Thursday, 16 October 2014

More About the New Corridor Grab Attempt and About Thomson Safaris’ too Old Land Grab in Loliondo

Thomson Safaris have sent some of their “friends” for witness training.
The police are intimidating victims of Thomson’s violence.
There have been some meetings and a lot of silence about the Nyalandu-style land grab threat.
A document will be presented.

Thomson Safaris Land Grab
Nyalandu-styleThreat against the 1,500 km2
A Background to the Threat against 1,500 km2 of Dry Season Grazing Land

Thomson Safaris’ Land Grab
During the latter part of the dry season there hasn’t been any violence, harassment and chasing of cows on the 12,617 acres stolen by Thomson since there’s no grass left and most cows are in the dry season corridor under threat, next to Serengeti National Park.

The policeman, Jumanne, who in July shot Olunjai Timan from Mondorosi while working to protect Thomson’s land grab called Enashiva Nature Refuge against the legitimate owners, and then for too many weeks was sighted in Ololosokwan and Soitsambu, has together with the other policeman, David, been transferred to Karatu. It’s very unclear if the shooting is being investigated.

On 12th September the owners of Thomson Safaris together with a small group of other tour operators met with the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nylandu, at the Tanzanian Embassy in Washington DC.

On 28th September the councillor for Oloipriri, William Alais, together with four Laitayok men from Sukenya - Simat Loongung', Yohana Parmeres, Mzee Ndura and one more whose name was not known departed for Arusha to receive witness training so that they can support Thomson with lies in court and prevent the land from being returned to the people. I’ve been told that it’s the former coordinator for Thomson’s charitable/propaganda branch FoTZC, Happiness Mwamasika who is doing this dirty work. She has been busy with one-to-one fireplace meetings to obtain witnesses for Thomson, and it’s she who has organised this “cheating training” as it was aptly described to me. Happiness, together with her husband, Jeremy O’Kasick Swanson, has for many years been Thomson’s most destructive propaganda couple for this land grab. The husband is currently working for the wolf in sheep’s clothing organisation the Honeyguide Foundation that also has Thomson’s Arusha manager at the board (just to remind those that are easily befriended by this kind of organisation).
One person close to the events told me:
“Thomson wamehonga, wametoa rushwa, wamewafanya watu wasio viongozi kuwa viongozi na kuwarubuni kuwasafirisha Arusha hatimaye kuwaandaa kwa kwenda kutoa ushahindi ya kupinga kesi ya wananchi.”
(“Thomson have corrupted, they have bribed, they have made people that aren’t leaders into leaders and misled them sending them to Arusha then finally preparing them to witness opposing the people’s court case.”)

After much fundraising by friends of Thomson Safaris the charitable branch of the land grabber has started the construction of a dispensary in Sukenya. It’s also been reported that the tour operator is complaining to authorities that they would have got funds for a wildlife management training centre if the donor would not have withdrawn because of writings on the internet and politics in Loliondo.

I'm not sure what's happening with the court case against the website Stop Thomson Safaris but a fact is that Thomson are using their unlimited pool of funds to silence truth tellers with legal bullying.

Better news is that the chairman of Sukenya, Loserian Minis, has confronted the headteacher of Sukenya Primary School about parents not being happy about letting Thomson’s guests photograph their children to present them as the poorest of the poor with the aim of obtaining donations for the tour operator’s own charity/propaganda branch. Minis also told him that donations by visitors should go directly to the school account and not through Thomson. Minis approached the District Educational Officer who summoned the headteacher to tell him to stop to the photographing of children. Thomson’s Happiness Mwamasika then went to the DEO saying that Minis wants the money for personal gain.

The councillor for Soitsambu ward together with the chairmen of Sukenya, Mondorosi and Soitsambu have made trips to Dodoma to see Prime Minister Pinda and request him to evict Thomson from the land before there is bloodshed (some blood of the victims of the occupation has already been shed…) They did not manage to meet the PM, but did meet the destructive Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, the Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments and the Minister of State in the PM's Office for Investment and Empowerment.

The new Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Department summoned the Sukenya Juu sub-village chairman to on 2nd October come with Kendo Maiwa, Munjaa Musa and Naboye ( I was earlier told his name was Kaigil) Ngukwo who were beaten by Thomson’s guards in January. The OCCID complained about writings on the internet (besides this blog the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous peoples has mentioned their case).The three men were interrogated and intimidated by the police that said they had not been beaten, even if they had documented their injuries and being beaten by Thomson is far from unusual for people that depend on the land they have stolen. The three herders and the chairman were not released until 7pm and the OCCID said he’d meet all people that say they have been beaten. This does look like witness tampering.

Thomson have requested to meet the village councils, that aren’t interested.

Thomson Safaris, the land is not yours. Just leave!

