November of Terror and Silence in Loliondo has Turned into Christmas of Terror and Silence.
Posted on Dec 28, 2018
The situation is far, far too painful and help is needed from anyone with some influence.
Fear and silence have continued into December. In November Tanzanian soldiers could torture and chase away people, and burn their bomas, in serious violation of interim orders issued by the East Africa Court of Justice, while all leaders in Loliondo stayed silent – and cattle were illegally detained on village land. Beatings continue, and on 21st December 12 bomas (or per other accounts 11 bomas/24 houses) were burned in the Leken area of Kirtalo village.
Crimes of November
Soldiers from the military camp set up in Lopolun since March this year, together with rangers from Otterlo Business Corporation - that organize hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai and for years have been lobbying the Tanzanian government to turn their 1,500 km2 core hunting area into a “protected area”, and thereby deprive the Maasai of important dry season grazing – later joined by those from Serengeti National Park, spent most of the month of November beating up people, chasing them and their cattle away from wide areas around OBC’s camp in the village of Kirtalo (including areas of Ololosokwan), and burning down several bomas. This was done in violation of interim orders issued by the East African Court of Justice on 25thSeptember, and under unprecedented silence by everyone whose duty it would have been to speak up.
Around the beginning of November people on the ground reported that the situation was calm in the 1,500 km2 osero, without violent incidents after soldiers had tortured six men at a meat-eating camp in Kilamben in Ololosokwan on 27thAugust. The only worry was the dry season, but not as worrying as in the catastrophic 2017, since this year the rains had been good. The November rains have since failed though, or were hopefully just delayed until December (there have now been some good rains since 10th December). Many people said that OBC were preparing their camp for the guest.
November I was informed that soldiers from the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (JWTZ) were beating people and chasing them and their cattle away from Mambarashani where OBC were preparing their camp. I was only getting piecemeal information, and nobody was speaking up publicly, but those who should know confirmed the information – that meant a very serious violation of the interim orders – and I kept getting incomplete messages from people I hadn’t heard from before. The beatings had apparently been going on since 8th
November. Reporting the violation was urgent, but it took a week for the first legal moves to be made, and I was very upset. After spending too much time chasing confirmed information, I published ablog post on 17th November
At Kishoshoro, Ngari Potot was so badly beaten that the soldiers broke his arm and his leg. On 14th November the attackers started burning down bomas in the areas from where they were chasing away people and livestock, while the silence continued. Motorcycles were confiscated, and the soldiers stole goats, supposedly to eat them. I was told that in the morning of 15th November, Yohana Toroge, chairman of Kirtalo, and the former councillor, Daniel Ngoitiko, were threatened by the soldiers, so that they wouldn’t have the courage to intervene. Apparently, other leaders didn’t need direct threats to stay silent. Besides Kirtalo, areas of Ololosokwan, like Oloirien, Endashata, and Mederi were attacked by the so-called People’s Defence Force that had been set upon the people. The soldiers were telling their victims that they were beaten for having sued the government, and that the land was a “corridor”. On 16thNovember, cows belonging to some people from Ololosokwan were caught in Oloirien (area between Ololosokwan and Kirtalo, not the village) and driven to Lobo in Serengeti National Park where the soldiers wanted to hand them over to the park rangers that refused, maybe remembering having been told off by Minister Kigwangalla when they had been driving cattle into the park in 2017. Instead the cows were released among predators at night. Some of the bomas burned were those of Shungur and of Cosmas Leitura in the Oloirien area, and a couple of days later, on 19th November the Kuyo, Lukeine, and Masago bomas were burned in Orkimbai in Kirtalo. These were just some of the cases of arson.
Reportedly, in the morning of 21st November, the council chairman, the district CCM chairman, and some village chairmen went to ask DC Rashid Mfaume Taka why people were being beaten. The highest presidential appointee and central government enforcer in the district, the criminal who officially ordered the illegal operation of 2017, denied any knowledge about what was taking place.
