Vicious Media Campaign for the Renewal of the 1,500 km2 Land Grab Threat in Loliondo.
Posted on Dec 12, 2016
Vicious media campaign and aborted visit by the PM.
On 17th November the RAI newspaper published an article, Pori tengefu Loliondo lishushwe daraja (I), - presented as information for the government, conservation stakeholders and Tanzanians - inciting against the people of Loliondo and praising OBC in the usual style, so well-known from Manyerere Jackton’s over 20 articles in the Jamhuri – lying that Loliondo is a “protected” area threatened by cattle – many from Kenya – and agriculture, mentioning Karkamoru with its proximity to OBC¨s camp as a particularly bad example, and describing the Emirati hunters as involved in development and conservation. The writer claims that the government has failed to implement the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 in Loliondo, conveniently forgetting how this Act makes it clear that the new kind of Game Controlled Area that’s a protected area can’t overlap with village land, which is what all land in Loliondo is classified as, and intents at imposing this kind of GCA have been stopped. This article does not add the usual wilfully demented and delusional talk about who would be “benefitting from destroying the Serengeti ecosystem”, but it was only “part one”. The version available online doesn’t show the “journalist’s” name, but the editor of the Mtanzania and the RAI, Masyaga Matinyi, had in a chat on 4th November, between editors of media houses and President Magufuli, posed a question about a very big threat against conservation that “a person in Loliondo” … had told him about the previous day, and that consisted of 800,000 (!) cattle – many from Kenya – entering Serengeti National Park. Some very trustworthy people viewed the president’s reply positively, since he talked about the lack of meat processing plants making it impossible for pastoralists the reduce their herds, but before that Magufuli said that allowing grazing in Ngorongoro and “Serengeti” (the latter obviously not allowed) was something “temporary”, and appointing generals to TANAPA showed what the government wanted to do, which was followed by laughter from part of the audience. I found this spine-chilling, but could have missed something due to my limited Swahili. At least Magufuli seems not to have understood that the question was about Loliondo and, as the following article showed, at the service of the “investor”. This was not the first time for the RAI newspaper.
On 28th November Zephania Ubwani in the Citizen shed more light at what’s going on, openly stating that his source was a “report” made by OBC and entitled “Loliondo GCA Is Diminishing” that had been “released” on 7th November. Ubwani makes some kind attempt at balancing by, in the last paragraph, mentioning that human rights activists have “accused” the government and OBC of human rights abuse, and of plotting to evict Maasai pastoralists from their land, and that activists and their lawyers were recently arrested and charged in Loliondo – but the rest of the article is apparently copy and paste from OBC’s “report”. Better would be to report about the extrajudicial evictions in 2009 for the benefit of OBC and about the Kagasheki-style threat that would have led to more evictions, if not stopped in 2013. At least, the journalist could have checked the Village Land Act nr.5 of 1999, instead of repeating OBC’s obvious lies that the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 would in some mysterious way have turned village land into protected areas allowing mass evictions and human rights abuse…
Then, on 3rd December came an article by Masyaga Matinyi in the Mtanzania, Majaliwa, huyu ndiyo ukweli wa Loliondo (Majaliwa, this is the truth about Loliondo) that was directed at Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa who was to visit Loliondo on Monday 5th December. The article starts by lamenting the fact that Kagasheki’s threats of alienating 1,500 km2 of essential grazing land – the same land that is OBC’s core hunting area – from the Maasai was stopped by former PM Mizengo Pinda in a speech on 23rd September 2013, goes on to concern for the environment needed for the killing pleasure of Emirati royalty, claiming that it’s perfectly legal for a minister to alienate village land, and inciting against the Loliondo NGOs, trying to tap into xenophobia by lying that they would be led by “foreigners”. It seems like Matinyi has taken over after Manyerere Jackton who’s strangely silent after his “successful” involvement in having innocent people arrested. Though Manyerere wrote an article urging Majaliwa to “save” Loliondo in July this year. The article by Matinyi was also published in the RAI online on the 8th with the headline, “Majaliwa, fursa pekee ya kuiokoa Loliondo (Majaliwa, special opportunity to save Loliondo)
On 5th December Masyaga Matinyi - and Manyerere Jackton - were sighted at Honest Guesthouse in Wasso, together with OBC’s general manager, Isaack Mollel, but PM Majaliwa had for some reason changed his plans, and didn’t visit Loliondo.