Edit: Very shortly after I had published this blog post I was informed that Thomson have sent their own delegation to Dodoma to say that the chairmen of Sukenya and Mondorosi do not represent the community. This delegation consists of the horrendously corrupt councillor for Oloipriri ward, William Alais, the chairman of Orkuyene village (not affected by the land grab), Lukas Kursas who also works for OBC, Gabriel Killelfrom Lopulun (Ilopolun, next to Wasso) who works for the NGO Kidupo  and three other men whose names are to be confirmed - all of them Laitayok.
(this information is under investigation)

Nyalandu-styleThreat Against the 1,500 km2
As mentioned the latest blog post, in early August the ward councillors in Loliondo were discussing a bango kitita, matrix document or log frame, based on Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda’s visit in September 2013. Even when the Prime Minister had in a very emotional manner declared that the land belonged to the Maasai that would no longer be disturbed by anyone the bango kitita clearly spells out the government’s continuing “need” to take the land. Even more worrying is that some say that this document has been around since April and hasn’t been discussed publicly.

Also around the beginning of August the District Council Chairman, Elias Ngorisa, met with minister Nyalandu in Arusha and was told that president Kikwete had instructed the minister to take the 1,500 km2. Later the same day and at the same hotel, the African Tulip, the minister met with OBC’s general manager, Isaack Mollel.

On Saturday 30th August Nyalandu flew into Loliondo to meet with the councillors of the wards affected by the 1,500 km2. The councillors have been strangely reticent to share details about this meeting, but what’s been told is that the minister was very threatening and after he left OBC’s Mollel and several other representatives entered to make promises. OBC requested a meeting with the councillors for 13th September and were told to also include CSOs, village leaders and traditional leaders. The minister was supposed to return on the 15th.

After Nyalandu’s visit CSO representatives moved around to inform people about the threat while OBC were moving around pushing for the villages to sign an unacceptable agreement with them. The councillors’ strange silence led to fears that they could have agreed to something damaging to the fight for land rights.

The fears were not softened by the sad fact that several of the ward councillors have through the years at one time or other sided with the most destructive “investors” against the people.

On 10th September there was a meeting between village leaders, traditional leaders, women, CSOs and councillors that had all travelled to Arusha for this. It was made clear that none of the villages had signed the agreement – there had been considerable fear of this - and the councillors also said that they would not support such a thing. However they remained silent about the meeting with Nyalandu and refused to meet the press out of respect for this code of silence, so the fears and suspicions about what they could be up to did not go away.

At the meeting with OBC on the 13th the message was that no agreement would be signed about land that’s under threat and that it wasn’t possible to continue talking with the hunters when the minister was just around the corner. Isaack Mollel accused the councillors of failing to support him – as if he had expected something else.

I don’t know where people had got the information about Nyalandu and the 15th that had had surfaced at the meeting in Arusha. As mentioned, the minister was in the USA promoting tourism, and at a luncheon at the embassy in Washington DC with a small group of tour operator he was caught in a photo with the land grabbing owners of Thomson Safaris, Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland.

At the meeting with OBC an occasion for village and traditional leaders to question councillors on exactly what they have agreed with Nyalandu and Mollel was set for the 22nd in Piyaya.

The councillors for Oloipiri, Loosoito-Maaloni and Oloirien-Magaiduru did not attend the meeting in Piyaya on 22nd September. They are all three allegedly on very friendly terms with OBC, the councillors for Oloirien-Magaiduru is employed by the hunters while the councillor for Oloipiri, William Alais, is totally supportive of Thomson Safaris’ land grab. 

The meeting started late and there was much distrust, so it had to continue on the 25th at the District Council.

At the meeting on the 25th there was a big collision, but ultimately the councillors went open with that they had been given 300,000 shillings each as “sitting allowance” at a meeting with OBC’s general manager, but had not signed any document at all about the village land…
The meeting ended up with four resolutions:
The councillors and village chairmen have ironed out their differences.
They will meet president Kikwete as a “last resort”.
They will develop a community document to be presented to the president to show land use patterns, size, population and need for this land by the community.
A draft of the document will be presented on 10th October.

The councillors from Loosoito-Maaloni and Oloirien-Magaiduru did not attend this meeting and neither did the councillor for Arash. The Oloipiri councillor partially attended, but did not say anything.

The war against the people of Loliondo is being fought on many fronts. On 10th October the Frankfurt Zoological Society together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) launched their giant project of Wildlife Management Area and natural resource management at their Loliondo frontier with 10 million euros allocated. This happened without community participation and it appears as if GIZ has an agreement with the Ngorongoro District Council.

No community document was presented on the 10th. The councillors were on their way to Arusha. The council chairman, Ngorisa, had been ordered to meet minster Nyalandu on the 13th and there were long meetings in Arusha on the 11th and 12th. It had transpired that the minister was going to announce compensation money at the meeting. People saw that Ngorisa would be corrupted and pressured him to refuse going to the meeting and to leave Arusha as soon as possible. Finally this was what he told the District Commissioner who also was to attend, and who in his turn informed the minister that the meeting was off – and the council chairman started his journey home. The meeting was being facilitated (and the expensive allowances for council chairman and DC paid) by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, as had been ordered by the minister. The NCAA is reported to also be under pressure to provide part of the compensation money –but does not have a budget for it - (OBC would be the obvious other source of money). There’s a serious food security problem in NCA and the NCAA is expected to pay big money to create the same situation in Loliondo…

The community document is still under preparation and a draft has been presented to village and traditional leaders.

