Excited about her 23rd birthday, in April 2021, Zainab Oladehinde chose to treat herself to a trip to Zanzibar, the famous archipelago of islands in Tanzania known for its tourist attraction and also known as a haven for spices.
Little did Ms Oladehinde, who shared her experience on Twitter, know that she was about to have a whirlwind experience that will change her life forever.
Home to about 1.3 million people and rare wildlife, Zanzibar is sometimes referred to as the Spice Islands, due to the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper that are grown there.
Tired of holding back the pain caused by her experience, Ms Oladehinde, on Saturday, took to her Twitter handle to share a thread on the incident.
“It’s high time I told my horrible experience in Zanzibar as a young solo female traveller,” she tweeted.
On April 15, 2021, Ms Oladehinde said, she flew from Lagos to Zanzibar for her 23rd birthday and “was extremely excited about it.”
Even though she had reservations about travelling alone as a female, she embarked on the two-day flight with a layover in Addis Ababa.
She had already secured accommodation for six nights at Warere Beach Hotel in Nungwi Zanzibar, she said.
“On getting to the hotel, I was welcomed by the staff and they showed me my room which had a pool and sea view. Now, this looked like heaven to me and I can remember being so excited as this was going to be my dream birthday holiday,” Ms Oladehinde recounted.
On settling into her room, she said, she ate dinner and was off to sleep after a long trip with plans of seeing more of the hotel the next day.
“…I had breakfast, went to the pool and the beach which was very nice . I mingled with some Russian couples who were also lodged at the hotel and by evening time, I was already in full birthday mode as it was just a few hours to my birthday.”
It was finally her birthday (midnight). After taking calls from friends and family wishing her a happy birthday, “I went back to my room to sleep.”
“Few hours into my sleep, I started to feel a strange hand touching my breast. Now, this was me sleeping naked on my bed in my hotel room with my doors locked so this was definitely a dream, I told myself and went back to sleep,” Ms Oladehinde narrated.
“Few minutes afterwards, I started to feel my hands stroking someone’s penis. At this moment, I opened my eyes to confirm if It was actually a dream or I was in real danger.
Once she opened her eyes, she realised she was not dreaming. A naked man who she did not know was in her bed caressing and calling her ‘baby’.
“There was a naked man lying on my bed and touching me at 2am in my hotel room! He started calling me “baby” and then I became scared… the room was dark as I had switched off the lights before I went to bed.
“I asked the man,” Who are you?” But all he kept saying was “baby, baby” . I asked in a louder tone this time around, I was getting angry and then he quickly stuffed his hands over my mouth in an attempt to stop me from shouting.
Shaken by this act, Ms Oladehinde said, she began to review her options.
“I became very scared as I didn’t know who this was and why this person was in my room. Who is this? Does he have a weapon? Will I get raped and killed on my birthday in a strange land?
“How did this man get into my room? Should I struggle for my life? Will he rape me and throw me into the ocean directly opposite my room? Should I let him rape me so he may spare my life? Should I run? Will he chase me?
While she continued to quiz herself, the stranger got atop her in an attempt to penetrate her.
In an attempt to identify the stranger in the dark, Ms Oladehinde said she began to touch his body “so I’d get some clarity on how to identify him if I ever got out of my room alive.”
She said she cried profusely while begging him not to rape her but he did not understand English as he kept on speaking Swahili to her.
He would not stop until she mentioned HIV, which he understood from his pause at the sound of the acronym.
“He did not understand a word I said but immediately he heard HIV, he paused for a while. I quickly wanted to use the opportunity to run but then he started strangling my neck. I became very scared for my life as I saw my life flash right before me in an instant,” she continued to narrate.
She continued to use the trigger word until “he left the room and told me he would be back with a condom.” She however did not state in what language he spoke.
PREMIUM TIMES reached out to Ms Oladehinde on Twitter but she did not respond to messages.
Once he left her room, she tried to call the hotel reception but there was no intercom or numbers to call. Calls to the police were also not successful, she said. She also sent a message to the hotel owner who she had been in contact with before making the trip.
She got dressed and went looking for help outside her room. When she got to the reception and found no one, she remembered the Russian couple who she had earlier fraternised with and found her way to their room where she stayed the rest of the night.
She called her driver, ‘Mr Suley,’ by morning and headed for the police station to report the incident.
Before heading to the police station, Ms Oladehinde said she spoke to Mussa, the hotel receptionist, who claimed he received a phone call around 4 a.m. from the hotel’s owner to go check on her but went back to bed when he could not find her.
She also found that $1,100 was missing from her bag.
“When we got to the police station, I was asked to write my statement…they advised I go to the hospital to go do a check up if I was raped or not.
“They were all speaking Swahili and were asking me questions instead of interrogating the suspects. When I decided to take a picture of the police station and the statement I had written, the police men started shouting at me and threatening me to delete the pictures I have.”
Ms Oladehinde said she refused to delete the pictures. Based on that, the police chief at the Nungwi police station said he would not let her get to the hospital for a checkup.