Majaliwa had the previous day returned the right of occupancy (title deed) of Manyara Ranch in Monduli – that instead of being returned to the villages Oltukai and Esilalei already in 1999, as was promised by President Mkapa, ended up in the hands of the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust (a partnership between the infamous AWF and the former MP for Monduli, Edward Lowassa) leading to a 17-year land struggle. The deed was handed to the district that’s directed to work with the villages on planning the future of Manyara Ranch. Remember also AWF’s land purchase (together with TNC) leading to brutal evictions of the Samburu at Eland Downs/Kisargei in Kenya and how they gave the land as a gift to the government when the Samburu fought back, and their “partnership” with Thomson Safaris with their violent claim to ownership of 12,617 acres in Loliondo.
In Ngorngoro on 6th December Majaliwa ordered NCAA officials to give him the whereabouts of a rhino called John, said to have been sold by some named NCAA and TANAPA officials to the private Grumeti Reserve. Then he suspended the NCAA chief accountant who was already under investigation for corruption. The PM also engaged in the usual talk about those not indigenous to NCA by 1959 having to move out, resuming the Kakesio Ranch project, and NCA providing water projects. The crucial issue of food security wasn’t much touched upon. There was however swift action on the rhino issue, and on the 9th the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Maghembe, informed Majaliwa that John had been transferred because of inbreeding problems in the crater, and had died in Grumeti Reserve. The horns were presented to Majaliwa in a wooden box.
And on 6th December the online version of the Arusha Times appeared with its article, Loliondo on the edge of ecologicaldisaster, about OBC’s “report”. This article too just repeats OBC’s lies about what the law says. Though the unnamed reporter claim to have talked to an OBC official who declined to comment on the land conflict, only wanting to talk about environmental destruction. The report – that I’m yet to get hold of – is quoted as saying, "As a result of environmental destruction and human intrusion some animal species like cats, lions and buffalos [have] disappeared and/or [are] very difficult to find. This has adversely impacted on the hunting activities, especially the quality of trophies and their availability." It’s so difficult to get hold of this report that it has led some to believe that it doesn’t exist in any other form than a press release. If someone does have it, please send it to me.
Considering how easy it is for wealthy people to get away with grabbing indigenous people’s land when claiming to be unbiased wildlife experts and environmentalists, it’s a wonder that OBC have not earlier walked down this path this loudly, but I fear they now, when so many people have been intimidated into silence, feel quite safe.
The demented espionage and sabotage case – with the aim of silencing anyone who could ever speak up - was on 21st November postponed until 22nd December, since the magistrate had other duties in Arusha. On that date, it will be seen what “investigation” the accusation has done, and if there’s a glimmer of sanity and decency the case will be dismissed. Though sadly it has already served its purpose silencing some people. The illegal assembly case against some PWC staff has been dropped for lack of evidence.
I should also mention that the direct involvement in the sinister character Gabriel Killel, director of the NGO Kidupo, in the illegal arrests is getting clearer and clearer – not least since Killel himself is reportedly boasting about it. I’ve been told that Killel went to Dar es Salaam to meet the interrogation task force for a week before their arrival in Loliondo. Killel’s “friendship” with land grabbers was revealed in October 2014 when he went with a group of people to Dodoma to declare support for Thomson Safaris and OBC. He seems to first have thought he could keep his corruption secret and collect money from both land grabbers and a Sami organisation for indigenous solidarity, and became very aggressive threatening those he thought had talked about him.
On 24th November, it started raining heavily in all areas of Loliondo and Ngorongoro divisions, but the rain has since been insufficient.
By Susanna Nordlund