The past month there have been several illegal arrests of pastoralist human rights defenders in Loliondo division of Ngorongoro District, Tanzania – where foreign investors threaten land rights – and four people have been charged with baseless charges. Even a lawyer assisting these victims of ridiculous, but very dangerous, malicious prosecution has been targeted. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition is calling for wider condemnation of the ongoing harassment.
Update 2 September: The case was postponed until 17th October.
The Public Prosecutor despite of having been ordered by the Court to deliver complainant statement according to section 9 (3) of Criminal Procedure , failed to deliver this, but the case will come on 17th October 2016 to see the status of the prosecution case. There’s an agreement that this case needs to be conducted on speed.
Clinton “Engwes” Kairung – secondary school teacher from Kirtalo working in Digodigo – was arrested on 13th July, released temporarily on the 15th, re-arrested on the 19th and released on bail on 26th July. The reason for his arrest was that he had met me (who have a blog about the “investors” that threaten land rights in Loliondo) across the border in Kenya!
Supuk Olemaoi – secondary school teacher working at Loliondo Secondary School – was arrested on 14th July and released on bail on the 26th.
Samwel Nang’iria – coordinator for NGONET – was arrested on 19th July and also he released on bail on the 26th.
All three were interrogated by a task force sent from Dar es Salaam.
Yannick Ndoinyo, CCM councillor for Ololosokwan, Tina Timan, Chadema special seats councillor, Matthew Timan, former member of parliament, and Joshua Makko, chairman of Mondorosi village, were arrested as well - for one or a couple of days, before being released without charges.
These people were arrested without bail, hence the task force was in violation of the Constitution of the country which gives right to bail and presumption of innocence under Article 13. The law requires that those arrested should be granted bail, or be taken to court no later than 24 hours after arrest, and these victims of malicious illegal arrest were locked up for ten days.
Advocate Shilinde Ngalula from Legal and Human Rights Centre arrived to do his job assisting those arrested, but then he too was arrested – twice – the second time wearing his full court attire while waiting to represent his clients. Accusations against Advocate Shilinde, include “spying”.
Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition issued a statement.
An Habeas Corpus Petition was filed in the Arusha High Court by Jebra Kambole Sr. on behalf of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition.
An 26th July lawyers in Arusha held a manifestation to oppose the illegal arrest of advocate Shilinde and the Tanganyika Law Society also issued a public statement.
Then Clinton, Supuk and Samwel were released on bail.
The charges against Clinton, Supuk and Samwel are of the most maliciously ridiculous kind:
"Kumiliki nyaraka za serikali. (Being in possession of government documents)
Kuwasiliana na jasusi. (Communicating with a spy)
Kutukana viongozi wa serikali kwa tusi la pumbavu. (Insulting government officials with stupid insults)"
A court hearing was scheduled for 10th August, but was postponed until 2nd September.
Leading up to these illegal arrests there was increased activity by Manyerere Jackton, a journalist writing in the Jamhuri newspaper, who has produced over twenty articles inciting against the Maasai of Loliondo, going to the extreme of claiming that 70 percent are “Kenyan” by nationality, and publishing lists of private individuals that allegedly have this nationality. Exactly like the Loliondo “investors”, Manyerere Jackton attempts to underrate the realities of land dispossession in Loliondo as something trivial, simulated and stirred up by “corrupt” non-governmental organisations, and foreign agents. This “journalist” had before the arrests written several more anti-Loliondo articles, and very much focused on malicious fabrications about me and my reasons for having a blog about the “investors” that threaten land rights in Loliondo. During and after the arrests he openly – also in an article – showed off screenshots from the phones of those arrested to make his direct involvement with the interrogation task force clear.
The situation seemed to calm down, while a frightening silence fell over Loliondo, but on 15th August did Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) send out a press release condemning the still ongoing violations of pastoralist human rights defenders, and informing that on Friday 12th August had Maanda Ngoitiko of Pastoral Women’s Council been arrested when summoned to Arusha Police Station to collect her long-time detained passport. She was not granted bail or taken to court within 24 hours as required by law, but transferred to Loliondo three nights later. Maanda was accused of, “ruining government investment plans and doing espionage working with Swedish Blogger, Ms Susana Nurduland (Susanna Nordlund)”. After arriving in Loliondo she was released on bail. The sad irony is that I haven’t got any information - at all - from Maanda or PWC in a very long time.
The focus on me as a blogger is clearly meant to turn an over two decades long local land rights struggle into something stirred up by “dangerous foreign agents”.
