Dangerous Divisions and Insane Incitement
Posted on Feb 05, 2015
Updates in the Fight against Loliondo Land Threats
The Jamhuri continues inciting against the people of Loliondo – and is joined by other media outlets. There have been “investor-friendly” meetings and meetings denouncing this. Minister Nyalandu made pointless visits.
Some hearings and then postponement in the case against Thomson Safaris. Activists are being threatened. The MP continues showing off his uselessness. Maybe a change for the better is on the way?
As mentioned earlier in this blog, starting on 27th
August 2014 when he met the District Chairman the Minster for Natural Resources and tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, has several times met with Loliondo councillors, talked threateningly of converting the 1,500 square kilometres of dry season grazing land next to Serengeti NP, the same area as where OBC hunt, into different kinds of protected areas and also mentioned compensation money. This is what the councillors said. The minister denied everything saying that he had talked land use planning in Loliondo, but he’s not minister for lands, he’s basically minister for the grabbing of pastoralist land. President Kikwete tweeted, “There has never been, nor will there ever be any plan by the Government of #Tanzania to evict the #Maasai people from their ancestral land.”
Which is an obvious lie since there were extrajudicial evictions in the drought year 2009 when OBC’s hunting season was up, there was a draft land use plan in 2010 that proposed turning the 1,500 square kilometres into a protected area which was strongly rejected by the district council, and in 2013 then minister Khamis Kagasheki made statements about alienating the area which was put stop to by PM Pinda in an emotional speech on 23rd
September 2013, but never put in writing. If including other areas and other times it’s even more untrue. The Ministry for Natural Resources also issued a press release trying to appeal to a paranoid, xenophobic streak in the general public, which I replied to here
. To increase confusion the petition site Avaaz and British media were talking about an eviction notice that frankly nobody in Loliondo has heard about and a “sale” when the threat is the creation of a protected area.
The Jamhuri Again
On 28th November another article by Manyerere Jackton inciting against the people of Loliondo was published in the Jamhuri, this time claiming that 70% of the population was not Tanzanian.
On 26th November some leaders gathered by the councillor for Oloipiri , William Alais, met at the office of the NGO Kidupo led by Gabriel Killel. The meeting was to discuss Alias’ letter to Mary Nagu, Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office (Investment and Empowerment), that was published in the Jamhuri and that was a complaint over NGOs that don’t let “the people of Oloipiri Ward” work in peace with “good investors” like Thomson and OBC. On 2nd December the “investor-friendly” group held a long meeting the whole day with OBC’s managing director, Isaack Mollel, and Thomson Safaris´ manager, Daniel Yamat, also showed up for a while at the meeting. The group declared friendship with Thomson and OBC. Though it seems like none of the villages have signed the contract with OBC and not even the investor-friendly group is interested in doing so. Their contribution to the partnership with investors seems limited to adding division, praising the investors and calling other residents of Loliondo “Kenyans”. Then on the 3rd some 10 people from Oloipiri, Maaloni and Olorien/Magaiduru wards met with MP Telele at Honest Guesthouse, but no information has transpired from this meeting. Other members of this group are Long’oi, the councillor for Maaloni, the chairmen of Oloipiri and Orkuyaine, and Kashanga Pusalet, the ex-chairman of Olorien.
Meeting in Kirtalo
On 4th December there was a big meeting in Kirtalo. The RC had declared that a permit was needed and the DC that it would not be granted, but the meeting went on. Elders cursed the “investor-friendly” group and it was agreed that the public would deal with misbehaving politicians. In the morning before this meeting Samwel Nangiria of Ngonet was taken for lengthy police interrogations, and a fully accredited (not that journalists often are, or need to be, but this one was, contrary to what the DC has told media) international freelance journalist, Emily Johnson, was ordered to leave Loliondo. MP Telele was invited to the meeting, but did not attend.
More interrogations followed for Samwel and in the end he was advised to stop attacking the investors and told that he had been identified as one of the major troublemakers of Ngorongoro district (a labelling everyone should strive for). He was ordered by the OCCID (Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Department) to report to the police before going out of the district, which was changed to the region after Samwel said that he had an office in Arusha. He asked to have the order in writing, but the OCCID said he had to wait for the OCD (Officer Commanding District). Samwel further said that he would not abide by such a political order and would appreciate being taken to court instead – and he was told to wait.
