Friday, 18 April 2014

Tanapa Rangers Commit Arson in Arash – and Other News about Loliondo Land Threats*

The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism issued threats against pastoralists.
Tanapa rangers burned down bomas in Arash – and no action was taken against this.
There’s a dangerous lack of unity.
Seasonal OBC worker travel to Loliondo in the middle of the rainy season.
FZS are hard at work making top recruitments to carry out their plans for Loliondo.
Thomson Safaris continue occupying Maasai land and the court case against them is ongoing.
The American organisation EarthRights lends a hand to the struggle.
Update 22nd April: on 18th April the 1782 application in Massachusetts to get access to documents about Thomson was granted and on the 22nd there was a press release.

I’ve managed to get some information after much chasing of people in possession of it. Part of it is very serious news, but almost without debate and apparently totally without action taken.

OBC and the 1,500km2
I did not know when I wrote the latest blog post, but on 4th February the case against Ngodidio Roitiken and three other herders was dismissed for lack of evidence. In 2009 during the evictions and human rights abuses to empty OBC’s core hunting area of people and cattle Ngodidio lost an eye when he was hit by a tear gas canister in a clash between herders grazing their animals on their own land and the police at Mambarashani in Soitsambu. In a too common case of blinding injustice Ngodidio was charged with “trespassing, environmental destruction and threatening the police”. The court has not yet issued a written statement (as far as I know).

On 11th March at a ceremony in Dar es Salaam where Frankfurt Zoological Society - an organisation known for its hostility towards Maasai land rights - handed over 11 vehicles for anti-poaching to Tanzania, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, took the occasion to issue threats (at 2:36 min.) against pastoralists saying that neither they nor their animals would be spared if found in protected areas during next phase of Operation Tokomeza (I’ve mentioned this anti-poaching operation in earlier posts). Then Nyalandu went on to mentioning Game Controlled Areas. A protected area under this definition does not exist in Loliondo (but was used to create confusion for last years’land grabbing attempt) and as far as I’ve understood, neither has such a thing been gazetted in any other area. 

Around mid-March a delegation of councillors from Ngorongoro district made a tour of Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Dodoma. The main issue was the situation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but land in Loliondo was also touched upon. The delegation got the reassurance from the Prime Minister that Loliondo would be surveyed according to known borders, and that only the villagers could decide about Wildlife Management Areas (FZS’s long-held wish). The councillors also met Nyalandu who did not say anything about land in Loliondo.

I have not been able to get much more information about the outrageous fact that the Germans are providing funds for land- and natural resource use planning for Loliondo, and that this is supposed to be implemented by Tanapa in cooperation with FZS! A case, if ever there was one, of putting a pack of hyenas in charge of guarding calves. The only thing I’ve heard is that FZS have employed Dr. Karaine Kunei - who just last year retired as District Executive Director - as their Senior Technical Advisor in Loliondo. This former DED has been described to me as very knowledgeable and convincing (for a government person) and FZS’s recruitment can only be described as quite worrying indeed.

The Recent Crime: this information could be incorrecct.
The evening of Sunday 6th April I got unconfirmed reports that Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa) would have burned down bomas in Arash. Some people had said that the bomas would have been inside the national park, which did not make sense and even in that case previous notice would have been required. Next day there were detailed reports that this happened in the Nyorri area of Arash village (Nyorri, Olochoki, Irpalakika, and Olekushini) – not in the national park - already on Tuesday 1st and that Tanapa carried on with their crime for 3 days. Nyorri and Olekushini are far from the park boundary while the other two areas are close to it. The arsonists arrived wearing Tanapa uniforms and in Tanapa vehicles claiming that the bomas were inside the national park which the pastoralist denied and then Risye Lilash and Nguchuk Turuni, residents of Arash, even accompanied the rangers to have a look at the boundary. The rangers said that Serengeti National Park’s new boundaries had been drawn by Tanapa’s plane a week earlier and then they proceeded to burning down people’s homes leaving children and elderly people without shelter. The land is part of the 1,500km2 so-called corridor (or Osero) that’s the core hunting area of OBC, the high level hunting organiser from the United Arab Emirates – and the government has made several attempts at grabbing this land, the latest just last year. It should be noted that the borders of a national park can not be altered before this has been debated and passed in parliament – and the change has to be published in the Government Gazette. Something has to be done to speed up information sharing so that rapid action can be taken as soon as people in Loliondo are being attacked. The people that lost their homes have established a new settlement not far from the one that was burned down.

Emanuel Saringe, activist from Oloirien says, “The government should respect human rights and rule of law. The issue of boundaries always involves two sides and Tanapa itself cannot review boundaries without full involvement of neighbouring villages. Also negotiation means could be used to settle disputes instead of use of force. Action should be taken against the game scouts engaged in burning bomas which are out of the park. Also the national parks act has to be reviewed to amend some provisions which are unconstitutional.”

On 8th April residents of Arash and Maaloni held a meeting. For several days I could not get any information at all about what happened there. Then I heard that the burning of people’s homes had not been much dealt with and instead there was discussion about how to evict cattle from other villages (like Enguserosambu). This behaviour obviously goes against the argument used in the fight against the land grab attempts – that this land is important far beyond the actual village limits and depends on the ecosystem and not manmade boundaries.                      

On 9th April seasonal OBC workers from Arusha travelled to Loliondo for a 3-week job preparing for a highest level visit from Abu Dhabi. Workers preparing for a visit from Dubai had already been there for two weeks waiting for the sheik to arrive. It’s not hunting season. It’s the middle of the rainy season and the visits are supposed to be for “relaxing” and not hunting.

On 15th April the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, pre-celebrated the 50th anniversary of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar with the UAE Minister for Environment and Water, Sheikh Rashid Bin Fahad at Le Meridien hotel in Dubai.

Thomson Safaris’ Land Grab
I’ve unfortunately lost one of my best sources of information to a hate campaign against a minority group more vulnerable than the Maasai, but I have still got some not very detailed news about Thomson’s land grab.

An injunction hearing – to stop Thomson from using and damaging the land while the main case takes place - was scheduled for 21st February, but on that day the lawyers of the defendants, with the exception of Thomson’s lawyers, did not show up. I’ve been told that the judge did not seem to mind the contempt of court and the hearing was postponed to 17th March. The hearing finally took place on 17th March and the verdict came on 4th April – and sadly the judge did not admit the injunction. The main case continues.

On 26th February a press release was issued by Minority Rights Group and the organisation EarthRights International that has helped the villagers file a court action under 28 U.S.C. § 1782, a law that allows people in other countries to obtain documents and information from individuals or companies in the United States to support foreign legal proceedings. At last there’s some positive action in the USA and EarthRights looks like an organisation without any ties to TNC, Monsanto, tour operators or anything of the kind.

On 6th March villagers refused to attend a meeting organised by the committee appointed at the meeting on 3rd February (see last blog post) since this committee was lobbying for Thomson and wasn’t legitimate.

On 8th March Judi Wineland arrived for a visit at the occupied land. She got great assistance by the traitor William Alais, councillor for Oloipiri. However all sources I’ve asked stress how most other people, not least Loserian Minis, chairman of Sukenya and former Thomson friend stood up for the people against this half of the land grabbing Thomson-Wineland couple.

Things are not good, but the struggle continues. People in Loliondo need to step up coordination and information sharing – and everyone, including international organisations, has to stop supporting the land grabbers… Above all, those that think they can own or manage Maasai land in Loliondo should start packing.

Susanna Nordlund

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