Nobody was speaking up, nobody was coordinating information gathering, and nobody was getting photos or coordinates of burned bomas. Some Kenyan Maasai were astonished, saying that they would never accept the abuse that the meek Tanzanians were enduring. I asked them to cross the border to get photos and coordinates, but they didn’t, not then.
The Serengeti rangers, maybe feeling encouraged that Kigwangalla’s U-turn was complete, joined the attacks. On 22nd November, some people from Arash were savagely beaten for hours by the rangers at Lobo when they were to pay so-called “fines” for their sheep and goats that had been caught outside the national park. At 10,000 Tanzanian shillings per head for the approximately 900 goats and sheep the financial pain was no less than the physical for the victims, some of whom required hospital treatment. Meanwhile, the soldiers had apparently moved on to Soitsambu “town” (a few bars and shops along the road, and a Saturday market) were they were beating up people accused of carrying Kenyan sugar. On 26th November the Serengeti (TANAPA) rangers caught several herds of cattle at Mambarashani, and drove them to Lobo inside the national park to claim that they were found there. They demanded 100,000 Tanzanian shilling per head of cattle for the release, which would have been extortionate even if the “fines” had been legal, but now it was pure gangster extortion. The “fines” were paid, I don’t know if after negotiation, and the cows were released.
So far, no formal or informal document ordering these brutal and very illegal attacks has been revealed.
On 14th December I was informed that some 150 cows belonging to Neromboi ole Lindi’s boma had been detained for three weeks, and the Serengeti rangers were seeking to auction them off! I’ve had problems getting updates, but apparently the cows are still detained, to be auctioned off, and already taken to Mara region for this purpose, or maybe sold. It seems like in this case they were caught inside the park, but auctioning is an extreme and cruel measure, before 2017 unheard of in a district with pastoralist majority.
Update 27/12: I’ve been informed that Neromboi's cows were sold at a cost of 24 million given the delay in the payment of the 16 million fine. The Serengeti National Park Authority refused to let Neromboi bid for his own cows at 146,000 per head, as he was interested in doing, or let other Maasai buyers do it. They seem to have their own buyers in Mara region. There was a total of 163 heads of cattle confiscated but at the time of auctioning 5 big bulls had gone missing. Arash people sought out the alternative of bribing Senapa’s cow buyers with 2 million so that they would lower the bid, The reason for this was the fact that it was a disgrace to let the family lose their cows and it could damage the image of the Loita for other subtribes, it could be seen as kind of weakness, the family could live in total abject poverty .
After the mission succeeded people from Arash raised money among themselves and the cash was submitted to the CCM chair and the Council Chairperson, who is also Arash ward councillor, to go to Serengeti to buy the cows.
On 19th December mzee ole Shura was badly beaten by soldiers in Kirtalo, and on 20th December the same crime was committed in Ololosokwan against mzee ole Masiaya. These old men were just out walking. There have been several other beatings in Ololoskwan since the November attacks, to the extent that it’s seen as almost “normal”, but some people in Kirtalo have said that nothing was happening there after November, and that some bomas had been rebuilt. Others said that Kirtalo wasn’t peaceful at all, and neither was Arash. Mzee ole Masiaya, who is from Ngorongoro looking for work in Ololoskwan, was too weak to get on a motorbike to the dispensary, but was brought medicine, and has now reportedly recovered. He was beaten for no reason, even when he’s the kind of person that the plan is to turn everyone in Loliondo into: destitute and under the yoke of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Mzee ole Masiaya after being beaten by soldiers on 20th December
Later I was informed that before attacking ole Masiaya the soldiers had beaten 15-year old Ngoiser Sumare, and 25-year old and pregnant Ntajiri Sirmange who reportedly was in the company of children. The soldiers claimed to be searching for Kenyan cows, but the only victim who was herding any kind of cows was Ngoiser.
Also on 20th December, the army soldiers drove cattle from village land in Oloosek to Klein’s gate. Empirpiri, Enalubo, Oldonyio Keri were mentioned as well as areas from where cattle were taken. Apparently, the park warden didn’t want the cows, and they were released without charge.
