Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Campaign for a 1,500 km2 Land Grab and Eviction in Loliondo has Failed for Now


Fortunately, PM Majaliwa did not follow OBC’s and its journalists’ call for eviction from the 1,500 km2.

Sadly, the rule of terror was not addressed, other than indirectly approvingly.

OBC’s most devoted journalist was both happy and very unhappy

Dogs ate bushpig on occupied land.

NCA.

The outrageously malicious prosecution was postponed again, under threat.

Edit: the situation has worsened and a new blog post is on the way.

As so often is the case, this blog post is far too delayed, and I now have to publish it without some details I was searching for.

A very brief summary about the 1,500 km2 for any new readers:
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 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 “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 had in July 2016 called for Prime Minister Majaliwa to bring back the plan threatening the 1,500 km2, and in November 2016 started an openly active media campaign by OBC – sending a “report” prepared by the company, or a press release of a report, since nobody can get hold of it - to journalists. Masyaga Matinyi, editor of the RAI and the Mtanzania, came out as another journalist working directly for OBC’s interest, but the most terrifying part was the complete media silence from NGOs, and leaders from Loliondo.

People must however have been working behind the scenes, since the PM upon his visit did not declare the alienation of the 1,500 km2, but recognised it as village land. Though he failed to speak up against the rule of terror. He even used it himself. The directives were for the Regional Commissioner to find a solution to the conflict, via “talks” between villages and OBC. It’s unclear what this means, but it does seem like the current plan is for a return to 2008…

The PM returned
The media campaign urging Prime Minister Majaliwa to renew OBC’s 1,500 km2 land grab plan, a campaign that lately seemed to be led by the editor of the Mtanzania and RAI newspapers, Masyaga Maitnyi, was on 14th December (online) joined by OBC’s long-time defender, Manyerere Jackton, in the Jamhuri where this “journalist” has by now written some 30 articles inciting against the Maasai of Loliondo, and in July urged the PM to renew the threat revoked by his predecessor in September 2013. Both “journalists” were in Wasso waiting for the PM on 5th December together with OBC’s general manager Isaack Mollel, but for government issues, the PM’s Ngoronogoro visit was cut short and he didn’t come to Loliondo.

PM Majaliwa’s visit to Loliondo was resumed on 15th December when he started by spending some time at OBC’s camp (or at least that’s what the timetable said), continuing to the boundary with Serengeti, to Ololosokwan, and finally to Wasso.  He was accompanied by the Arusha Regional Commissioner Mrisho Gambo, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Jumanne Maghembe, and the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and MP for Ngorongoro, William Olenasha. Majaliwa didn't do anything to deny the fact that the 1,500 km2 that OBC keep scheming for is village land – quite the contrary since he clearly recognised the village land - and this, while a relief, has led to somewhat disproportionate praise for the PM who only maintained status quo. The directive seems to be for the RC to lead talks between the people of Loliondo and OBC, as if there had not been plenty of that during this quarter of a century, OBC’s wishes weren’t so well known – and recently again loudly announced in national press. If the hunters are to be kept happy, or somewhat happier, cows will have to be chased. The PM stressed that both investors and the people are important, which would make sense if he were talking about Sonjo and Loita, or cultivators and pastoralists, but OBC are millionaire visitors who enjoy shooting wildlife in Loliondo, have been involved in human rights abuse and are campaigning for more of the same. They have plenty of money though… Maghembe, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, appears in some news clips being extraordinary rude in both tone and content, but nobody from Loliondo seems to have any comment about this.

More threats
Majaliwa didn’t address the current rule of terror in Loliondo, maybe due to ignorance, to soften the blow for OBC, or because freedom of speech and rule of law are under attack in the whole country. On the contrary, he further continued the old habit of threatening with deregistering NGOs not following “the country’s laws”, and not meaning the corrupt ones that have started working for “investors” and against the people, but naming some that used to speak up for land rights, accusing them of “creating chaos” – and those are the ones that have spoken up for the basic truths that the PM himself recognised. Though confused talk about not tolerating NGOs “giving children second hand sandals and sharing photos on the internet purporting that Tanzania is a very poor country” (as reported by the press) seemed more like wanting to appeal to some kind of “patriotic” middle class that thinks people should share photos of their children’s iPads, than really talking about the Loliondo NGOs. It should be remembered that two of those charged with the most bizarre bogus charges with the aim of silencing everyone are NGO people, and I will always recognise the fact that some NGO people in Loliondo could safely have dedicated all their efforts to education and health, but have taken considerable risks and paid a high price speaking up for land rights, and their (and other’s) silence is currently very much felt.

