Tanzania refute claims to evict 40,000 Maasai from their land in Ngorongoro
Posted on Nov 29, 2014
According to a Press Release issued by the APO The Government of Tanzania has never had any plan to evict the Maasai people from their ancestral land
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, November 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The government of United Republic of Tanzania has never had any plan to evict the Maasai people from their ancestral land as falsely reported by the media in recent days. The information circulated through the media outlets globally was misleading, malicious and meant to tarnish the image of our country and her international standing.
The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Hon. Lazaro Nyalandu said that the claims that 40,000 Maasai were being evicted are false unfounded and baseless. The argument that the land in question is being sold to a wealthy Middle Eastern family are a total fabrication and in contrary to the Tanzanian law.
Members of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Land, Natural Resource, and Environment are due to visit the Loliondo area to bear witness to the government position and speak directly to the Maasai people. The Minister, Lazaro Nyalandu will also be leading a team of government officials and Media Houses to visit Ngorongoro in the next few days.
Lazaro Nyalandu (MP)
Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism
But perhaps the statement hides more than it says..........
"This is a patently false and untrue statement. The 1,500 square kilometres dry season grazing land in question, bordering Serengeti National Park, has already been under threat several times. This land is also the core hunting area of Otterlo Business Corporation Ltd that for two decades has held the hunting block (permit to hunt) that covers more than the whole area of Loliondo Division. The Dubai-owned OBC organizes hunting trips for the highest levels of United Arab Emirates society.
All land in Loliondo – the 1,500 square kilometres included - is village land according to the Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 since it fulfils the following definitions - and one definition would have been enough.
-Land within the boundaries of villages registered according to the Local Government Act, 1982.
-Land demarcated as village land under any administrative procedure or in accord with any statutory or customary law.
-General land that villagers have been using for the twelve years preceding the enactment of the Village Land Act. This includes land customarily used for grazing cattle or passage of cattle.
In 2009 there was a bad drought and many herders had gathered in the dry season grazing area as OBC’s hunting season was starting.
On 4th July 2009 the paramilitary Field Force Unit from Arusha descended on the pastoralists in the dry season grazing area. They arrived in vehicles loaded with armed men, tightly standing up, and drums of petrol. They set on fire whole homesteads, with petrol and explosives, destroying everything inclusive of some young animals in the enclosures, houses and family grain reserves in stores. Some 60,000 heads of cattle were pushed into an extreme drought area, which significantly worsened the alarming rates of cattle deaths of this drought. 7-year old Nashipai Gume from Arash was lost in the chaos and terror and has to this day not been found.
People eventually moved back to their homes in the 1,500 square kilometres area.
In 2010 the non-participatory Draft District Land Use Framework Plan 2010-2030 was presented. This plan included the 1,500 square kilometres as a protected area (not protected from hunting) – and was financed by OBC, as the company’s managing director had proudly declared in an interview a year earlier. This plan was strongly rejected by Ngorongoro District Council.
In March 2013 the then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, started making extremely threatening statements that the 1,500 square kilometres grazing area would be turned into a protected area (of a kind that allows hunting). He did this by lying that the whole of Loliondo was a protected area (!), that the Maasai were “landless” and that they would be given the part of the land that would not be taken...
This threat by Minister Kagasheki was put stop to by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda when he on 23rd September 2013 in Wasso in a highly emotional speech declared that the land belonged to the Maasai and their coming generations, and nobody would be allowed to disturb them as Minister Kagasheki had been doing. A written statement with this promise is still being waited for.
The current alarm has been raised when Minister Lazaro Nyalandu at several meetings with ward councillors from Loliondo has expressed the Government’s continued “need” of taking the 1,500 square kilometres as a protected area. Minister Nyalandu has denied this to the press saying that he had been to Loliondo to talk about land use planning. This is word against word, but it can be questioned why politicians that would benefit from riding on the success of defeating Minister Kagasheki would make up such a lie. It can also be questioned why Minister Nyalandu, not being minister for Lands, but the head of a Ministry interested in expanding protected areas would come to Loliondo repeatedly to talk land use planning.
Sadly the press release from the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism includes the ugly habit of talking “misleading, malicious and meant to tarnish the image of our country and her international standing”. This way of using paranoia and xenophobia when mistreatment of Tanzanian citizens is brought up is not worthy of a serious nation, and much worse is the habit of accusing Tanzanians of being from a neighbouring country when they speak up against injustice, as has again crept up in the press.
The current urgent need is for a written statement from the Government of Tanzania that no land in Loliondo will be turned into a protected area (imposing a WMA is included here) – ever. Too much was lost with the creation of Serengeti National Park and the Government’s, international conservation organisations’ and investors’ hunger for wildlife rich pastoralist land must be stopped from doing any further damage."