In the morning of 21st December, the soldiers descended upon the Leken area in Karkamoru sub-village of Kirtalo burning to the ground 12 bomas with all belongings inside. The cows were out, but young lambs and goat kids died in the fire. The names of whom the bomas belonged to that have been reported to me are Toroge, Moniko, Salaash, Shura, Kimeriay, Parmwat, Sepere, and Nguya. A 65-year old man and two pregnant women were beaten. Then, around 2 pm it started raining heavily.
At the Saturday market in Soitsambu on 22nd December people from Leken were buying big polyethylene sheets. The victims of arson in Leken stay in place in makeshift tents, and are rebuilding.
I haven't got any better picture of the criminals than this one.
The DC comments
The day after the mass arson of 12 bomas the strangest message from DC Rashid Mfaume Taka was shared in Whatsapp groups. “Nimepata taarifa (nikiwa nje ya WILAYA kikazi) juu ya madhila yaliyowakuta baadhi ya wananchi wa Karkamoo. Nawapa pole na nimeagiza timu (advanced party) ya wajumbe wa KUU waende kukutana na viongozi wa kijiji na wakawaangalie wananchi wale na hali ilivyo. Niwatoe hofu wananchi kuwa hakuna operesheni yeyote na watu ni lazima wabaki kwenye maeneo yao na waendelee na shughuli zao za kujutafutia maisha bora.”
(“I’ve got information (while out of the district for work reasons) about the atrocities that befell the wananchi at Karkarmoru. I want to say sorry and I have commissioned a team (advanced party) of high official members to go to the village to meet the village leaders and check those wananchi and their state of affairs. I want to assure the wananchi that, there is not any operation in the area and people should stay in their areas with their economic activities for betterment of their livelihoods”.) “Wananchi” is citizens/residents/grassroots/the public. And this Christmas the DC has assured them that they can go on with their lives as usual in their makeshift tents.
This is the message from the highest central government representative and enforcer in the district the day after soldiers from the national army have again committed mass arson, burning down 12 bomas, after since June having attacked and tortured people, and in November chased them away from areas of Kirtalo and Ololosokwan, burning down their houses – while authorities haven’t done anything whatsoever stop them. The DC comments as if it would be a case of “unknown assailants”, or a natural disaster unknown to authorities. This is being interpreted as a “mind trick”.
Even if Loliondo, for as long as I’ve known about it, has been something of a police state in which those speaking up have been threatened and defamed, maybe even killed in two cases a decade ago, the Maasai of Loliondo have not always been silent. Quite the contrary sometimes.
In the drought year 2009, the paramilitary Field Force Unit together with OBC rangers, in an illegal operation evicted thousands of people and livestock from OBC’s 1,500 km2 preferred hunting area, burned down hundreds of bomas, and 7-year old Nashipai Gume was lost in the chaos, and has still not been found. Telele, the MP at the time, made a big noise demanding explanations in parliament, travelled to Loliondo to meet the victims of the operation, and tabled a private statement with a 14-point submission. A wide alliance of local and national NGOs organized fact-finding missions and issued statements. The EU sent its own fact-finding mission, and the Danish ambassador spoke up about Loliondo. These were just some of the reactions.
In 2010, the government started sending out signals that it would alienate the 1,500 km2 osero as a “buffer zone”, and in April the same year there were big protests by women marching on Loliondo town to protest any such plan. A “constitutional case” was filed by several CSOs against the Attorney General, the Ngorongoro DC, the Officer Commanding District, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, and OBC. When in early 2011 a draft district land use plan, in its totality funded by OBC, was revealed proposing the conversion of the 1,500 km2 into a protected area, a video
was prepared, the ward councillors held a press conference, and Ngorongoro District Council rejected the plan.
In 2013, Kagasheki
, the then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, made statements shamelessly lying that the whole 4,000 km2 Loliondo GCA would be a protected area, the Maasai “landless”, and in a maliciously twisted way he presented alienating the 1,500 km2 as gifting the people of Loliondo with 2,500 km2. By this time MP Telele had been made useless and totally befriended by “investors”, but there were mass meetings, crystal clear statements, protest delegations to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, and both the opposition and important parts of the ruling party expressed their support for the Maasai. In a speech in Wasso on 23rd
September 2013 Pinda, the PM at the time, declared that the land belonged to the Maasai that should continue their lives as before Kagasheki’s threats.