Anyway, OBC and its “journalists” failed at making the PM declare the 1,500 km2 osero as a “protected” area.

OBC’s journalist was happy
On 22nd December Manyerere Jackton’s “article” focusing entirely on Majaliwa’s threats against the NGOs appeared online in the Jamhuri and this first article strangely didn’t mention the fact that the PM - very strongly, according to some – recognised the 1,500 km2 as village land, which is completely contrary to what Manyerere has spent years on campaigning for. Besides complaining about the number and money of NGOs (ordering the budgets to be declared), the focus was (also according to more serious sources) clearly on “inciting conflict”, which is so maddeningly unfair when the PM with his own eyes can read the articles in which the “investor’s” report is described as explicitly urging him to declare a land grab that would lead to massive losses of livelihoods and increased conflict. The job of the NGOs, and of political and other leaders, would have been to respond strongly to such “articles”, but not a single word has been heard so far. Neither has anything been heard from OBC’s “friends” in Loliondo, who would obviously not have anything to fear for again praising their “investor”.

According to Manyerere – even though not anyone else seems to have heard it - Majaliwa also accused the NGOs of associating with a “Swedish person” dirtying the image of the country and bringing this person illegally to the country. Manyerere is very capable of both twisted interpretations and of complete fabrications. Anyway, read my blog! Nobody at all even comes close to my efforts at exposing the truth about foreign “investors” threatening land rights in Loliondo. Nobody even tries. The NGO people have never taken me to Tanzania. Even though I, for free, am doing what they should be doing,  they are far too unhelpful and undependable, maybe out of fear, and I’ve shed many tears over it. The past couple of years I haven’t even got much information from them. I’m writing what everyone in Loliondo knows, but nobody is writing down – and what has brought me to Loliondo is the ruthless hypocrisy of the “investors” and their “friends”, and their often-ridiculous lies that nobody responds to. Those dirtying the image of Tanzania are those that don’t respect land rights, human rights, freedom of speech, or rule of law, and those whose pens defend such behaviour. I’m writing for a clean-up.

Manyerere continues writing his own brand of demented “theories”, including the usual xenophobic nastiness of accusing some Tanzanians of being “Kenyan” and associating me with an NGO person while claiming that I would have been declared a prohibited immigrant for “inciting conflict”. While it’s true that my unlawful expulsion in 2010 and utterly illegal arrest and destruction of my laptop in 2015  happened for asking questions about “investors” and for writing the truth, I haven’t been issued with any document whatsoever explaining it, and what I was told in 2010 – before I had even started blogging – was that  I had been asking questions – about Thomson Safaris - without a “research permit”, and in 2015 I was told I had entered the country while being a PI. Though, this was still far from the wildest “theory” made up by this “journalist”…  Again, Manyerere adds the MP for Ngorongoro to his rant about the supposed “republic within the republic” as he describes the Loliondo NGOs at a time when they don’t even dare to do their job due to persecution, while the “investors” and their journalists can safely go on being as loud as ever.

Though I’d like to thank those who are able to explain land laws to the over-excitable and authoritarian.

And OBC’s journalist was very unhappy
On 28th December came the online version of Manyerere’s rant against the PM not announcing evictions and human rights abuse, Waziri Mkuu alivyopotoshwaLoliondo (How the Prime Minister was misled in Loliondo).

According to Manyerere, the Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, the Ngorongoro District Commissioner, Rashid Mfaume Taka, and the CCM regional chairman Michael Lekule, misled the Prime Minister, failing to explain the "environmental destruction". The RC is described as a friend of NGOs and of the tour operator &Beyond that has a contract with Ololosokwan village, and that in this “article” takes the place of the usual fantasies about “Kenyans”. The DC is described as initially having “recognized the value of conservation” – which in Manyerere’s own kind of language means that he was expected to support OBC – but “decided to implement the orders of the RC”. Manyerere keeps saying that the NGOs want the conflict to continue for their own benefit, and that they receive money for saying that the Maasai will be evicted, without recognising that the eviction would be for “conservation”… Well, in that case they would benefit if OBC’s wishes were fulfilled and there were evictions. Maybe Manyerere himself is working for them… It couldn’t be clearer that the main inciter of conflict in Loliondo is OBC’s megaphone Manyerere Jackton and his endless calls for eviction and human rights abuse, and he ends his rant with claiming that the Maasai will not be content with Loliondo, but will want the Serengeti and then more land…

Manyerere has problems with a committee appointed to “solve the land conflict” together with the RC, for not being representative. This is a strange complaint indeed from someone campaigning for the central government to announce eviction and human rights abuse. Even stranger is the fact that the committee – that consists of the good, the bad and the ugly of Loliondo - has a heavy presence of Manyerere’s very ugly “sources”, like Gabriel Killel of Kidupo who has become increasingly aggressive and dangerous, doing a lot of harm after being “befriended” by OBC and Thomson Safaris in 2014. It’s clear that Manyerere doesn’t even trust such people to defend the interests of the hunters from UAE.