Continued Harassment of STS Website
Thomson Safaris continue their legal harassment of the anonymous people behind the website Stop Thomson Safaris. On 5th December the Cyberlaw Clinic of Harvard Law School filed an amicus letter on behalf of the organisations Global Voices Advocacy and the Media Legal Defence Initiative that work to defend the right to freedom of expression around the world. This letter says something like that by allowing this frivolous lawsuit the California Court of Appeal creates a dangerous environment for persons reporting anonymously on issues with governments and corporations outside the United States. It seems like this case is not going well at all and American “justice” is heavily leaning in favour of corporations and against free speech.
On 6th December Minister Nyalandu flew to Loliondo and, unsurprisingly, visited Oloipiri and Maaloni together with 25 journalists, most of whom did not have any background information. The minister informed the press that he won't hesitate to oust any investor, institution or NGO that instigates conflict in the hunting area, and he again declared that the British paper the Guardian is lying about Loliondo (in this he had a point) instead of addressing what the councillors, whom he has met the past months, have had to say even in a press release. The councillor for Maaloni addressed the press saying that there was agreement between three of seven wards and OBC. The press showed cringe-worthy photos of Nyalandu throwing a spear and tasting water from a well drilled by OBC. There was also a standing meeting at the airstrip where the minister, draped in a Maasai shuka, got some relevant questions. Those that were there said that they got a promise that the minister would return on the 12th with a document, but the press reported that he had ordered the DC to arrange a reconciliatory meeting between OBC and the wards, which he would attend.
On the 12th the minister locked himself up with seven councillors and two NGO representatives. The District Commissioner did not allow the women’s representatives, Tina Timan and Maanda Ngoitiko to attend. Nyalandu did not bring any written statement about the land, but went on and on about living in harmony with the investor.
Laitayok Laigwanak on ITV
Better news on the 12th was that some Laitayok traditional leaders held a press meeting shown on ITV denouncing William Alais’ article in the Jamhuri and the attempts of separating the Laitayok from the rest of the Maasai in the struggle for the land as a stand by some politicians and elites, and not the community. The laigwanak were, "Nasindol, Sumare, Siiya and others”.
Thomson Court Hearings Started
On 8th December court hearings started and went on for a few days in the case against Thomson Safaris. Thomson’s Arusha manager, John Bearcroft, did not even bother to show up and the manager at the occupied land, Daniel Yamat, was there one of the days. Otherwise Thomson seems to be leaving this issue entirely to Happiness Mwamasika, coordinator of their charity branch FoTZC, which is logical since charity is a war strategy for Thomson. The judge, who had a full calendar, postponed the hearings until May.
New chairmen took office on 14th December. Soitsambu’s new chairman is Marko Parkios Lorru. I first got some worrying information about Parkios but then other people said that he has nothing to do with Killel and is getting far from OBC. Ledamat Maito, the new chairman for Sukenya, is reported to be a great guy and “big against Thomson”. Joshua Makko continues as chairman for Mondorosi, which is good.
THRDC Press Conference
In a press conference on 15th December Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) condemned threats directed towards defenders of pastoralists’ human rights in Loliondo. The national coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa said that almost every NGO operating in Ngorongoro area have suffered some level of police harassment and intimidation, and that even vocal journalists who reveal human rights violations in Loliondo (I’d like to see more of such journalists…) were being persecuted, intimidated and sometimes branded non-Tanzanian. THRDC had names and identities of human rights defenders who continued to receive threats from state operatives. In this press conference the number of NGOs was mentioned as 17.
The RAI Talks with Investor-Friendly People
On 18th December the RAI published the article “Waarabu, Wazungu waipasua Loliondo” (Arabs, White People tear Loliondo apart). The reporter’s theory is that the problem in Loliondo is a conflict between an Arab and several “white” (wazungu) investors and the NGOs support, or are corrupted by, the white ones. A brief look at what the NGOs involved in land rights do would have revealed that the two investors that mostly endanger land rights and human rights are OBC and Thomson Safaris and that the latter is an American company owned by a couple with light skin colour, but this does not interest the reporter who instead interviews a series of “investor- friendly” actors (or rather corruptors and corrupted) that may or may not have been misquoted, and do not entirely support the theory, which doesn’t bother reporter Gabriel Mushi who also thinks that the 4,000 square kilometre Loliondo Game Controlled Area is “inside” Loliondo division when it in fact is the whole of Loliondo - and more. The troublesome NGOs are, as usual, supposed to be over 30, when I - at most - hear three NGOs speaking up about the land issues.