Then the always present divide and rule was intensified by the investors and their “friends”. In 2016 people thought to be able to speak up were illegally arrested, and several of them maliciously prosecuted on bizarre espionage and sabotage charges
, based on the presumption that that they would have communicated with me. The two (the “friends of investors” like to say that they are more than 30) NGOs that used to speak up were effectively silenced. With the highly intolerant and repressive Magufuli government the whole country became like Loliondo and almost all Tanzanians were silenced. Persecution of journalists, activists, and opposition politicians intensified. Many people in Loliondo became too afraid to even answer messages, thinking that they were being “hacked”.
When an “unexpected” illegal operation was initiated in August 2017 while everyone was waiting to hear PM Majaliwa’s decision about the 1,500 km2, the formerly very much trusted MP Olenasha, who had been a great hope for Ngorongoro, decided not to speak up with one word while hundreds of bomas were burned to the ground, people were beaten, illegally arrested, and even raped by rangers, cattle illegally seized, and water sources blocked. This silence was shockingly and painfully disappointing, and very demoralizing, but still other leaders spoke up in media, and sued the government in the East African Court of Justice.
I don’t know if the MP’s silence, that continues, is due to that as deputy minister he’s more afraid than anyone and knows more closely what terror regime the current government is, or if he has simply switched sides. His current stance – in stark contrast to before becoming a deputy minister - is that the “land conflicts”, of which the osero is just one, should be “solved” slowly, inside the government, while not speaking up at all against torture and burning of people’s houses. He keeps all loudness for infrastructure, or development, projects that in Tanzania are highly personalized in which prominent people, foremost the president, and in this case very much the MP, should be praised as were they bringing the projects on their own and paying with their own money. They scandal of how the district council in January 2018 decided to withdraw planned projects in opposition led wards seems forgotten. The MP also celebrates, as were it an election win, the final switching over of all opposition councillors to the ruling party, which allegedly happened due to the same gangster tactics as in the rest of the country. I do of course not have any idea if he’s fighting for the land behind the scenes. I can only hope. In May 2018 it surfaced, “thanks” to the worried outbursts by the worst anti-Loliondo journalist, that ward and village leaders, together with NGO people, held a secret meeting to prepare a “friendlier” special authority proposal than that of the PM. This top-down approach that was somewhat strange when there’s an ongoing East African case to stop any kind of alienation, was at least something reportedly done together with the MP, but as far as I know didn’t result in anything.
By 2018 absolutely everyone was silenced. I’m not sure why, and the only visible difference is that the Tanzania People’s Defence Force set up a camp in Olopolun near Wasso in March, but I didn’t get any reports about the soldiers attacking innocent herders until 29th June. Still, when in May the Officer Commanding Criminal Investigations Division of Ngorongoro District, Marwa Mwita, led an intimidation campaign to derail the case in the East African Court of Justice, the silence was complete from everyone in Loliondo. Only the main counsel, Donald Deya, wrote an urgent letter, then turned into application, to the East African Court of Justice, and talked to journalists. When the soldiers started showing up attacking and torturing groups of people, apparently with a focus on those who have many cows in Ololosokwan, but also some men from Sukenya accused of inciting others to graze their animals on the land occupied by Thomson Safaris, nobody was speaking up.
Then the most unthinkable happened. The East African Court of Justice had on 25th September 2018 issued interim orders restraining the Tanzanian government, and any persons or offices acting on its behalf, from evicting the applicant villagers from the disputed 1,500 km2, destroying their homesteads or confiscating their livestock on that land, until the determination of the main case, and restraining the Inspector General of Police from harassing or intimidating the applicants. Still, Tanzanian army soldiers started, in November 2018, torturing people in wide areas around OBC’s camp, chasing them away with their livestock, and burning down their bomas – while all leaders, activists, and other people stayed silent.
