Wednesday, 19 February 2014

More About the Land Grabbing “Investors” of Loliondo (and NCA)

The rains came.
Kagaheki, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, resigned for Christmas and this was celebrated in Loliondo.
OBC isn’t doing anything at all (?)
In NCA Kakesio´s problem with the Friedkin group of companies continues and the NCAA isn’t doing much about it.
Thomson Safaris continue occupying Maasai land and presenting it as a model for community-based tourism, and again physically assault people who resist the occupation by grazing.
NGOs like Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Honeyguide Foundation excel in negative influence.

The dry season was on the way towards a catastrophe, but in early December it started raining seriously and the grass sprouted.

I’ve got some information about the latest land grabbing developments in Loliondo – and Kakesio (in NCA) – but as usual this blog post is delayed since it unfortunately takes some effort to get exact information, and some issues still have to wait to be written about.

The 1,500km2 “corridor”
In December Khamis Kagasheki, the notorious Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism finally resigned. Though this had nothing at all to do with him being the enthusiastic front figure of the latest attempt at grabbing 1,500km2 of important dry season grazing land in Loliondo. I wrote extensively about this bizarre land grabbing attempt based on lies – and fortunately stopped for now - in several blog posts in 2013. The reason for his resignation was an anti-poaching operation – mentioned in a blog post in November – that turned into the usual harassment of pastoralists, killing of livestock and into murder, rape, torture and extortion against mostly innocent rural people all over the country. This kind of behaviour by game rangers and other law enforcers is nothing new – and has been going on in various anti-pastoralist operations and in local conflicts all over rural Tanzania -  but the outrage finally reached parliament and even a parliamentary committee - this kind of entity can sometimes be less than competent - confirmed the human rights abuses. Besides Kagasheki the ministers for Livestock and Fisheries Development, Home Affairs and Defence and National Service had to go. The Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu was on 19th January appointed as full minister for Natural Resources and Tourism. I fear that he’s just more of the same.

Besides being cruel and false, as Kagasheki proved to be when making statements about Loliondo, he was also irresponsible and self-serving when at the start of Operation Tokomeza  he in front of tour operators called out for, obviously unconstitutional, extrajudicial killings of poachers. Though the president still expressed his sympathy for him and the other ministers that had to take responsibility for “mistakes committed by junior public officers” (as he labelled the human rights abuses…). Tour operators, and their tail in social media, formed a kind of Kagasheki cult even starting a petition to have him re-instated! Unfortunately I could also observe that some urban Tanzanians joined this cult and just did not care much at all about the human rights abuses. They calmed down after they got Nyalandu who seems equally interested in bonding with tour operators.

A somewhat strange detail of the cabinet reshuffle on 19th January was that the MP for Ngorongoro, Kaika Saning’o Telele was appointed as Deputy Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Development. In 2009 and at various occasions he has spoken up for the people of Ngorongoro, but during the mayor crisis last year Telele took off on a PR trip to China with the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, and on 30th April when several MPs in parliament were denouncing the grave 1,500km2 land grab threat he just thanked the government and Kagasheki – and complained that Ngorongoro District was too big. Telele has been involved in PR spectacles for Thomson Safaris a couple of times. Is the appointment payment for this, or for something he’ll do in the future, or is an attempt at keeping Telele as MP after 2015?

In a blog post from November I mentioned that Frankfurt Zoological Society’s board member and until recently long-time head of the organisation’s Africa programme, Markus Borner, in an interview in the newsletter African Indaba came out on total support of the government and OBC. This person who is considered an expert on the Serengeti ecosystem repeated some government lies and added his own – probably wilful – misrepresentation of the situation. FZS has a history of being a threat to Maasai land rights, and the organisation has during the recent crisis been gearing up their own plans. In July Thomson’s sinister former manager at “Enashiva Nature Refuge”, Daniel Yamat, was working for FZS doing research to assess community acceptance of a Wildlife Management Area.

Daniel Yamat returned to work for Thomson some time around September 2013 and FZS did find someone with the right “qualifications” for a new WMA technical advisor – Masegeri Tumbuya Rurai, former District Natural Resources Officer who on 20th May 2009, on behalf of the District Executive Director, wrote a letter to the village chairmen in Loliondo ordering villagers to remove all livestock from the 1,500km2, alleging that the District Council that met on 23rd May had resolved so. The District Council did not take this terrible decision and months later, after the evictions, Masegeri, still on behalf of the DED, wrote a new letter withdrawing the first one. Masegeri was also very helpful in the making of CHRAGG’s whitewash report about the evictions, and he was involved in the making of the draft land use plan, entirely funded by OBC, that presented the idea of the 1,500km2 as a protected area.

