Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Extremely Worrying New Attempt by the Government to Grab 1,500 km2 of Maasai Land – and Other Updates about Land Threats in Loliondo

-Thomson Safaris are back to harassing people and cattle that enter onto the land that they have grabbed.

-Good and bad news from Kakesio in NCA.

-The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism has met several times with the council chairman and also held a meeting with all councillors from affected wards. The information/threat is that the government is set on taking the land.

Olunjai Timan who on 8th July was shot by a policeman working for Thomson Safaris is doing well and can now herd his cattle and ride a motorbike.
Thomson Safaris’ Violent Occupation of Maasai land
At a district council meeting on Saturday 26th July councillors made a statement saying that they want Thomson to leave community land. They also said they will file a defamation charge against the tour operator for forging their names with the intent of changing the land use classification. Thomson’s best friend the councillor for Oloipiri kept completely quiet and the councillor for Enguserosambu, who in 2010 was horrendously corrupted by Thomson, spoke aggressively against the land grabber.

Thomson were keeping a low profile after the shooting, the protests, and after being told by district officers and the District Commissioner not to disturb grazing – but they were not showing any signs of coming to the negotiation table. Then when Thomson’s manager at the occupied land, Daniel Yamat, returned after a stay in Arusha harassment and chasing of cattle started again on 15th August and policemen are again working for the tour operator. Authorities do not seem to have taken any action except saying that the policeman that fired the shot while working for Thomson has been fired, is under police custody and his case has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecution - while people report that they see him walking about in Ololosokwan and Soitsambu.

Kakesio’s Thorn
I have earlier written and then updated about the encroachment by an investor from the neighbouring Meatu district onto wet season grazing land in Kakesio village in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This investor – Mwiba Holdings Limited of the Friedkin Conservation Group - has also been involved in human rights abuses in Meatu. On 7th August there was at last the good news that surveyors from Arusha and Simiyu regions established that existing beacons, since before Mwiba’s encroachment, had eaten at least 300 metres into land belonging to Kakesio and would have to be uprooted. As this was being celebrated a deadly fight over cattle rustling erupted between Kakesio and Barabaig from Meatu. Conflict resolution between the two groups is still pending.

Worrying Turn in the 1,500 km2 “Corridor” Saga
It was reported that in early August the Ngorongoro District Council  had got hold of a frightening “bango kitita” – a matrix document following up on the Prime Minister’s visit in September – that clearly spells out the government’s continuing wish to take the 1,500 km2 evicting the people depending on this land. It’s well remembered that Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda on 23rd September 2013 in a public meeting in Wasso with great emotion declared that the land belongs to the Maasai and their coming generation, shouting, “hoiyee Loliondo!” – but this was apparently just theatre.

Then I’ve heard that the bango kitita has been around since April!

What has also been reported is that around the beginning of August the district council chairman, Elias Ngorisa, met with the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, and later the same day and same hotel – the  African Tulip (edited: not "Golden" Tulip) - the minister met with Isaack Mollel, OBC’s general manager. Afterwards Ngorisa reported – to the councillors, not publicly - that the minister had declared the government’s intent at taking the 1,500 km2.

It’s a sad fact that each and every minister for natural resources and tourism becomes eager to please the royal hunters from the UAE by, in his or her own way, threatening the lives and livelihoods of the people of Loliondo. Now this time has come for Nyalandu.

The district chairman has also travelled to Dodoma wanting to meet the minister. This would not be worrying in itself if it weren’t because Ngorisa used to be deeply in the pocket of OBC, and did not decidedly side with the people until last year’s land threat crisis. Some fear that he now wants to befriend the minister with the intent of obtaining a place at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority board, and also still wants to impress his old friends OBC, while others have faith in him standing firmly on the side of the people. Let’s hope that they are right.

As if the above were not enough there are also some contracts with OBC around with very bad conditions, apparently even including emptying OBC’s hunting area of people and cattle, but with promises of 120 million shillings per year per village that isn’t much divided between everyone affected – but very tempting for those in position to get their hands on it. The fear is that some villages could be about to sign this.

How can this be going on little more than a year after the agreement in Oloipiri that nobody would enter contracts with OBC? Where are the big meetings and press releases?

Late in the afternoon of Saturday 30th August Lazaro Nyalandu flew into Loliondo and held a meeting with the councillors for the wards including the 1,500 km2 of land under threat. The minister made the government’s continued interest in taking the land very clear, and claimed that the President himself was behind this. Those present are reported to have found the minister very threatening and intimidating.

After the meeting with the minister OBC’s Isaack Mollel entered – together with eight other people – and made some very big promises.

I’ve been told that village chairmen and women are seriously concerned about these closed meetings.

OBC will also finance and host a joint meeting with village chairmen, CSOs and some traditional leaders.

Most worrying is that the councillors are very quiet about the meetings.  They have been threatened – and maybe some of them are looking forward to being corrupted. The government was embarrassed by how the alienation of 1,500 km2 was stopped last year. Some say that the governing party will not approve the candidature of councillors that oppose the land grab, but at the same time they can obviously not support the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of their people. Now is the time to stand up and make a big noise.

The division of labour in this renewed land grab attempt seems to be that the Minister threatens and OBC flashes money.

Could everyone who helped stop Kagasheki please prepare to do the same with Nyalandu?

Susanna Nordlund

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