I’ve been looking for people who can analyse these horrible crimes in complete violation of court orders, and I’ve more or less been told – also by those within the ruling party - that the current government just likes to show its power, crush dissent, and keep everyone living in silence and fear. Meanwhile some people say that due to the current meekness of all Loliondo Maasai, the government is forcedto move on with its very long-term plan of crushing Maasai livelihoods and culture. Some of these people also think that the leaders gave the land away already with the RC’s select committee in 2016-2017 that came up with a compromise proposal (WMA) that would mean land alienation in everything but name, the proposal that the PM then disregarded to instead present his own delayed “special authority” plan, but some of those who were in that committee have actually supported the East African case.
One person summed it up as, “Unyanyasaji huu umetufanya tukumbuke ulikotoka. Mean colonial period” (This abuse has made us remember where it comes from. I mean the colonial period), while another said that people are suffering like slaves, and he cannot even explain it.
Manongi and the Jamhuri anti-Maasai rag
One detail about PM Majaliwa’s vague, terrifying and delayed “special authority” plan that has been revealed is that Loliondo GCA is supposed to be placed under the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority that rule over Ngorongoro Conservation Area where subsistence agriculture is prohibited, grazing areas keep being alienated, malnutrition is rampant, and eviction threats are a recurring fear. On 13th
November an article
by the NCA chief conservator Fredy Manongi was published in Tanzania’s most anti-Maasai newspaper the Jamhuri, in which Manyerere Jackton has written over 50 articles viciously inciting against the Loliondo Maasai, and with fervour defended the alienation of the 1,500 km2. Manongi confirms the current anti-pastoralist direction of the NCA, adding to the fears. He has earlier expressed support for the alienation of the 1,500 km2 osero in Loliondo, as in theCitizen
newspaper in November 2017, in which the report prepared by OBC in 2016 is quoted.
Manyerere Jackton himself published two of his anti-Loliondo “articles” while the crimes were being committed in Kirtalo and Ololosokwan, on 13th
November, not mentioning the attacks on the Maasai and focusing on his very sadly baseless worries that some activists would speak up while on a London trip. The since long pre-planned trip to decolonise narratives about museum artefacts was already announced online and anyone could google it, like I did, but as usual this “journalist” wrote about it as something revealed by his sources, and instead of facts, as usual the article was entirely based on his own, and his sources’, confused imagination and malicious lies. The claim of the first article
was that 20 (instead of four) Maasai from Loliondo were going to England to fundraise for the court case against the government (instead of decolonising museum artefacts). The “journalist” mentions people and organisations that don’t have anything to do with the whole thing, and makes up stories about sadly non-existing cooperation between Loliondo NGOs and the Oakland Institute. I’m yet again … in the most absurd way for anyone who knows me, or listens to facts, mentioned as a “donor” to the NGOs, but that’s far from the most malicious slander I’ve experienced from this “journalist”. In the second “article
” Manyerere Jackton had adjusted the number of travellers to reality, but kept to his sadly baseless fantasies about the reason for the trip, going on about that the aim was to “oppose conservation in Loliondo”, and making strange guesses about NGOs, like saying that the Loliondo attendants were to meet with the organisation Avaaz that in Manyerere Jackton’s fantasy would have opposed the Mto wa Mbu-Makutano road. Years ago, Avaaz spoke up, in their own way, about Loliondo, and a strange petition got two million signatures, but then when an illegal operation actually took place last year they didn’t say a word. Manyerere Jackton has been told stories by his sources about giraffe poaching in Karkamoru, but seems to have missed that killing wildlife for fun is the official main reason that OBC are in the area. He claims that NGOs have incited people to rebuild their bomas in the area under dispute, and he is very happy about the plans for land alienation, and inclusion of Loliondo into NCAA, after preparing a legal bill (hunting isn’t allowed in NCA but “must” of course continue in Loliondo) for this purpose, which he says is expected to significantly raise the district council’s income from investors. Then on 11th
December, when I’d hoped to have published this blog post, this “journalist” published yet another “article
