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Susanna Nordlund's blog about threats against Maasai land in Loliondo - Thomson Safaris, OBC and ruthless hypocrisy.

Minister Maghembe Declares War on the Maasai of Loliondo - The dry season became catastrophic. There were more meetings by the RC’s committee. Herders were shot by Senapa rangers. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism made a declaration that the land had to be taken - flanked by OBC’s journalists. The councillors protested the minister’s declaration. The situation is terrifying.


The dry season continued in January turning into a drought described as worse than the one of 2009. Cows are dying and people are gravely affected physically and mentally.  
 
The RC and the Committee
The Arusha Regional Commissioner Mrisho Gambo returned on 16th January to, as ordered by Prime Minister Majaliwa, together with the committee – consisting of representatives of government organs. “investors”, conservation organisations, NGOs, women and youths, and local political, traditional and religious leaders - continue “finding a solution” to the conflict over 1,500 km2 of village land next to Serengeti National Park that the hunters from Dubai, OBC, and representatives from some ministries want to turn into a protected (not from hunting) area and thereby evict the Maasai that already lost land with the creation of the national park.  Hopes were high that the RC would be on the side of the people. On the 16th, OBC’s “report” (that I still haven’t got hold of) about the environmental necessity of the Game Controlled Area 2009 was presented and got support from TAWIRI, parastatal within the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism. The problem with unmonitored big game hunting by foreign millionaires was apparently not addressed, among other elephants in the room, and OBC’s Isaack Mollel could arrogantly extend himself on talk about OBC’s contributions to the District and the community.   

 

On the 17th the whole committee went on a field trip to the areas under dispute, passing from near the border with Kenya at Kuka Hill in Ololosokwan to Klein’s Camp, Oloosekek, Leeneti, Sikiya, Kirtalo across the boma of the chairman and further to Oloipiri. On the 18th the field trip continued from Oloipiri to Olorien and Arash. Sadly, representatives from Tanzania National Parks Authority, TANAPA, and others, refused to listen to the leaders from Loliondo who were trying to placate them with talk about a Wildlife Management Area, WMA (almost as bad as GCA 2009) and the “conservationists” crudely just ran off looking for where to put the boundaries of the Game Controlled Area as per Wildlife Conservation Act 2009, the threat to their existence that the Loliondo Maasai have now spent years and so much effort warding off. The director of TANAPA, Allan Kijazi, and the regional security officer, Fratela Mapunda, have been mentioned as particularly aggressive. Another individual that have featured in media in shameless support of robbing the Maasai of the 1,500 km2 of osero is the Director of Wildlife, Alexander Songorwa. On 21st January, the RC declared that there were two options: GCA 2009 and WMA. Both are very bad news for pastoralists in Loliondo, and that’s also what leaders were told in following meetings with community members. I remember that someone once told me that the result of a WMA is the same as with a GCA 2009 for a herder who will be told by rangers to, “stop, this is a protected area now”, or in harsher words and acts. The RC declared that another committee would go through the two proposals marking special areas that are of interest for investors. 

Talking about a WMA is a huge defeat since proper land use management can be done on village land without introducing formulas that further increase the influence of investors and conservation organisations, and not a single pastoralist in Loliondo wants a WMA. This does of course not stop OBC’s devoted journalist Manyerere Jackton to in a rambling incitement piece – there are over thirty of those now - describe a WMA as a sinister idea to stop the GCA 2009, and that the reason is that some NGOs and village leaders will benefit. Though the ones this journalism likes to write about have earlier managed to stop the idea of a WMA in Loliondo. Manyerere Jackton also again describes me as a “spy” – which would be hilarious under other circumstances - and tries to accuse some people of being my friends… 
 
There have been media coverage, but as usual, even journalists that aren’t directly campaigning for the benefit of OBC, fail to describe what’s going on, talking about a conflict between two parties and most of the time ignoring the horrible abuse of power by authorities that for decades, for the benefit of unethical “investors”, have been threatening the lives of Loliondo pastoralists, even via extrajudicial evictions in 2009 - and the malicious prosecution for the sole sake of silencing those that could speak up is still ongoing (in court again on 20th February).
 
One tiresome aspect is how the Loliondo Division Tourism Officer, Elibariki Bajuta in the press talking about the contributions by “investors” has shown himself unable to count both plus and minus. OBC’s often-mentioned charitable contributions come to nothing when their long campaign for eviction – extrajudicial burning of houses in 2009, then paying for a draft district land use plan for eviction, their recent shameless media campaign, and their stirring up conflict using divide and rule, is counted as well. Neither do Thomson Safaris’ “charity” show any positive numbers when their way of aggressively, using lawyers, violence and OBC’s recipe for divide and rule to claim ownership of 12,617 acres of Maasai land is counted in.
 
Herders shot by Senapa rangers
On 24th January at Kuka Hill on the boundary with Serengeti National Park (not inside) some herders were trying to negotiate the rounding up of cattle by Serengeti rangers who opened fire and shot 20-something Koroja Tanin in the leg when he was running trying to chase back the cows from where the rangers were detaining them. 15-year old Alagari Meiteya was also injured and both were taken to hospital in Serengeti district. Rangers told the press that they had been threatened with swords, but not a single ranger was injured. The rangers have however filed a case against the herders... The same day were four herders shot to death by rangers in an anti-livestock operation in Arumeru.
 
 
Kuka Hill in July 2016
 
Maghembe
On 25th January, Jumanne Maghembe, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism visited Loliondo, - and flanked by OBC’s admiring “journalist” who since 2010 has specialised in hate speech against the Maasai of Loliondo, Manyerere Jackton, and Masyaga Matiny, editor of the RAI and the Mtanzania who also has been of help to the hunters from Dubai, - somewhere in the 1,500 km2 area, declared that the land had to be alienated before the end of March, this according to the few serious people present. Most of those attending are said to have been such as the DC (reportedly better than his predecessors, which doesn’t say much), the District Executive Director, district officials, OBC’s Isaack Mollel and other OBC staff. The minister also said that cows entering Serengeti National Park would be confiscated instead of fines being imposed on the owners.
 
 
Three stomachs: Manyerere, Maghembe and Matinyi.
 
Statement by councillors against Maghembe
On 27th January, the ward councillors of Ngorongoro District issued a statement protesting Minister Maghembe’s declaration calling for him to immediately stop his plan for the alienation of the 1,500 km2 and to stop stirring up conflict, interfering in the process initiated by the Prime Minister to find a lasting solution that will benefit people, conservation and “investors”.
 
Remember:
That all land in Loliondo is village land per Village Land Act nr.5 of 1999, and more than the whole of Loliondo is also a Game Controlled Area 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.
 
In 2007-2008 the affected villages were threatened into signing a MoU with OBC.
 
In the drought year 2009 the FFU 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. 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. 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, then Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda in a speech on 23rdSeptember 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 “Kenyan” and governed by destructive NGOs. OBC’s “friends” in Loliondo became more active in the harassment of those speaking up against the “investors”, even though they themselves don’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 and a truly demented “espionage and sabotage” case is still ongoing. 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 also wrote an “article” calling for PM Majaliwa to return the Kagasheki-style threat. I November OBC sent out a “report” to the press allegedly detailing the need for the alienation of the 1,500 km2 of essential grazing land. In mid-December, the Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo was tasked by the PM with setting up a committee to “solve the conflict”, and on 25thJanuary the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, 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.
 
Now everyone must stand up to stop the threat against the osero. At least the rain was falling while this blog post was being published. 
 
Susanna Nordlund
 

 

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