Thursday, 28 November 2013

Good News, Strange News, Worrying Developments, Idiotic Comments and Inexplicable Silences about Loliondo Land Threats

After some months of silence central government reappeared and disappeared in Loliondo. Then the Prime Minister appeared and declared that the 1.500km2 belong to the Maasai and their coming generations thereby reversing the threats and lies by the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Long term FZS head comes out in support of the Government and OBC.
The court case against Thomson Safaris is ongoing, there’s still unity, but sinister old manager is back.
This dry season turned bad and grazing in Serengeti NP was needed. Cows and people were arrested with strange charge sheets.

After the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, had spent the first part of 2013 issuing threatening and bizarre statements about the Government’s intention of taking 1,500km2 of important grazing land for a “wildlife corridor” and several protest delegations from Loliondo had visited Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, the Prime Minister wrote a letter to the Arusha Regional Commissioner on 30th May and everything went quiet. Kagasheki had gone as far as calling the Maasai “landless” invaders of their own land, and saying that they were being “given” land since the Government would not take the whole of Loliondo Game Controlled Area (that in its totality is village land). The Prime Minister, in contrast, did recognise that the land does belong to the villages, but otherwise his letter wasn’t very promising since the PM did not show an understanding of the importance of this land for pastoralism. Nothing was ever heard from the Regional Commissioner about the Prime Minister’s letter.

While the Government was quiet Frankfurt Zoological Society became busy researching the possibilities for their (and the Government’s) old wish for a Wildlife Management Area in Loliondo, by which, instead of being evicted, the pastoralists would erase themselves out of the picture – but they won’t get anywhere with this, I’ve been assured by among others the councillor for Ololosokwan, Yannick Ndoinyo. (More about this in my Latest Developments and Safari Report). In fact, the only person in Loliondo I’ve found supporting the idea of a WMA (years ago in social media) is the District Natural Resources Officer Masegeri Tumbuya Rurai, which says a lot. Some supportive people from other areas have proposed a WMA as some kind of strategic surrender to assuage the government. This would mean sweet-talking people who would later find themselves blocked from grazing and water. The land use planning in Loliondo and Sale has to be done openly and democratically by the people of Loliondo and Sale for the people of Loliondo and Sale, for livestock and for wildlife. “Investors” and “conservationists” should just shut up and be grateful if allowed to hang around. Though unfortunately their wealth gives them a “charm” that’s irresistible to many. (Update 3rd December: Masegeri Tumbuya Rurai is FZS's new WMA technical advisor after Daniel Yamat returned to Thomson!)

It’s well known that FZS want a WMA in Loliondo, but their silence about the 1.500km2 land grab threat had - at least to me - seemed deafening until I on 9th October by chance came across an interview in African Indaba (newsletter for the “sustainable use” of wildlife – a hunters’ newsletter). In the June issue that I had totally missed Dr. Rolf D. Baldus interviews Prof. Markus Borner – until recently head of the Africa programme of FZS and still a board member. Borner who has lived and worked for 30 years in Seronera in Serengeti NP appears as if does not know that the totality of the old Loliondo Game Controlled Area belongs to the people of Loliondo and Sale and instead he says that a WMA would have given them the right to benefit from the land. He pretends that the Maasai – as opposed to the Government – do not consider the rights of future generations and also lies that not grabbing the 1.500km2 would be against the law! Borner has totally adopted the language of Government and the “investors” talking about “mostly foreign” NGOs that have a couple of Maasai who publicly support their positions – that would be a description of FZS… (The Loliondo NGOs, with all their faults, are led by people from Loliondo.) Are there some “good” Maasai that want to have their land taken and their lives and livelihoods destroyed – or what does he mean?  Borner comes out totally and unequivocally on the side of Kagasheki and OBC saying, “the present proposal seems a good way forward”. Apparently Borner is vengeful because of the rejection of a WMA and was looking forward to the 1.500km2 being grabbed so that FZS as a “mediator between communities and the central government” could organize charitable grazing for the Maasai. This is pure cruelty. Bad luck Borner - grazing in Loliondo will never be managed by FZS! To crown his grave misrepresentation Borner concludes that to alienate 40 percent of the land from the people of Loliondo and Sale (the percentage would be higher calculated only on Maasai pastoralist land) does not signify an eviction… He also seems to feel the need of disagreeing with the UN definition of indigenous people and to claim that the Maasai of NCA, that are in a much worse situation than those of Loliondo, have “exclusive land rights” of their area (they are under the colonial rule of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority). OBC (the organisation facilitating hunting trips for royalty from the United Arab Emirates to Loliondo since two decades, and which has its core hunting area in the 1,500km2 under conflict) is not mentioned by name and is only very vaguely referred to – and there’s no mention of the evictions and human rights abuses of 2009. Does anyone really believe that this is not the thinking that’s behind all of FZS’s community outreach rhetoric, a rhetoric that Borner until recently was part of? Borner may not have noticed, but the Maasai of today are not the Maasai of 1959 – and the Maasai of the future will be able to chase FZS all the way back to Germany. (I’d kindly ask anyone who finds anything outrageous like this interview with Borner to immediately email the link to me.)