The current information is that the minister will visit Loliondo on 20th October to pressure the villages into entering an agreement with OBC, The visit may take place, but this minister too will be stopped.

A Background to the Threat against 1,500 km2 of Dry Season Grazing Land
After the massive land loss to Serengeti National Park in 1959 the Tanzanian government, in an unholy alliance with “investors” and international conservation organisations, has continued trying to squeeze out the Maasai from their lands east of the Serengeti, like in the NCA were they live under a kind of colonial rule by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. The current land threat in Loliondo dates back to 1992 when Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) – that organizes hunting trips for the highest levels of society of the United Arab Emirates - was given the hunting block (a permit to hunt) of Loliondo Game Controlled Area north and south  - 4,000km2 that’s the whole of Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District. Amid consistent rumours of breaking every hunting law, OBC have often arrogantly seen their hunting activities as deserving precedence over Maasai land use – while at the same time being seen by authorities and by themselves as involved in conservation and community development.

The worst human rights abuses for the benefit of OBC took place in July of the drought year 2009. When the hunting season was up people and cattle were – following an order said to have originated at regional level - evicted from OBC’s 1,500 km2 core hunting area that’s also an important dry season grazing area. The Field Force Unit, assisted by OBC, set light to at least 150 permanent and temporary homes, some 60,000 heads of cattle were chased into dry areas, there were beatings, sexual abuse and humiliations, calves and children were lost – and 7-year old Nashipai Gume has not been found. The justification was protection of the environment and the at that time Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Shamsa Mwangunga, first went to Loliondo and ordered the burning of houses to stop, and then in parliament started saying that people - who were described as “Kenyans” - had burnt their own houses and were in agreement with OBC. A report on these evictions was never tabled in parliament; Women held big protest in Loliondo in April 2010 and a constitutional case was filed by several CSOs in December the same year. The evicted people eventually moved back.

The constitutional case isn’t going anywhere since it has been impossible to gather the required quorum of three judges in Arusha.

Next minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige, seemed more reasonable when visiting Loliondo, but in February 2011 a non-participatory land use plan - totally funded by OBC - was revealed. In this plan the 1,500 km2 was declared a new kind of protected area – with the name of an old kind of un-protected area according to the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 – a Game Controlled Area. As mentioned, the whole of Loliondo was already since colonial times a Game Controlled Area at the same time as registered village land, and the only impact of this was the hunting block that doesn’t affect land tenure. This land use plan was rejected by the district council. Many leaders “reconciled” with OBC this same year. In August the village of Ololosokwan received a letter about the Commissioner for Lands demanding the village land title deed to be handed back, which was protested.  Finally the general feeling among leaders was that the government had been defeated.

The Tanzania National Parks Authority has tried to encroach on this land in its own way by placing border beacons on village land which led to big protests in 2008 and 2012.

In March 2013 next minister, Khamis Kagasheki, in what could be seen as sublime madness -  but probably was cold calculation that few people outside Loliondo would understand a thing (and few inside would be able to explain) - loudly in press conferences declared that the people of Loliondo were landless and would be given 2,500km2. This was of course still about alienating the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land for the benefit of the royal hunters, but pretending that the whole of the old Loliondo GCA - district headquarters included - had in some mysterious way turned into the new kind of protected area. Several big protests were organised, delegations were sent to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, and representatives from both the opposition and the governing party expressed support for the people of Loliondo together with some international organisations.

Other actions by the government, in close cooperation with Frankfurt Zoological Society (the architect behind the loss of Serengeti), has been to propose a Wildlife Management Area in Loliondo, which was decidedly rejected in 2004, but creeps up again from time to time, usually presented as the only means to assuage the government. In other parts of the country WMAs are often imposed via heavy coercion, and have then in several places been used by authorities and investors as an excuse for human rights abuses.  Germany in its bilateral cooperation is providing funds for land- and natural resource use planning for Loliondo, which is supposed to be implemented by Tanzania National Parks Authority in cooperation with FZS, and in an interview in a hunters’ newsletter in June 2013 Markus Borner, FZS’s retired long term head of Africa programme and resident of the Serengeti NP declared his support for the Kagasheki style land grab attempt saying, “the present proposal seems a good way forward”. Besides the most amazing misrepresentation of some basic facts – about the law, NCA, NGOs and just everything mentioned (if this lying wasn’t wilful Borner’s mental faculties should be examined) - he also said that the Maasai should have accepted a WMA, and that FZS after the land alienation would act as “mediator between communities and the central government”. 

Victory was again declared when on 23rd September 2013 Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda with much emotion in a public speech told the gathered crowd that the land belonged to the Maasai forever and nobody would be allowed to disturb them,

And then Lazaro Nyalandu came with his code of silence style land alienation attempt –that has to and will be stopped.

At least there has been some rain (but it stopped).

Susanna Nordlund

I’d request any person or organisation with complaints about my blog to direct those to me and not to anyone else. I have got all information from different people that I trust as serious and informed. The responsibility is 100% mine.

And I’d ask anyone with information to please share it with me. 

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