” in his campaign to take the 1,500 km2 away from the Maasai. This time he writes about the mysterious deaths of some elephants in Arash (similar deaths have happened elsewhere in the country and in Kenya), feels sorry for “investors” that must do all conservation work in Loliondo, and continues his fantasies about the England trip, and about the danger of the now since years silenced and shamefully toothless NGOs. He congratulates Minister Kigwangalla for his spectacular U-turn, made after he over a year ago promised that he would deal with the syndicate at the service of OBC that was reaching into his own ministry. According to Manyerere Jackton the abrupt change does not mean that Kigwangalla was bought, but that he has seen the truth about Loliondo…
The knife cuttingly cruel and painful irony is that the people who went to England didn’t say a word about what was happening in Kirtalo, even though as a political leader and an NGO coordinator it’s their basic duty to speak up, and it’s what they’ve done many times in the past. Decolonising museum artefacts, and showing that they belong to a “living culture” may be important, but at that time it was like fiddling while Rome was burning. Land rights were, as I was told by a British attendant, not even mentioned in the final panel! The only - very understandable - reason for the silence was personal safety and safety for family members. However, being effectively prevented from performing one’s basic duty is a reason to resign from one’s position. Though in this case there isn’t anyone prepared, or even willing, to take those positions, so the silent England visitors better stay and do whatever they can behind the scenes.
Charity as a very dirty weapon
While people were being beaten and bomas burned to the ground in Kirtalo, on 19th
November an account named “Ngorongoro District Council”, probably someone in or around the DC’s office, uploaded a video
of the board ofThomson Safaris
’ charitable branch, FoTZC, visiting the Sukenya dispensary – that in better days during its inauguration in 2015 saw protests against Thomson’s land grab and against then MP Telele - together with the DC. Like OBC, Thomson use charity as a weapon of war in their fight to control Maasai land. They claim ownership of 12,617 acres of Maasai land as their own private nature refuge, have the same “friends” as OBC, and copied their mix of charity, divide and rule, and violence, employing the local police, and in July this year also soldiers, to intimidate the legitimate landowners. Thomson spend considerable money on lawyers and online reputation management (as per the owner’s own declaration). The people of Mondorosi know this very well, and for years the chairman refused to accept Thomson’s projects, even though he was under hard pressure and threats from government employees in the district, and suffered arrest. The chairman has yielded to the pressure and appears in the video looking sheepish. Most of this video consists of the talk by the confessed human rights criminal, who officially ordered last year’s illegal operation, DC Rashid Mfaume Taka. The DC’s message is that the government of John Pombe Magufuli, is bringing development, and so are Thomson Safaris, and the people of Mondorosi should maintain peace and calm, and leave to one side those that say and write a lot, but don’t bring development. I don’t know to what extent the FoTZC board members know what kind of dirty war they are involved in, but Judi Wineland, co-owner if Thomson Safaris, no doubt knows very well and thoroughly enjoys it. The individuals donating the money may be clueless though.
December the European Union issued aresolution
against Tanzania over human rights issues, which they should be thanked for, even if the writing was somewhat soft and vague. “whereas tourism development in recent years has led to increased activity, particularly in the Serengeti region where the Maasai live; whereas the control of arable or scarce land for speculative purposes has led to strong tensions in the area;”
probably refers to Loliondo, and maybe NCA, both east of Serengeti National Park, even if geography and the description of the threat are confusingly vague. It’s about highly dangerous land-grabbing schemes by central government for the benefit of certain “investors” and “conservation”, and extreme violence and intimidation to repress any resistance.
“Expresses concern at the situation of the Maasai people; denounces the use of force by the authorities and security forces;” is the minimum that I wish that everyone would express. Thank you, EU, and those working to get this included.
There was a more extensive Loliondo writing by the EU a couple of years ago, but I’ve sadly been unable to mention it much, since not a single point was correct.
2018 has been a most horrible year. I’m writing on another blog post, but will probably not be able to publish it this year. For 2019, I hope that the evil spell keeping all leaders, activists, and everyone else silent and terrified can be broken. At least the case in the East African Court of Justice, filed by the villages of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Oloirien and Arash, goes on and will include the November attacks that were brutally resumed just before Christmas, in complete violation of court orders.