The nonsense and the pure evil are – as usual - so evident that the audience – besides the obvious one - for this kind of “article” can only be those that know absolutely nothing about Loliondo – but sadly that means most Tanzanians, and it has never been more essential to speak up and set the record straight, now when the rule of terror seems to have silenced everyone who could have prepared a press statement.

And then happier…
Manyerere’s hate rhetoric continued in an “article” that was online on 5th January 2017. He says that the conflict isn’t between “investors” and the people, but the NGOs that benefit from it. In that case, Manyerere could try to show just one pastoralist in Loliondo who supports OBC’s and his own eviction proposal. He won’t find anyone, not even among the most destructive” investor”-befriended traitors. In the latest “article” Manyerere, alarmingly, seems optimistic about a “conclusion” of the conflict within the coming months, and we all know what kind of conclusion he wants. This is after a visit by the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Makani, on 29th December. Though all I’ve been told is that Makani just met with the “committee”. To end the article Manyerere goes on about the environmental benefits of the 1,500 km2 eviction. I still haven’t got hold of OBC’s “report” posing as environmentalists that was sent to journalists. I wonder who wrote it.

What’s clear is that if anything would again happen to the Maasai of Loliondo this “journalist”, Manyerere Jackton, must be brought before all human rights courts there are to answer for his violent incitement. Though fortunately it seems like he and his beloved OBC have failed for now.

Dogs ate bushpig on occupied land
 It’s currently extremely difficult to get any news from the 12,612 acres that Thomson Safaris arrogantly and often with violence, claim ownership of, but I was told that in the evening of 12th December a young moran - Letuya Sandet Ngai from Sukenya Village - was caught by Thomson’s guards on “Enashiva”. He was there with sheep and goats together with young boys and their dogs from the same boma. The dogs were eating a bushpig when TS’s vehicle suddenly appeared and the moran was accused of having killed it, while witnesses said that it was the dogs that killed the bushpig. Thomson’s guards took Letuya to Loliondo police station to hand him in without any written elaboration on why and how he was involved. Neither the police, the district council official present, nor the district court magistrate wrote anything. Relatives sought a way to finish the issue, but the magistrate could then not be found. They were told that the value of the bushpig was Tsh 944,550/=. The following day, in the afternoon, the moran was released on bail. I was told that this thing may not go to court, but just to the district council. If the price was agreed, the moran would be given a receipt, and the remains of the dead bushpig would be thrown away. I don’t know if that’s what then happened.

Ngorongoro Division
Since obtaining information is such a frustrating and time-consuming exercise, this blog is focused on Loliondo, but Ngorongoro Conservation Area is in a worse situation regarding eviction threats, food security – cultivation is not allowed - and there’s less democratic land management. There have been several worrying statements by PM Majaliwa that I need to look more closely into, but what I’ve been told is that there are “letters” that have been sent from the Prime Minister’s office and the President's’ office directing the Arusha Regional Commissioner, Ngorongoro District Council and the NCAA to find a place to dispose of the indigenous of the NCA who, according to bureaucrats, are a threat to the NCA survival. The same threats have been repeated by the Regional Commissioner during last year’s visit before the Prime Minister landed at the World Heritage property only to order livestock to be prevented from accessing the salt lick and water in the Crater. Such serious allegations need to be more closely investigated. According to the press, Majaliwa has called for a census of people and livestock in NCA.

Malicious prosecution postponed again
The insane espionage and sabotage case came for mention at Ngorongoro District Court in Loliondo on 22nd December 2016. 60 days had passed since the last extension, so the plan was to file for dismissal, but as the magistrate chamber was full of police with handcuffs ready for re-arrest upon dismissal, the defence agreed to postpone until 19th January so that the prosecution get more time for “investigation” …

Good rains are urgently needed in all areas of Ngorongoro District.

I wish that in 2017 fear will be gone from Loliondo, reason and justice will govern, the rains will be dependable, and Thomson Safaris and OBC will go somewhere else.


Susanna Nordlund

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