Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Loliondo Women Say Enough is Enough

I was waiting to write something about recent developments in Loliondo until having the whole picture clear and some really good article to link to, but now it has occurred to me that a blog is a web log with ongoing commentary.

I’ve been told that on 6 April Maasai women had started gathering in the villages to go to Loliondo town and hand in their CCM (government party) cards. They were protesting against the July 2009 evictions to give way to the UAE hunting company Otterlo Business Corporation. The evictions included the burning of houses and other human (and animal) rights abuses. Several children were lost in the chaos and one of them has not been found. I have a summary of these events in my first blog entry. A parliamentary report into the evictions was supposed to be presented in Parliament in February, but was blocked by the CCM caucus. There’s considerable risk that the report is a whitewash, but a debate in parliament is needed.

OBC have their hunting block on village land, but now there are government plans to cut away a big piece of land creating a “buffer zone” along the boundary of Serengeti National Park and give this land to OBC to carry on their activities undisturbed. In my first blog entry I have a summary of the historical background that explains why pastoralists have to fight against every single square inch of grazing land being taken.

The night of 6 April police vehicles were sent to Ololosokwan where more than 400 women had gathered. The police warned the women that they would be fired on if they moved towards Loliondo town. In spite of this, in the morning the women started moving along footpaths. They were intercepted in Oloipiri and held up for hours having to listen to Ngorongoro District Commissioner, Elias Wawa Lali. It’s said that the MP also turned up, expressing support for the women. Then, under threats of violence, they were forced to get on a truck to return to Ololosokwan. Other women on the move were 60 women from Enguserosambu who were arrested and interrogated for hours and some 500 women who spent the night in the bush near Wasso.

The women who spent the night near Wasso managed to reach the CCM office in Loliondo where they handed in 1,883 CCM cards. Through their leader Kijoolo Kakiya from Piyaya they promised to hand in thousands of cards if their demands are not met by 16 April.

I’ve been told that their principal demands are:
1. That the parliamentary committee’s report into evictions of July 2009, blocked by the CCM caucus in February, be tabled when Parliament reopens this week.

2. That the government disavow plans to cut village land creating a buffer zone along the boundary of Serengeti National Park.

3. That women be allowed to have a peaceful demonstration in Loliondo town, since previous requests were turned down by the police.

The DC can’t believe that these protests have been organised by village women and, as is his habit, has started hunting NGOs. On 12 April three civil society organisation representatives were arrested, interrogated and locked up for the night by the Officer Commanding District. They were released on bail on the 13th. There’s an article in the Guardian reporting from before they were released. The three are Samwel Nangiria (NGONET Director), Robert Kamakia (NGONET) and an employee of OXFAM, Gasper Leboy. In the article the DC isn’t aware of anything and hasn’t seen anything.

Thomson Safaris, unsurprisingly, are involved in the same anti-NGO hysteria (to use a kind word) seeing themselves as the innocent victims of NGOs without which everyone would love their “philanthropic” grabbing of grazing land. More about them in my first blog entry.

It’s said that the police have started to interrogate women from the villages and have a list of 54 names. Yesterday the DC told staff in the District Office to go today to tell those who were evicted and have resettled on land claimed by OBC, that they must move for their own safety. The Regional Commissioner is due in Loliondo town in the next few days together with regional security people. There is pressure from the District on the women leaders to join a reconciliation committee to come to Loliondo for meetings - even as some of their number are being interrogated.

Authorities have seriously attacked the women’s constitutional rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression. Instead of listening to the legitimate complaints from a community under attack, DC Elias Wawa Lali seems intent on, even breaking the law, defending the anti-pastoralist government and its darling “investors”. How can the democratic United Republic of Tanzania accept to have a police state in Loliondo?

Susanna Nordlund

In July 2011 I posted a summary of the history of OBC and the "wildlife corridor".

No comments: