Friday, 11 July 2014

Herder Shot Because of the “Philanthropic” Thomson Safaris – and Other Loliondo Land Threat News

Olonjai Timan was shot by a policeman working for Thomson Safaris.
I’m having problems getting updates about the cases against herders accused by Thomson, but am waiting to hear a sentence today (11th July).
I’m also having problems getting updates about OBC.

The night between 8th and 9th July I was informed that Olonjai Timan from Mondorosi had been shot. The first thing I heard was that people were raising money and moving to get him a vehicle to go to hospital in Wasso or Posimoru (in Kenya). After some time I heard that the ambulance from Wasso Hospital had come to pick him up. I spent some time searching for information and got some from various helpful people. The information from someone who talked directly with Olonjai is that he together with some other people had been searching for lost cows on the land occupied by Thomson. It was late, around 8pm. They saw car lights supposedly driving the cows towards Olonjai’s boma, so they went there to receive them. There were many voices, almost all Thomson’s guards were there together with two policemen. Olonjai heard, “mko chini ya ulinzi” (you are under arrest), and a Thomson guard said, “piga huyo, piga huyo, washa risasi” (“shoot that one, shoot that one, open fire”.) Then there were two shots fired by a policeman called David and the second one hit Olonjai in the left buttock. The other herders ran away and called the Mondorosi chairman. Olonjai is still in hospital. He lost a lot of blood, but is doing well and recovering

On 9th July and on the following days there were meetings in Mondorosi with people calling for finally taking some real action against Thomson. On Sunday there will be a big meeting in preparation for a meeting on Tuesday. Some told me that they are demanding the District Commissioner and the Member of Parliament - both unfortunately friends of Thomson – to come and resolve the issue getting rid of Thomson once and for all in a peaceful way on Tuesday or other measures will have to be taken, while others say that they demand the presence of Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland. I hope to soon report properly about these meeting in next blog post. A police representative was trying to calm people down and admitted that the policeman had acted in an “unethical” way. What’s “unethical” is spending all these years helping a land grabbing “investor” with its violent harassment of the legitimate owners of the land. It’s been reported that Thomson, on their side, are saying that the Maasai were trying to fight the police.

In the latest blog post I mentioned the herders Torian Karia and Kotikash Kudate from Mondorosi who had been caught and beaten by Thomson’s manager and guards a couple of days before 12th June. They were accused of being “Kenyan”, threatening Thomson staff with spears and rungus, and of illegal grazing. After efforts by the chairman of Mondorosi they were released on bail. There was to be court hearings, but I have not been able to find out what has happened. Some people said they paid some kind of fine of 1.5 million shillings while others say that they refused to pay. I’ve been told that the case is still pending.

When publishing the latest blog post I had not been informed that on 13th June at Wasso market Ndolei Musa from Sukenya was identified by Thomson’s guard Lucas Semat as a herder that had beaten him up on 4th June when chasing cows. Thomson’s manager Daniel Yamat had reported the matter to both Wasso and Loliondo police stations. After this the sub-village chairman, Parkipuny Musa, was accused in Wasso of being involved in the attack and asked to bring the suspects or he would himself automatically be considered suspect. Thanks to the village executive officer the sub-village chairman was released on bail and at Loliondo police station told to forget about the case in Wasso that was a sub case of the same case. At the meeting with the police it was decided that the group of leaders, also including the village chairman, should consult Daniel Yamat to try to resolve the matter, but this attempt was refused by Yamat who wanted a court case. Ndolei Musa was also released on bail and told to appear in court on 18th June. There were several postponements. I heard that Ndolei did not have a legal representative in court and that he had admitted to beating up the guard who was chasing away cows in preparation for the arrival of tourists to “Enashiva Nature Refuge” (Can’t they just google and see what their tour operator is involved in? Do they not care?). Ndolei did also say that he did not in any way regret the beating. The sentence was supposed to have been read on 4th July, but was postponed until the 11th. What is certain is that doing the work of violently harassing herders and cows for using their own land that has been grabbed by an arrogant tour operator from Boston with a hugely inflated self worth can only be described as extreme provocation. I’ll publish this blog post by midnight at the latest and if I haven’t got Ndolei’s sentence by then I’ll add it here later: the sentence was postponed a week until 18th July.

It’s more than a year since Thomson lost the greatest prize for their dirtiest divide and rule tactics working with one of the Maasai sections living around the occupied land. After what used to happen it’s hard to trust, but all three chairmen are still decidedly hostile towards the land grabber. My dear friend, Navaya ole Ndaskoi, who unfortunately has been busy with attacks against pastoralists all over the country, could confirm this when he in June visited Loliondo for other issues, but managed to talk with the chairmen, and other people, about the land grabber. He was told that a majority of Laitayok do not want Thomson. Though a few do for selfish reasons, like those who have sons working for the land grabbers, some women who sell beadwork to tourists forgetting that the artefacts are fruits of their own labour, and some otherwise “innocent” people who believe Thomson’s story that once the land is back it will be grabbed by the NGO founder and local woman from the Purko section, Maanda Ngoitiko, (well, years ago Thomson tried, more or less, this one on me too).

It’s said that some journalists have gone to Loliondo and I hope there will soon be some serious Tanzanian reporting about Thomson Safaris.

How I wish for the end of Thomson Safaris’ land grab to be near.

OBC and the 1.500km2 land grab threat

I have not been able to obtain further information about the repeatedly attempted land grab. What is known is that the government, Frankfurt Zoological Society and Otterlo Business Corporation have an interest in a more low key attack imposing a Wildlife Management Area.

It’s been reported that on 27th June Kasoye Makko from Kirtalo when moving cattle to market passed near the OBC camp and encountered guards that told him to lay down his traditional weapons, which he refused since he hadn’t done anything wrong, and then the guards started beating him on the hands with sticks causing significant swelling of the left one.

The United Arab Emirates’ Red Crescent is announcing the drilling of 20 wells in Loliondo with the cooperation of UAE Embassy in Dar es Salaam and Tanzanian authorities. This concern for the well-being of the people of Loliondo is very commendable, but if it’s genuine the UAE Red Crescent should immediately also start a campaign for the removal of the hunting organiser catering to UAE top leaders that for over two decades has caused humiliation and harassment of Loliondo herders, was directly involved in the eviction and human rights abuses of 2009 – and not least: is large part of what’s causing the repeated threat of major land alienation, and destruction of lives and livelihoods.

The time for real action started years ago.

I wish Olonjai a speedy recovery and true justice.

Susanna Nordlund

Thanks to everyone who did share information. You know who you are – and that I always need updates since I’ll continue blogging until the land grabbers are gone. 

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