Advice about how to fight back against this extreme brutality and impunity would be very much appreciated, and influential people and organisations speaking up even more appreciated.
Summary of developments of the past decades
All land in Loliondo is village land per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999, and more than the whole of Loliondo is also a Game Controlled Area (of the old kind that doesn’t affect human activities and can overlap with village land) where OBC has the hunting block. Stan Katabalo – maybe Tanzania’s last investigative journalist - reported about how this hunting block was acquired in the early 90s. By 2018 there does no longer seem to be journalists of any kind.
In 2007-2008 the affected villages were threatened into signing a Memorandum of Understanding with OBC.
In the drought year 2009 the Field Force Unit and OBC extrajudicially evicted people and cattle from some 1,500 km2 of dry season grazing land that serve as the core hunting area next to Serengeti National Park. Hundreds of houses were burned, and thousands of cattle were chased into an extreme drought area which did not have enough food or water to sustain them. 7-year old Nashipai Gume was lost in the chaos and has not been found, ever since.
People eventually moved back, and some leaders started participating in reconciliation ceremonies with OBC.
Soon enough, in 2010-2011, OBC totally funded a draft district land use plan that proposed turning the 1,500 km2 into the new kind of Game Controlled Area that’s a “protected” (not from hunting) area and can’t overlap with village land. This plan, that would have allowed a more “legal” repeat of 2009, was strongly rejected by Ngorongoro District Council.
In 2013, then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, made bizarre statements as if all village land in Loliondo would have disappeared through magic, and the people of Loliondo would be generously “gifted” with the land outside the 1,500 km2. This was nothing but a horribly twisted way of again trying to evict the Maasai landowners from OBC’s core hunting area. There’s of course no way a Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism would have the mandate for such a trick of magic. After many mass meetings – where there was agreement to never again enter any MoU with OBC - and protest delegations to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, the then Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda in a speech on 23rd September the same year revoked Kagasheki’s threat and told the Maasai to continue their lives as before this threat that through the loss of dry season grazing land would have led to the destruction of livelihoods, environmental degradation and increased conflict with neighbours.
Parts of the press – foremost Manyerere Jackton in the Jamhuri – increased their incitement against the Maasai of Loliondo as destructive, “Kenyan” and governed by corrupt NGOs. OBC’s “friends” in Loliondo became more active in the harassment of those speaking up against the “investors”, even though they themselves didn’t want the GCA 2009, and rely on others, the same people they persecute, to stop it…
Speaking up against OBC (and against Thomson Safaris, the American tour operator claiming ownership of 12,617 acres, and that shares the same friends as OBC) had always been risky, but the witch-hunt intensified with mass arrests in July 2016. Four people were charged with a truly demented “espionage and sabotage” case. Manyerere Jackton has openly boasted about his direct involvement in the illegal arrests of innocent people for the sake of intimidation.
In July 2016, Manyeree Jackton wrote an “article” calling for PM Majaliwa to return the Kagasheki-style threat. In November 2016 OBC sent out a “report” to the press calling for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to intervene against the destructive Maasai. In mid-December 2016, the Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo was tasked by the PM with setting up a committee to “solve the conflict”, and on 25th January 2017 the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Maghembe, in the middle of the drought stricken Osero, flanked by the most OBC-devoted journalists, and ignoring the ongoing talks, made a declaration that the land had to be taken before the end of March. In March 2017 Minister Maghembe co-opted a Parliamentary Standing Committee, and then Loliondo leaders’ “only ally”, RC Gambo’s, committee started marking “critical areas” while being met with protests in every village. German development money that the standing committee had been told was subject to the alienation of the 1,500 km2 was – after protests by 600 women – not signed by the district chairman. On 21st March a compromise proposal for a WMA (that had been rejected in Loliondo for a decade and a half) was reached through voting by the RC’s committee, then handed over to PM Majaliwa on 20th April, and a long wait to hear the PM’s decision started.