Fortunately in the September newsletter of African Indaba natural resources management expert Fred Nelson responds to the misinformation of the Baldus/Borner abomination. He explains the legal parameters and current land use and importance of the 1.500km2 with great clarity. The short Baldus/Borner response to Nelson’s clarification shows that they choose to insist on Borner’s lies – that no longer can be explained away as some unlikely lack of information - trying to present the disagreement as a “difference of opinions”. There is a difference of opinion with Borner wanting the 1.500km2 to be grabbed from the Maasai and Nelson opposing it – but it’s also more than clear that Borner is telling lies and Nelson is not.

As mentioned before, in early August there were reports that the Member of Parliament for Simanjiro, Christopher ole Sendeka was calling Loliondo councillors pressuring them to tell people to remove cattle and bomas from the area in conflict. I have not been able to get more information about how this MP who has earlier been supportive of the Maasai of Loliondo came to work in favour of Otterlo Business Corporation, except for allegations that he has been given money and a vehicle. I was told that Sendeka pretended to be making these phone calls to the councillors for their own good to avoid anger in OBC and pressure on the government.

Around 25th August it was reported that OBC were preparing their camp for a delayed hunting season. When switching on their phones people within a 20-kilometre radius of the hunting camp started getting the message,
“Dear Guest, Welcome to the UAE. Enjoy the best network coverage and other unmatched services only with Etisalat. Please use<+> or <00> before the country code for int'l call. For directory services call 181, for availability of GPRS, MMS, 3G roaming services call Etisalat Travellers help line 8002300 & for inquiries on Tourism, entertainment, shopping, etc call 7000-1-7000 (Roaming rates apply) Have a pleasant stay in the UAE.”
Though from what I’ve been able to find out it seems like visits by high profile hunters keep being delayed.

Then, in September the Government reappeared: on the 2nd a delegation sent by the Ministry for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments held a meeting with Councillors and Civil Society Organisation representatives at Ngorongoro District Council. Isaac Marwa, the Principal Surveyor of this ministry, is reported to have said that there was no choice - after internal long discussions between the Prime Minister and the ministers for Natural Resources and Tourism and for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments the Government had agreed to abandon its proposal of taking 1,500km2 bordering Serengeti National Park. He added that the issue of Loliondo had attracted long discussions and campaigns across the world, including damaging the image of the nation, and they had decided to appreciate that the land belongs to the villages. A team of eight people would make a survey of the villages of Loliondo and Sale led by councillors and village leaders and monitored by CSOs. This was very good news even though nobody knew what trick the government could have up the sleeve and great care would have to be taken to survey up to the boundary of the National Park and to include the area where OBC have their camp.

On the 3rd the surveying team started with Sukenya and Mondorosi where Thomson Safaris are occupying 12,617 acres claiming the land as their private “Enashiva Nature Refuge” harassing the legitimate Maasai landowners as “trespassers” while presenting this as community-based conservation (more information about this can be found in most of my blog posts). The following morning when going to continue on to Nginye, Njoroi and Kirtalo the team was told to stop and immediately return to Dar es Salaam. The Council Chairman who phoned the Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments said that he’d been told that the night before the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism had issued a complaint wanting the survey stopped. The Minister said that the District Council should follow up with the Prime Minister and the President and not with her.

On 10th September land rights CSOs issued a joint statement.

I was contacted by a concerned person who wishes to remain anonymous. This person asked me to email a letter with corruption allegations against the District Natural Resources Officer, the MP for Ngorongoro, the MP for Simanjiro, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism and the CCM General Secretary. The allegations were that these people had received money and in some cases vehicles from OBC. There is of course no proof, but all of them – for reasons like years of staunch support or for recently having gone quiet – have deserved OBC’s gratitude. The letter writer is a person supposed to know what’s going on so I sent the letter to Prime Minister Pinda on 14th September. Since I’m not a friend of anonymous emails I said who I was and how I had got the letter.

