-River, Leganga, Tengeru, Kambi-ya- Chupa.
The path terminates at the Nduruma River Bridge where the Waarusha territory takes over from Kwa-Mrefu, Ngulelo, Kimandolu, Sekei, Sanawari, all the way to Mianzini. Sakina, is an island filled with mixed people but along the way to Nairobi the original Maasai settlements take over from Kwa-Idd and Ngaramtoni going on to Oldonyo-Sambu, Longido and Namanga as well as across the border into Kajiado Kenya via Bisil.
When new age preachers started making rounds here, River Nduruma gained another title: ‘The Devil’s River,’ on the belief that that it was haunted by evil spirits because of the series of accidents taking place on bridges that that cross it.
Among the most serious was the 2009 multiple car accidents when a semi-trailer truck, a passenger bus, a van and a pickup for some unexplained reasons, crashed into each other on River Nduruma before dropping into the deep gorge below. At least 25 people perished. Three years previously in 2006, another bridge along the same River Nduruma, in Mbuguni area, claimed the lives of 56 people who were riding on a Toyota DCM Minibus, carrying 72 passengers for its capacity of 35. Some passengers were reportedly sitting on the roof luggage carrier because the vehicle was jam packed with people and goods. When it swerved at the narrow bridge, it plunged into the river. Practically, every few weeks as a vehicle either falls into the gorge.
Three years previously (2003), right on Nduruma Bridge, a Scania coach belonging to Mkwema Bus Transport, speeding to Dar-es-Salaam early in in the morning, was involved in a head-on collision with a Toyota-Coaster Minibus travelling from Moshi. A total of 23 passengers were decimated on spot. All the accidents, according to crackpot theorists, had something to do with evil powers that that have haunted the Nduruma River since the time ‘‘the Devil discovered’’ Arusha.
History has it that, before the mainstream, commercial religions found their way into Africa, local communities had never had the term ‘Devil’ or ‘Satan’ in in their vocabularies even though indigenous religions existed and people believed in in the supreme ‘God!’ The ‘Devil’ or ‘Satan’, therefore, including the one who allegedly wreak havoc at River Nduruma, must have been imported here alongside the second-hand religions of ‘Christendom’ and ‘Islam,’ that got shipped here by early sea-faring merchants.
The ‘‘devil’’ at Nduruma therefore is certainly busy. Every few weeks a car falls into the river valley. There are times when vehicles crash into each other on the bridge, or knock pedestrian. If recent cases are anything to go by, cars have also been erupting into flames around the area. Speculations have it that if a car crashes onto the right side of the Nduruma Bridge, (left if the car is travelling from Moshi) nobody inside will die. However, should the accident occur on the left gorge (right from Moshi), then then the disaster will be enormous.
Believe it or not but there was a time my family believed there is a devil lurking in the Nduruma. My late grand farther mysteriously died there on his way back home. My Dad once had a bad accident colliding with a cargo truck while driving to Mbuguni. He was not that physically injured but he was shocked, for a whole week he didn’t talk. I think he thought he was dying like his farther.
So I leave it to you readers, is there really a devil in Nduruma???