She was later allowed to go to the hospital where it was confirmed that there was no penetration.
“I got back to the police station and the police men said they have no issue for the sexual assault since I was not raped. The only issue here was my stolen money,” she wrote.
According to Ms Oladehinde’s account, the police at Nungwi police station kept bullying her, asking her to leave their station as there was no case of rape.
Warere Beach Resort in a FaceBook post on Sunday said that the police report indicated that this was a personal case, and not negligence on its part (the hotel).
“As a woman-owned and operated business, the Warere takes guest safety and the safety of single women travellers extremely seriously, as evidenced by 6 years of verified positive reviews from women all over the world,” Warere wrote.
It added that it tried its best to support Ms Oladehinde as soon as it learned of the accusations.
“We immediately brought her to the police and offered her support. The case was brought before Government authorities in April 2021 when it occurred.
It added that Ms Oladehinde declined to take the case further even after she was informed that the hotel would abide by damages awarded by the court system of Zanzibar.
However, in a post made earlier which the hotel has deleted, it said the suspect was a security official posted to the hotel and not its staff.
According to Warere, the suspect claimed Ms Oladehinde invited him to her room for a love affair and when he got to her room, she asked him to get a condom for safety.
The hotel noted that the security man confessed to the crime and he had an accomplice in the kitchen staff.
The two men were arrested and later released.
It said the police advised that the case be pursued in court but Ms Oladehinde declined and would rather go to the district commissioner demanding $10,000 in damages.
Ms Oladehinde in her account said lawyers from the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association, who she had contacted, Tanzania immigration official and the district commissioner Sadifa Khumis reached the agreement that she should be paid $10,000 in damages.
She noted that the co-owner of the hotel asked her to press charges against the security company after objecting to paying the damages as requested, insisting that the kitchen staff was not part of the crime.
The hotel claimed that Ms Oladehinde threatened to tarnish its image through social media if they did not dance to her tune.
PREMIUM TIMES’ messages to Warere Beach Resort received no response at the time of filing this report.
Her lawyers took the case to Zanzibar’s second vice president’s office but could not get an early appointment which led to Ms Oladehinde extending her stay.
“On the day of the final meeting at the government house, I noticed the owner of the hotel and the representative of the Vice President were friends as they kept laughing and exchanging pleasantries.
“During this meeting, I suggested they speak English as I couldn’t hear what they were saying. They claimed some of the officials present at the meeting do not understand English.”
She said her lawyers insisted she could not take the hotel to court as she had limited time to be in court. Ms Oladehinde noted that she no longer felt safe in Zanzibar at this point.
After the meeting at the vice president’s office, the security would not let Ms Oladehinde or her lawyers leave without ensuring that she (Ms Oladehinde) had no records of the conversation, she wrote.
According to Ms Oladehinde, the incident happened a year ago but she has not been able to talk about it as she has been in therapy.
“…this experience has been the most painful and traumatic experience I’ve ever faced in my entire life. In Fact! I’m glad I’m still alive today to share my story,” she wrote.
“I had my reservations about going to a foreign country as a solo female traveller but none of my thoughts would have prepared me for what I eventually witnessed and experienced in Tanzania,” Ms Oladehinde tweeted.
Ms Oladehinde’s story was followed by an uproar on Twitter by many Nigerians including the chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
“This is a most horrifying experience. One of the first rules in any hotel is to always double lock your room. This is scary. @nidcom_gov will bring this to the attention of Tanzania’s high Commissioner to Nigeria,” Ms Dabiri-Erewa tweeted.
Although it took Ms Oladehinde a year to share her experience, Ms Dabiri-Erewa advised the hotel not to gloss over the matter.
Zanzibar’s Commission for Tourism, disappointed, said it has commenced an immediate investigation into the incident and will report its findings.
A Twitter user, Hassan Seun, wrote, “I hope @zainabdehinde gets her justice. Also, cases like this should be probed beyond Zainab’s. More retrospective justice should be pursued as it is likely there are more victims of this horrendous behaviour. I hope other victims can speak out #Zanzibar.”
Another Twitter user, Uju Anya, said the lesson from Ms Oladehinde’s experience should not be that “women shouldn’t travel alone.”
Women have a right to occupy public space. The lesson is society must assure women’s right to be free and safe in public spaces, she wrote.
An angry mob from Twitter have also left negative reviews on the hotel’s search page including that it is permanently closed.
“Our Warere website was hacked, today 16 April 2022. Within 3 hours we received over 4,000 negative reviews on Google from people who had never stayed at our hotel,” the hotel wrote on Facebook.
“This hotel has been like this for a very long time now, it’s not a thing of today, luckily somebody had the guts to talk about …My friend once visited there last year and as he went out touring with his wife, he came back only to find out that their bags were searched and their money was stolen along with their gadgets. He tried to talk to the manager about it but they said they’d work on it until they left, till today nothing happened,” Miles Montego wrote in the review section.
The backlash from angry sympathisers leaving negative reviews on the hotel’s Google page has led to a nosedive in its ratings – from four-star to one star.
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