On 16th September I was contacted by Robert Kamakia who had some worrying news that at the same time bordered comedy. I first thought this had to do with the letter I sent to the PM, but it does not seem so. The insanity was repeated and needed its own blog post, but I have not been able to make Robert check and authorize the post – and it’s one reason to why this update has been delayed …

On 22nd - 23rd September Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda visited Loliondo and on the 22nd the PM and an entourage including Anna Tibaijuka, the Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development and Lazaro Nyalandu, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism landed at OBC’s airstrip and then visited “projects” in Ololosokwan and other villages. The reports I got was that the PM had not said anything at all in Ololosokwan.

On the 23rd Wasso was overflowing with people who wanted to hear what the Prime Minister had to say. After a long wait, in the evening I got reports of total victory. I was told that the PM had more or less declared his love for the Maasai, told them that the plan of taking 1.500km2 was scrapped, that the land was theirs and for their coming generations – and that the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki would not be allowed to bother them anymore. They were asked to continue with their lives as before Kagasheki’s statements.

In an article in the Mwananchi the general manager of OBC, Isaack Mollel, is reported to before the PM’s statement have said that the tourism industry in Loliondo would die and the whole ecology of the Serengeti would be affected if areas in Loliondo weren’t set aside for “conservation”. Afterwards he said that he did not oppose the decision, but wanted also the NGOs to join meetings to prepare land use plans. This has a strange ring to it since the pastoralist NGOs when the surveying team from the Ministry for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments was abruptly called home issued a press statement calling for land use planning. Mollel must for some reason be expecting that land use plans will benefit the hunting company.

It should be remembered that in the HabariLeo of 23 November 2009 Mollel is quoted as saying that OBC had given the Arusha Region 156 million Tshs for land use planning – the planning that later came up with the 1.500km2 land grab idea.

Even though some leaders and other people have earlier been thoroughly befriended by OBC, the recent unity shown by the Maasai of Loliondo against taking 1.500km2 of grazing land away from them is an example to follow for other Tanzanian pastoralists (or anyone) under a land grab threat. I hope some more people than those directly affected could now get involved in the fight against Thomson Safaris. Most people seem (or seemed in September) confident that the 1.500km2 land grab threat will not be renewed before the general elections of 2015, and I hope they are right.

The dry season turned very bad and it was necessary to take cattle into Serengeti NP, which was possible paying unofficial “fees” to the Senapa rangers until the night before 12th October when rangers went on a cattle rustling raid taking more than 1,000 cows driving them to the Lobo area. They first demanded Tshs 20,640,000 and then raised it to 56,600,000 for releasing the cows. Later 13 cattle owners were arrested and taken to Bunda at the opposite side of the national park. What had hit the people of Loliondo was Operation Tokomeza that’s known as “anti-poaching” but turned out to be more of an escalation of violence against pastoralists. Due to the incompetence of the Tokomeza people the charge sheet talked about a non-existing “Loliondo Game Reserve”, apparently an extra error when trying to make the error of writing “Loliondo GCA” – which is what would have awaited the people of Loliondo if Kagasheki’s threats would have been implemented. Money was collected at a village meeting and a delegation from Ololosokwan went to Bunda with lawyers. Instead of a new case that would seriously have endangered the cows an agreement was reached and on 25th October the cows were released after a fine of Tshs 12,000 per head was paid for national park grazing. Five cows had died. The outcome of this kind of raid in other parts of the country has been far more terrifying with cows sold at public auctions or simply shot.

The actual anti-poaching activities in Loliondo/Sale consisted of on 29th October arresting the District Council Chairman and councillor for Malambo Ward, Elias Ngorisa, the Councillor for Digodogo Ward, Philipo Gweyamu, and the councillor for Samunge Ward, Jackson Sandea, and taking them to a military base in Bunda where they were given formal warnings before being released for lack of evidence. Ngorisa had during the recent Kagasheki crisis sided with the people after years of having been a close friend of OBC. The two other councillors are from agriculturalist Sonjo wards.

Operation Tokomeza has been used for landgrabbing and human rights abuses in Kimotorok village in Simanjiro, and murder in Galapo village in Babati. On 4th October in a frighteningly successful effort to gain popularity – at least among some tour operators and a certain kind of conservationists found in social media - Kagasheki had called for extrajudicial killings of suspected poachers – which a minister of course has no legal mandate to do. In fact there are reports of killings and torture of suspects and of very innocent people and livestock all over the country - something that unfortunately also happened before this operation - and on 1st November Parliament forced the Government to suspend Operation Tokomeza.