In this article the horrible councillor for Oloipiri again complains about NGOs that don’t let “the people of Oloipiri ward” benefit from good investors. Raphael Long’oi who is part of Alais’ “investor-friendly” group is presented as councillor for Arash when he is the councillor for Maaloni. He says that people are stirring things up for personal reasons and without any reason since Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 does not allow the land to be sold. “Lwai Swako” (Naiswako Alais), a “women’s representative” in Oloipiri (when enquiring I’ve only found that this person is much used by OBC’s Mollel) says that people are living in peace, nobody’s house has been burned and nobody has been evicted. It’s unclear if she’s referring the current situation which would make it a mostly correct description, or 2009 in which case she would be lying. The only problem according to Naiswako is Kenyans entering their cattle and leaders that use their education to benefit themselves.
OBC’s general manager tells RAI’s reporter that due to the weakness of the government there is a conflict between Arabs and whites. OBC pays billions to the government, but other tour operators are still allowed to do business in the hunting block. He wonders how the landlord can let the house to five other tenants after making arrangements with a first tenant. Mollel also claims that Loliondo is “protected land” and not village land. He is however correct when saying that it’s false to say that OBC is “buying” the land.
The reporters also tried contacting Thomson’s Daniel Yamat missing that Thomson and OBC share the same “friends” and apparently thinking that this would be letting those “whites” defend themselves… Yamat is reported to have agreed about the Arab/white thing and would explain further, but said he was at a meeting, then wanted to prepare his reply, and then he didn’t pick up the phone. It would be understandable if he was confused.
What have raised most alarm are the replies by MP Telele. According the reporter Telele agrees that there is a war between Arabs and whites. The MP admits that the top down approach by OBC is a problem. He says the NGOs are given billions of shillings by “white people”, but aren’t involved in any development projects – and they should be investigated by the government. Instead of addressing the worries by some councillors and other leaders that issued a press release in November, Telele, like minister Nyalandu and president Kikwete, attacks the distorted version of this problem presented in the confused British press. He also says that the NGOs use the Kenyan press for propaganda articles in English language in order to be given more money. Telele is surprised by Nyalandu’s way of repeatedly going to Loliondo to solve the conflict without involving him. He says that OBC have helped with schools, water and health facilities, but there was a problem with too much cattle and it was agreed that cattle should be kept away from the hunting area during the hunting season. Since there’s a problem with Kenyans and the three Maasai sections do not get along people entered livestock anyway, according to Telele (it should be remembered that the core hunting area also is the dry season grazing area, and hunting normally is done in the dry season). Telele correctly says that he stood on the side of the people in 2009 when there was evictions and burning of bomas (and worse), but then he lashes out against the useless NGOs from the Purko and Loita sections. He advises Immigration authorities to find out who is Kenyan and who is Tanzanian in Loliondo since it can be difficult to make a distinction. Telele also has a problem with Kenyans that want to open the Bologonja border crossing and stop the so-called Serengeti Highway, insinuating that Nyalandu is too soft on them. Telele admits that there is a weakness in the government that has not been able to deal with the NGOs. If he were DC they would not have been allowed to go on as they do. Telele thinks that there’s a need for DCs with a military background!
Now to a real problem with the NGOs in Loliondo, which consists of having supported, some even campaigned for, this MP thinking he was a good guy, but somewhat ignorant. Telele did stand on the side of the people when there were brutal evictions in 2009. This led to him not even being included in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area board. When Kagasheki was launching his threatening statements Telele instead took off on an investor wooing trip to China with the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, and when opposition parliamentarians spoke up about Loliondo Telele thanked the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism and the Government for finding a “solution” to the Loliondo land conflict. Then he became deputy minister for livestock and fisheries... He has also repeatedly participated in Thomson’s propaganda spectacles. The end for Telele as MP will come this year and I hope that the people of Ngorongoro can abstain from ever again voting for this kind of useless individual.
On 21st December there was a meeting of councillors and NGOs. Things were ugly and the councillors of Oloipiri, Maaloni and Olorien/Magaiduru together with Gabriel Killel of Kidupo insisted on working with OBC and the government - and not according to the Oloipiri declaration of 2013. Unfortunately other councillors can also easily be told that they aren’t less prone to being corrupted by investors.