THRDC called the media, CSOs, development partners, other Government officials, Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance, regional and international HRDs organizations to join THRDC in condemning the ongoing harassment of HRDs and CSOs in Ngorongoro.
Otterlo Business Corporation, OBC – a Dubai company/organisation, has had the Loliondo hunting block (permit to hunt) since 1992 and organises hunting trips for the highest levels of Emirati society. Right from the start, the grant of Loliondo hunting block became a scandal, branded as Loliondogate in the early 90s. The impropriety was broadly reported by journalist Stan Katabalo, who passed away in 1993 away under suspicious circumstances. The hunting block covers the whole of the 4,000 km2 Loliondo Game Controlled Area that’s more than the whole of Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district. All of the land covered by the hunting block is designated as village land in accordance with the Village Land Act No 5 of 1999 which consequently belongs to the local people of Loliondo.
OBC does not hunt in the whole 4,000 km2, but rather prefer hunting within a 1,500 km2 area next to Serengeti National Park which is also an important dry season grazing area.
This has led to several serious threats against this osero, or bushland, sometimes referred to as a “corridor”.
In 2009, and amidst one of the most serious droughts in recent times, local Maasai people were extrajudicially evicted from the 1,500 km2 area to accommodate for OBC’s interests. Hundreds of households were burned to the ground, thousands of livestock driven into an extreme drought area, and a 7-year old girl, Nashipai Gume, was lost in the chaos and has not been found, ever since. People eventually moved back.
The old kind of Game Controlled Area totally overlapped with village land and did not affect pastoralism and agriculture, but with Wildlife Conservation Act 2009 came a new kind of Game Controlled Area that was a protected area. If imposed on village land, the new model of Game Controlled Area would signify land grab, evictions, dispossession, and eventual resort to violence.
To put it clear, section 14(1) of the Wildlife Conservation Act, 2009 states that:
“the Minister may after consultation with the relevant local authorities, and by order in the Gazette, declare any area of land in Tanzania to be a game controlled area”,
Under section 16(5) the Act states further that:
“the Minister shall ensure that no land falling under the village land is included in the game controlled areas”
AND in 16(4):
“shall within twelve months of coming into operation of this act and after consultation of the relevant authorities, review the list of game controlled areas for ascertaining potentially justifying continuation of control of any such area”.
In early 2011, a draft District Land Use Plan – funded entirely by OBC – proposed turning the contentious 1,500 km2 of village land next to the Serengeti National Park into the kind of new Game Controlled Area. This failed as the proposal was obviously rejected by the Ngorongoro District Council. To date, there is absolutely no area of Loliondo that has been declared the new kind of Game Controlled Area, that’s a protected area.
In 2013, Khamis Kagasheki, the then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, in another attempt to please OBC, made threatening statements about the government’s intention to expropriate the 1,500 km2 of village land. Kagasheki announced the government’s position lying openly that the whole of Loliondo somehow had turned into a protected area, and that the government would be gifting the Maasai with land outside of the 1,500 km2.
Following Kagasheki misleading statements, there were many public meetings, and protest delegations were organised to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma. In response, in a speech at Wasso on 23rd September 2013, the then Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, came forward to eventually and officially revoke Kagasheki’s threat to dispossess local Maasai of their land.
Since then, there hasn’t been any a statement from the government about taking any village land in Loliondo though there have allegedly been threats in closed meetings, and the most sinister and determined media campaign against the Maasai of Loliondo, led by “journalist” Manyerere Jackton. As part of this campaign, in each and every media appearance OBC’s general manager, Isaack Mollel keeps repeating the “opinion” that the Maasai of Loliondo don’t have any land.
Another threat to land rights in Loliondo is the Boston-based Thomson Safaris that in 2006 bought the right of occupancy to 12,617 acres of Maasai grazing land from the former parastatal Tanzania Breweries, that had cultivated a small part of the land for a couple of years in the 1980s, and Thomson then turned it into their private “Enashiva Nature Refuge”. Such a project has of course led to harassment, beatings, arrests of “trespassers”, and two herders, Lesinko Nanyoi and Olunjai Timan, have been shot. A court case filed by the affected villages did not lead to justice, but has been appealed. Thomson Safaris aggressively push a story about a model for community-based tourism and conservation initiatives, while harassment of activists perceived to be working against them is even more intense than if only dealing with OBC, maybe because Thomson caters to the general public.
The total breakdown of rule of law in Loliondo for the benefit of a couple of foreign “investors” has to end…