Another national operation that has recently hit Loliondo is Operation Kimbunga against “illegal immigrants”. Some people are defiantly urging those (government people, “investors” and some journalists) that usually accuse the Maasai of being “Kenyans” to step forward and tell who those “Kenyans” are. Though there have been reports of crimes committed also by those involved in this operation, and of people being sent to Burundi and returned by the Burundians because they were Tanzanians. By the way, the first thing I heard from friends of Thomson years ago, was that their problem was a “Kenyan” Maasai woman.

Some declaration in written form from the Government is needed and the old Loliondo GCA has to be degazetted as soon as possible. According to the 2009 Wildlife Conservation Act it should have happened before June 2011. A court case about this could be on its way. I also think that OBC’s behaviour should have led to them losing the right to hunt in Loliondo a long time ago.

Khamis Kagasheki is showing no sign at all of thinking that he should resign.

Thomson Safaris’ 12,617 Acres Land Grab

The land case against Thomson Safaris is moving forward and I’ve been told that there’s still unity after the chairman of Sukenya that had been befriended by Thomson, after a meeting with traditional leaders, decided to join the case. Unfortunately I’ve been having some problems getting updates about Thomson

I got some information from an alternative source that says that Thomson lately haven’t arrested anyone since they have failed in their attempts to have to Maasai landowners convicted for trespass. Neither was there in September any harassment and chasing of cows - as there had been a few days earlier when I visited in July - since the grass was finished and the cows supposed to be in the dry season area that the government wanted to grab. This source also says that Thomson have not come to the negotiation table.

It’s been reported to me that Thomson’s manager at “Enashiva Nature Refuge”, Josiah Severre has been let go and the sinister former manager, Daniel Yamat, who in 2011 went to work for Frankfurt Zoological Society – and who in July was researching community acceptance of a WMA – is now back managing the occupied land.

Former Thomson guests have fundraised for a girls’ dormitory at Soitsambu Secondary School built by Thomson’s charitable/propaganda branch FoTZC and at the inauguration on 18th October Daniel Yamat handed out what was described to me as “certificates for people that support Thomson’s operation”. Unsurprisingly this “thing” was given to the District Commissioner, the MP for Ngorongoro and the Ward Councillor for Oloipiri. I was also told that the MP, Saning’o Kaika Telele, praised Thomson a lot and nobody was allowed to make comments. It’s not the first time Telele has lent himself to Thomson propaganda and he showed some questionable behaviour when the Minister for NRT was declaring the intention of taking the 1.500km2 “corridor” (too much silence, a China trip, praising Kagasheki in parliament when the shadow minister of NRT made a presentation of Loliondo).

I’ve been told that Thomson have filmed Laitiayok women saying that they love this safari company with landowner aspirations and do not support the court case opened with the aim of returning the land to them and their grandchildren. I’ve not got many details about this, but it sounds typical of Thomson Safaris.

On 12th November Daniel Yamat went to Irmasiling where he accused people of environmental destruction and told them that the land does not belong to them, but to Thomson. He was told to leave and never come back. The same day Yamat closed a road to block the passage for motorbikes. On the 13th this manager of the occupied land went to Sukenya when the village was holding its general assembly. Yamat was accompanied by two young white people, and he said he had come to unite with the village since Thomson were ready to negotiate for good relations. Yamat was told that he was not trusted and that he should ask Judi Wineland to come if Thomson wanted to negotiate (I don’t know why people are lately not mentioning Rick Thomson). He was also told that the ongoing meeting had not been called by Thomson, and Yamat is said to have left “uncomfortable”.

After knowing Thomson for five years I would be surprised if now when there’s unity in the court case they aren’t very busy “befriending” people. It’s very important to name and shame those that are befriended – and to praise those that resist.

As I’ve mentioned before, besides their charitable branch, Focus on Tanzanian Communities, whose representatives work hard "befriending" select people around the occupied land and also district and regional authorities, Thomson Safaris have a writer and PR associate in their employment, two employees described as Social Media & Marketing Coordinators, at least one employee specialized in approaching universities and organisations - and this tour operator also pays thousands of dollars per month to an agency specializing in search engines, social media, online reputation management and analytics. Thomson continue with their propaganda campaign painting violence and dispossession as conservation and community empowerment and I, who am the only person confronting them online, would appreciate some assistance  from the people whose job it is to protect the rights of the dispossessed people. Going silent and just concentrating on an uncertain court case is an error. The victory in a battle of the fight against the 1.500km2 land grab threat has shown that being loud is important.

I have heard some reports about rain, but the drought is still worrying.

Susanna Nordlund

Please, anyone with information, share it with me!

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