While still waiting, on 13th August 2017 an unexpected illegal eviction and arson operation was initiated in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan and then continued all the way to Piyaya. Beatings, arrests of the victims, illegal seizing of cows, and blocking of water sources followed. Women were raped by the rangers. Many, but not all, leaders stayed strangely and disappointingly silent.
The DC and the Ministry of Natural Resources explained the illegal operation with that people and cattle were entering Serengeti National Park too easily, while Minister Maghembe lied that the land was already the “protected area” wanted by OBC and others.
There was an interim stop order by the government organ Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), but the crimes continued unabated.
A case was filed by four villages in the East African Court of Justice on 21st September 2017.
When in Arusha on 23rd September, President Magufuli collected protest placards against Maghembe, OBC and abuse, to read them later.
On 5th October 2017 the Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, (who had met with people from Loliondo) told supporters that his friend Magufuli had promised him that all involved in the illegal operation in Loliondo would be fired.
In a cabinet reshuffle on 7th October 2017 Maghembe was removed and Hamisi Kigwangalla appointed as new minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Kigwangalla stopped the operation on 26th October 2017, and then made it clear that OBC’s hunting block would not be renewed, which he had already mentioned in Dodoma on the 22nd. On 5th November, he fired the Director of Wildlife and announced that rangers at Klein’s gate that had been colluding with the investor would be transferred. Kigwangalla emphasized that OBC would have left before January. He talked about the corruption syndicate at their service, reaching into his own ministry, and claimed that OBC’s director, Mollel, wanted to bribe him, and would be investigated for corruption. However, OBC never showed any signs of leaving.
Kigwangalla announced in social media that he on 13thNovember 2017 received a delegation headed by the German ambassador and that the Germans were going to fund community development projects in Loliondo, “in our quest to save the Serengeti”. Alarm was raised in Loliondo that the district chairman would have signed secretly, which some already had suspected.
On 6th December 2017, PM Majaliwa announced a vague, but terrifying decision to form a “special authority” to manage the 1,500 km2 osero. He also said that OBC would stay. Manyerere Jackton celebrated the decision in the Jamhuri newspaper. Further information and implementation of this “special authority” has fortunately been delayed, even if it was mentioned in Kigwangalla’s budget speech on 21st May 2018. The only additional information that has been shared is that the whole of Loliondo, per Majaliwa’s plan, is to be put under the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Sheikh Mohammed, his crown prince, and other royal guests visited Loliondo in March 2018, and Kigwangalla welcomed them on Twitter. Earlier, in restricted access social media, Kigwangalla had been saying that OBC weren’t a problem, but only the director, Mollel, and that Loliondo, with the “new structure” needed more investors of the kind.
Around 24th March 2018 a military camp was set up in Lopolun, near Wasso town, by the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (JWTZ). Some were from the start worried the aim was to further intimidate those speaking up against the land alienation plans, non-alarmists were saying that it was there for border and for normal soldier issues.
An ambitious report about Loliondo and NCA, with massive media coverage (and some unnecessary mistakes) was released by the Oakland Institute on 10th May 2018, and Kigwangalla responded by denying that any abuse had ever taken place, and threatening anyone involved with the report. He went as far as denying the existence of people in Loliondo GCA.
In May-June 2018 there was an intimidation campaign against the applicants in the case in the East African Court of Justice, and silence became worse than ever.
From late June to late August 2018 there were several incidents of soldiers from the military camp set up in Olopolun attacking and torturing people.
On 25th September 2018 the East African Court of Justice ordered interim measures restraining the government from any evictions, burning of homesteads, or confiscating of cattle, and from harassing or intimidating the applicants.
In November 2018 while OBC were preparing their camp, reports started coming in that soldiers were attacking people in wide areas around the camp, while all leaders stayed silent. Information was piecemeal, and after a couple of days many people were telling that bomas had been burned in areas of Kirtalo and Ololosokwan.
Beatings and seizing of cattle continued in some areas, and on 21st December the soldiers descended upon Leken in Kirtalo and burned 12 bomas to the ground.
Help is urgently needed, but I don’t know who can help the Maasai if they don’t help themselves.