To make matters worse Germany in its bilateral cooperation is providing funds for, among other investments, land- and natural resource use planning for Loliondo. And this is supposed to be implemented by Tanzania National Parks Authority in cooperation with FZS - two organisations with a proven ill-will regarding land rights in Loliondo, and one of them a foreign NGO. FZS has rented a house and opened an office in Wasso.

I’ve been having problems getting updates about what OBC are doing. It seems like the high level hunting organiser from the UAE isn’t doing anything at all, which can’t possibly correspond with reality. In August OBC’s camp was being prepared for a somewhat delayed hunting season, but visits by royal guests kept being delayed, and as far as I know OBC is still waiting. After the Prime Minister reversed the threat of taking the 1,500km2, OBC’s general manager, Isack Mollel made some statements to the press as if he were looking forward to land use plans. This had a worrying sound to it, but I’ve been assured that OBC/Government/FZS will never get the land.

Kakesio’s Thorn
In April last year I ventured beyond Loliondo to writeabout the company Mwiba Holdings that was encroaching onto rainy season grazing land in the village of Kakesio in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This company had burned seasonal bomas in December 2012 when herders were about to return with their herds. Initially Mwiba recognised that they were in the wrong and were going to pay compensation, but then the company got involved with leaders of Simiyo Region and started basing its claim on saying that the land 14 kilometres inside Kakesio belongs to Makao village in Meatu district, even if it’s inside NCA, which is unheard of.

No solution has been found to this problem and in December 2013 the harassment of herders and cattle again intensified. Most confusing is the strange lack of action by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority on this encroachment by an investor into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

At a meeting on 9th January attended by virtually all influential men and women from Kakesio and a few NCA officials, including the Acting Conservator, people questioned NCAA’s inaction. The NCAA response was evasive. They said they had initiated an exercise to demarcate the disputed boundaries using beacons but that the demarcation was suspended pending an expected meeting between Arusha Region and Simiyu Region. The meeting was a last call for NCAA to take action or people would have to take it into their own hands. A meeting was set for 18th January and meanwhile the Divisional Officer would take the matter to the Regional Commissioner in Arusha. On the 18th the NCAA officials did not show up at the meeting because the RC, District Administrative Secretary, Division Officer and MP were travelling abroad. Next date was set for the 23rd when leaders for Simiyo Region would be present – but when this date came not a single NCAA official showed up. This time it was found that they were waiting for the RC’s team. The following day people started searching for the border beacons.

Mwiba is the Friedkin Conservation Group owned by the American billionaire Thomas H. Friedkin. Included in this group of companies are: Mwiba Holdings Ltd, the photographic branch Ker and Downey Tanzania (Legendary Expeditions for US sales and marketing), the hunting branch Tanzania Game Tracker Safaris (Legendary Adventures for US sales and marketing) that has also merged with Wengert Windrose Safaris and there is the charitable branch, Friedkin Conservation Fund. The Friedkin group is the investor at Makao WMA where they have Mwiba Wildlife Reserve, and the group also has the hunting block at the adjacent Maswa Game Reserve. Friedkin were directly involved in evictions and human rights abuse at Makao WMA in November 2011.

At meetings in Kakesio it has been established that people are is determined stop Mwiba from arbitrarily imposing boundaries

Thomson Safaris’ Land Grab
I’ve been informed that Thomson Safaris are using their close friend the shameless councillor for Oloipiri to mobilize some Laitayok women from Sukenya to say that they agree with the safari company. Towards the end of 2013 Thomson donated two motorbikes to schools in Oloipiri and the District Commissioner was present saying that the “stupid court case” will fail.

The Honeyguide Foundation is an organisation “dedicated to the long term support of communities and their conservation of wildlife and natural resources” and it does this using tourism. I first heard about Honeyguide in relation to Thomson in the 2010 article in Condé Nast that, even if containing some errors and being awkwardly soft on the land grabbers, was unusually “balanced” for an article in that kind of publication. Honeyguide’s director, Damian Bell, said in this article, “"The Masai came to believe that the place belonged to them," … “Thomson and Wineland were unaware of the complexities surrounding the Tanzania Breweries deal" … “They got in there without a good brief on the property, without due diligence. They went into it in the dark" This seems somewhat sympathetic to the Maasai even if it’s hard not to see “came to believe” as an insult, and the excuses for the safari company seem very forced and unlikely to have anything to do with reality. I sent a brief message asking for more information, but I did not get a reply. I just assumed that Honeyguide was looking for some “win-win” (an expression that makes me very suspicious) solution and didn’t want to offend the safari company by calling a spade a spade. The reality has proven much worse than this: as I have reported before, in December 2012 Honeyguide participated in a meeting that Thomson held after a PR-trip to Kenya for selected people.
Earlier Responsible Tourism Tanzania – an organisation that seems to have originated from the people behind Honeyguide and is supposed to audit and evaluate that tourism companies live up to certain standards, and to sell them certificates – announced on its website that Thomson Safaris had kindly provided office space for RTTZ’s researchers and auditors. This is a remarkably clear case of corruption, but nobody seemed to be particularly surprised, or react in any way at all.
If anyone had any doubt it should now have been removed as to which side Honeyguide has chosen regarding land rights since the organisation at some time in 2013 employed Jeremy Swanson O’Kasick as a consultant. Jeremy O’Kasick has since at least 2007 been Thomson’s “journalist” and project manager writing their press releases and contacting journalists about the land grab that they are presenting as a model for community-based tourism. He has also been working hard together with his wife lobbying district, regional and national authorities.