On 8th January Channel 10 ran a programme about Loliondo that could have been produced by OBC themselves. The incitement against the Maasai was very similar the style of the Jamhuri. Some interviewees were the councillor for Olorien/OBC employee, Marekani, and Parapara William who used to be a respected opposition politician that suddenly switched to the governing party and was elected chairman of Wasso, and also turned into a big friend of OBC. OBC’s managing director Isaack Mollel was of course included. According to this programme the problem in Loliondo was “Kenyans” and NGOs. Land rights weren't touched upon and instead there were mentions of some investor area. The only NGO representative that was allowed to say anything was the by now totally ”investor-friendly” Gabriel Killel of Kidupo. People like the councillor for Soitsambu and an immigration officer were only asked about citizenship issues. I've only heard bad quality audio of parts of the programme. OBC’s Mollel, besides talking about his company’s development projects, illegal Kenyans and useless NGOs, claims that land belongs to the government and not to the Maasai…
And Manyerere Again
Manyerere Jackton followed up with yet another article, again cowardly without his name in the byline, but without the fake name “Adam ole Timan” that he used in an earlier article. The article was about who in Loliondo is “Kenyan” attacking some individuals and again inciting against those that speak up for land rights.
In January OBC started preparing their camp, and on the 11th it was reported that they had set up a mobile camp in Kuka Hills near the border with Kenya, which they have never done before.
On 20th January minister Nyalandu welcomed the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and constitutional monarch of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on their arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport for a “private visit”. A picture of this was shown by the Citizen. Though, fortunately for the wildlife of Loliondo, there wasn't much time for hunting before Sheikh Mohammed had to leave to head a delegation conveying condolences upon the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The royal hunters had left already on the 24th.
Investor-friendly Agenda at Meeting in Olorien
On 21st January there was a meeting in Olorien led by laigwanak, traditional leaders, chairman, Joseph Oletiripai, and the agenda prepared by the members of the NGO Kidupo directed by OBC. Sadly, many laigwanak - but not those from Ololosokwan, Soitsambu, Arash and Piyaya - had joined the investor-friendly group represented at the meeting by the councillors for Oloipiri and Malooni, the ex-chairman of Olorien and Gabriel Killel of Kidupo. Oletiripai has earlier been on the side of the defenders of land rights, but switched sides very suddenly after meeting Isaack Mollel. Fortunately these friends of OBC were given a hard time by, among others, Supuk Maoi, Daniel Rogei and Fredy Ledidi.
January some NGO representatives held a press conference in Arusha to set the record straight and protest against the increased presence in media of seriously misleading and probably OBC-sponsored “journalism”. It can be read here
Unannounced Minister Visit
On 26th January several people reported having observed Nyalandu and Mathias Chikawe, Minister for Home Affairs, being driven around OBC’s buildings, Lima one and two and Mambarashani at their airstrip, in a vehicle belonging to Meja, a high level OBC employee.
On 28th January there was a meeting at the District Council between village chairmen, councillors and traditional leaders. The outcome was reportedly a loose agreement to move forward together, and that nobody should sign any contract before minster Kagasheki’s statements from 2013 have been reversed in writing by the government. There will be a big community meeting to clear the lines.
Several people have reported that the son of MP Telele is working as a senior technical adviser for Kidupo and is to manage a project funded by OBC and Thomson.
On 4th February NRK Sápmi reported that the Norwegian Sami organisation Mama Sara had broken all contact with the present board and director of Kidupo. This organisation has been working together with Kidupo in school projects, but does not want to be associated in any way with some individuals’ close friendship with OBC and Thomson Safaris. The support of school children will continue through other means, like working directly with schools. Gabriel Killel is however pretending that Mama Sara org. has abandoned the children and he has gone to Arusha together with William Telele to collect invoices to be paid by OBC and Thomson.
OBC and Thomson vehicles are these days often seen outside the Kidupo office.
There’s a discrepancy between the “investor-friendly” group where people (like Long’oi in the RAI) are saying that the land is village land and therefore there’s no risk of alienation for working together with the “investors”, and OBC’s Mollel who in interviews keeps repeating that the land does not belong to the Maasai, but to the government. It seems like those befriended by OBC have chosen to just ignore this as long they can reap benefits from calling others “Kenyan”. Sooner or later they will fall into their own trap. Sadly there’s a risk that they will take others with them.
Remember the Oloipiri declaration of 25th March 2013 goddamnit!