Friday, 27 September 2013

Brief Summary of the – Hopefully Now Forever Stopped – Plan of Grabbing 1,500km2 from the Maasai of Loliondo

The Government of Tanzania has repeatedly declared interest in taking 1,500km2 of important dry season grazing land bordering Serengeti National Park from the Maasai of Loliondo and Sale divisions of Ngorongoro District.

Under the provisions of the Village Land Act No 5 of 1999 – and under customary land tenure since as long as can be remembered - this land belongs to the villagers of Ololosokwan, Soitsambu, Oloipiri, Oloirien, Maaloni, Arash, Malambo and Piyaya – and the land is also of vital seasonal importance for pastoralists beyond the borders of these villages. The loss of this land would signify the destruction of tens of thousands of lives and livelihoods.

In 1992 Otterlo Business Corporation – OBC – that arranges hunting trips for royalty from the United Arab Emirates got a hunting permit (hunting block) for the whole of the 4.000km2 Loliondo Game Controlled Area and the core hunting area falls within the 1.500km2 in conflict. The hunting block was handed over in a scandal still remembered as Loliondogate and the permit has since kept being renewed. There have been many allegations of OBC breaking all hunting laws and the company has made constructions within 10 metres from a vital water source for wildlife and for residents of Soitsambu, Kirtalo, Ololosokwan and Arash.

In 2004 the Government and Frankfurt Zoological Society proposed the establishment of a Wildlife Management Area in Loliondo. This idea was decidedly rejected.

In 2008 TANAPA erected border beacons on the village land of Ololosokwan. These beacons were destroyed by villagers.

When the hunting season was approaching in the drought year of 2009 the Field Force Unit assisted by OBC started evicting people from the 1,500km2. Houses were burned down and many cattle were lost, while 7-year old Nashipai Gume disappeared in the chaos and has never been found. 

The reasons given for the human rights abuses were protection of wildlife corridors and water catchments – and the Maasai were accused of being invaders from Kenya. These are also the reasons that have been used to justify the land grab plan.

Several Government probe teams visited Loliondo leading to either whitewash or no result at all.

In 2010 a constitutional case was initiated by several CSOs against, among others, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism and OBC.

The evicted people eventually moved back.

In 2010 Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 came into effect. Game Controlled Areas had previously not affected grazing and agriculture and Loliondo GCA overlaps in its totality with registered village land, but with the new act such activities are restricted and GCA is now the name for a kind of protected area. The act also states that GCAs and village land are no longer allowed to overlap.

Towards the end of 2010/beginning of 2011 a non-participatory draft Land Use Plan for Ngorongoro District was exposed. In this plan the Government’s intention of taking a “corridor” of 1,500km2 as the new kind of GCA that’s a protected area is made public. The making of this Land Use Plan had been financed by OBC. The Ngorongoro District Council vigorously rejected the plan.

In 2011 the village of Ololosokwan was requested to hand in its village land certificate – which was refused.

Some leaders “reconciled” with OBC and some thought that the Government had been defeated.

In November 2012 it was found that TANAPA again had border beacons stored at Klein’s Gate. There were big demonstrations and the beacons were dumped inside the national park by the villagers.

After ambiguous “stakeholders’” meetings, in March 2013 the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, announced that the Government would take the 1,500km2. Though to justify this land grab the Minister brazenly lied that the people of Loliondo were “landless” and would be given 2.500km2. Then he went on making announcement after announcement and press conference after press conference. 

Big meetings were organised in various villages where people decided to fight against the land grab plan.In Magaiduru a women's meeting refused to disperse until the governing party sent delegations. A big group of university students travelled home to support their community.

There were reports of people handing in their CCM cards and governing party representatives finally went to Loliondo for damage control. CCM’s Deputy Secretary General Mwigulu Nchemba expressed support for the people of Loliondo. The opposition party Chadema also arrived, and MPs Tundu Lissu and Peter Msigwa spoke up in parliament.

Several protest delegations from Loliondo travelled to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma to meet people in power. Kagasheki’s vociferous campaign full of lies died down after Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda issued a letter to the Regional Commissioner for Arusha saying that the land did indeed belong to the villages and people would be seriously affected by losing the 1.500km2. The PM’s letter however talked about surveying what “infrastructure” there was and did not show an understanding for pastoralism.

Besides the tireless work of the local NGOs several international organisations voiced their support for the people of Loliondo.

In July 2013 Frankfurt Zoological Society were again researching to "assess community acceptance for a WMA", and saying that they had German funds for land use plans.

On 3rd September a team from the Ministry for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments started a survey of the villages of Loliondo and Sale. The following morning they were ordered to stop and return to Dar es Salaam - allegedly after a complaint from the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism.

On 23rd September Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda at a meeting in Wasso declared, according to people who were present, that the plan of taking the 1.500km2 had been stopped, that the land belonged to the Maasai and their coming generations and that the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism would no longer be allowed to bother them – the people of Loliondo were told to continue their lives as before his statements.

The Prime Minister’s statement is cause for celebration – but in newspaper articles things do not look quite as good. In the Mwananchi the General Manager of OBC is quoted and he seems to look forward to new Land Use Plans. It’s also a fact that the land grab plan is much older than Kagasheki’s time as Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism.

I would stay very vigilant while celebrating.

Susanna Nordlund

A regular update is on its way.


Scatt said...

As always, thanks for the update - let's hope it's for real and forever.

Susanna said...

Thank you, Scatt. Let's hope and stay vigilant.

Anonymous said...

I read all your fascinating blogs from past to present. They read like a mystery/crime account, and I so appreciate your calling the world's attention to the goings on within Loliondo and environs. Please keep us posted. Ed Loosli
Chairman, The Wildlife Foundation (Kenya). Ed-L(at)

Susanna said...

Thank you, Ed. I wish you were based in Tanzania. ;)