On 13th and/or 14th January Thomson’s guards together with the police physically assaulted several herders:
Songori Nkoitoi from Mondorosi was caught by the guards, forced to drop all his tools and kneel down, and was then badly beaten.

I’ve been told about three cases from Sukenya:
Kaigil Ngukuo (same name as a certain councillor) who was grazing cows on the occupied land also got caught and was beaten so that several bones in his left hand were broken. I’m still waiting for more details about this case. I do have photos that could be published when allowed.

24 year old Munjaa ole Musa was looking for lost cows when he got caught by Thomson guards together with the police. His hands were tied together and he was beaten with sticks and belts on legs and arms, and he got a knife cut in the arm which led to considerable bleeding. A policeman holding a firearm told Munjaa that he would be killed. Then the attackers wanted Munjaa to give them information about a man that had fought with a policeman, which was difficult since he had never heard about this man. Munjaa was taken to Thomson camp where he was detained for unknown reasons.

Kendo ole Maiwa, 46, was found by Thomson’s guards and police when grazing calves near his home together with two young sons. Kendo was punched and beaten with sticks. One policeman slapped him on the mouth so that he started bleeding a lot. Kendo was handcuffed and taken to Thomson’s camp together with Munjaa while beating and kicking continued. Kendo could not find the calves when he finally was released after seven hours.

Later the injured herders went to Wasso Hospital for treatment after having obtained the correct police form to be filled out by the doctors. Ngukuo’s hand was x-rayed, found to have broken bones and plastered. For reasons best known by themselves, the doctors refused to fill out the police forms.

On the 15th villagers were holding a meeting about the attacks by Thomson’s guards and the police. At the meeting much bitterness was expressed about Daniel Yamat. People resolved to continue grazing on the occupied land. While the meeting was taking place Thomson detained a big number of cows. Upon hearing about this warriors headed towards Thomson’s camp wanting – very understandably - to burn it down. Thomson called in police from Loliondo and the police fired shots into the air. The cows were released in the evening.

On the 16th the chairman of Sukenya – who for years was a friend of Thomson – was together with the sub-village chairman of Sukenya Juu summoned by security officers and warned that they were going against the government’s prohibition of grazing on the land occupied by Thomson.

On the 19th the village chairmen went to Arusha to consult with lawyers and while they were there Yamat was working on making the women of the “cultural boma” in Sukenya complain that their leaders wanted to stop tourists from doing business with them. 

On 3rd February a meeting was held in Sukenya called by Thomson’s staunch supporter the DC and attended by the District Administrative Secretary, security officers, the District Council chairman, councillors for Soitsambu and Oloipiri, village chairmen and villagers. Thomson’s Arusha manager, John Bearcroft, was there and said that the safari company and the villagers are fighting over a fish. “One gets the head and one gets the tail while the lawyers and village governments get the fat middle part.” These are the some heavy words from the most hypocrite of fish thieves, but it’s not the first time this manager chooses his words in an unfortunate way. It’s hard to forget that he in a PR film for the land grab says, “we borrow the land from our children and our children’s children” when this tour operator’s obsession with landownership is the cause of the problem. Committees were formed to look into things. All three chairmen stayed united and it was clear that Thomson are still refusing any real negotiation about returning the land that they are occupying.
And by the way, the village governments aren’t getting any fish fat and the community lawyers get low-fat fish from Minority Rights Group. Only Thomson’s lawyers get corporate fish. If that’s a problem, just return the grabbed land!

The case for an injunction is very strong and it will quite shortly be heard.

The days of land grabbing “philanthropists” and their ruthless hypocrisy have to end!

Susanna Nordlund
(Please contact me with any information you may have. The amount of information I get is very small compared to the amount of time I spend begging for it.)

And thank you, Kiyyian.

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