Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Nyalandu-Style Loliondo Land Grab Attempt Almost Becomes World News

The renewed 1,500km2 grab attempt finally was reported about by the press, but in a distorted way.
One Tanzanian newspaper is inciting the public against the people of Loliondo.
The same paper published a letter by the councillor for Oloipiri supporting Thomson Safaris and OBC.
Minister Nyalandu denies everything and talks about other things.
A delegation from Loliondo failed to meet the Prime Minister.

The renewed “corridor” grab attempt that I have written about in my last two, now old, blog posts, without anyone reacting much to it has now hit international media. On 16th November there was some news coverage of this new corridor grab attempt in the Guardian (the British one), but with some errors like calling it a “sale” when it’s about creating a “protected area” (not protected from OBC) and saying that “activists opposing the hunting reserve have been killed by police in the past two years” which simply hasn't happened.  Very many articles then followed that were more or less copies of this first one. Some have copied and pasted over a year old articles as if new. Avaaz are helpful re-launching their petition, but do not really explain what this is about.

What has happened?
On 23rd September 2013 in Wasso Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda put stop to an announcement from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism of alienating 1,500 square kilometres of village land in Loliondo. This alienation – put forward as a lie about “giving land to landless people” and protecting the environment – would have led to violent evictions and knock-on effects far beyond Loliondo when an important dry season grazing area would have been lost. Fortunately this was stopped when the Prime Minister in an emotional speech declared that the land belonged to the Maasai and their coming generations and nobody would be allowed to threaten them like then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, had been doing.

Lazaro Nyalandu, as new Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, has renewed last year’s land alienation threat at a meeting with Ngorongoro District Council Chairman, Elias Ngorisa, at the African Tulip Hotel in Arusha, followed by meeting the managing director of Otterlo Business Corporation Ltd at the same hotel and on the same day – 27th July this year. The threat was that the government had to take the land, and it was presented as an order from the president.

Then late in the afternoon of 30th August the Minister flew into Loliondo and repeated the same threat at a meeting with the councillors from the affected wards. After this meeting OBC’s Isaack Mollel entered with eight other representatives of the company making promises of financial assistance. Later it has transpired that the minister promised TSh 1 billion for development projects for the land, and OBC promised TSh 120 million per village per year. I heard about this compensation money when a meeting that was supposed to take place on 13th October was being discussed.

The councillors’ reluctance to share much information about the meetings with the minister – and with OBC - led to considerable worries that they could have been corrupted or threatened with not having their candidatures approved, since all of them belong to the governing party, CCM, and some even thought they wanted campaign money... At the same time OBC were working to make the villages sign an agreement with them.

At a meeting on 10th September it was made clear that none of the villages had signed OBC’s agreement and that the councillors would never support such a thing. Though they would not talk much about the meeting with Nyalandu and refused to meet the press.

At a meeting facilitated by OBC on 13th September 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.

On 22nd September there was a meeting in Piyaya between councillors and village chairmen. The meeting started late and there was much distrust, so it had to continue on the 25th at the District Council. Then 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 concluded with that councillors and chairmen had ironed out their differences and would meet the president as a last resort.

The council chairman was ordered to meet minster Nyalandu on 13th October in Arusha and there were long meetings on the 11th  and 12th . There was information 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, which is what he did. He told the District Commissioner who in his turn informed the minister that the meeting was off. This 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 NCA conservator was reported to be under pressure to provide part of the compensation money (it’s what he had told the district chairman) –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.

Developments after latest blog post
I mentioned that the Minster for Natural Resources, Lazaro Nyalandu, would visit Loliondo on 20th October to continue his particular style of taking 1,500 km2 of dry season grazing land from the Maasai. The meeting on the 20th did not take place. On the 23rd I heard that the minister had recently summoned natural resources department officials to Serengeti telling them to make an evaluation of all infrastructures in the 1,500 km2 and immediately present a report. On the 22nd Nyalandu’s secretary had phoned the district chairman wanting to arrange a meeting that was declined since the chairman was still working on an assignment of convincing the community that the minster had given to him.

Then a meeting was supposed to take place on the 29th October, but was delayed since the chairmen were busy with preparing for elections, or so was said. Nyalandu did hold a meeting even if not many of the attendants he was looking for turned up. The minister wanted to see the chairmen of the eight “old” villages (this is confusing since a long row of new villages are being created) with land in the 1,500km2. Those that turned up were the councillor for Oloipiri ward, the chairman of Orkuyaine (new village, but with the chairman of the old Oloipiri village), the acting (the long-time chairman has health problems) chairman of Ololosokwan (I really don’t know what he was doing there) – plus the chairmen of the new villages Ilopolun and Oldonyowas that the minister had not requested to meet. So the minister met the former chairman of an old villages and the acting chairman of one, who turned up late. It would seem like he mostly met the “investor-friendly” councillor for Oloipiri ward.

At this meeting with few attendants the minister is reported to have taken a “diplomatic” approach saying that there did not have to be a Game Controlled Area (of the kind in Wildlife Conservation Act 2009)  if the environment and the investor are protected, the land is reserved in another way and Kenyans are removed.

On 3rd November there was a district council meeting to discuss the Nyalandu problem. Alarmingly a couple of leaders, led by the councillor for Oloipiri, William Alais, refused to attend or to follow the recommendations that were reached. Besides William Alais they were the chairmen of Oloipiri and Orkuyaine – and Gabriel Killel of the NGO Kidupo. These individuals find it best suited for their purposes to side with the land grabbers OBC and Thomson Safaris. They are all Laitayok, from the section that has been targeted for divide and rule, but not all Laitayok leaders participate in this behaviour. The chairmen of Sukenya, Soitsambu. Ilopolun and Oldonyowas do not.

On 18th November some councillors: the council chairman and the councillors for Soitsambu and Arash, plus the CCM chairman of the district tried to meet Prime Minister Pinda in Dodoma. The councillors waited for over three hours, but the meeting did not materialize. They got an appointment for the 19th but the same happened and they got the impression that the PM was refusing to meet them. Others say that the problem was that MP Telele who also was to participate was late or did not show up, or the delegation went to see other MPs. Nylandu's words to the press implying that there was no delegation do suggest that the problem was Pinda's refusal

Also on the 18th Nyalandu was interviewed by BBC Swahili. He said that everything was lies, that CCM could never evict any Maasai (!) and that he had been to Loliondo to talk about land use planning. On BBC English Nyalandu named the government of president Kikwete (the notorious anti-pastoralist under whose government the 2009 evictions in Loliondo took place, and many other cases around the country) instead of the governing party and mostly wanted to talk about NCA instead. The reporter did not have enough background information to ask hard questions. It should be noted that Nyalandu isn’t minister for lands and hasn’t got any mandate to talk about “land use planning” with anyone. The minister invited BBC journalists to come to Loliondo when he’s going in the next week or so to talk with individual villages. The journalists would be able to hear for themselves how villagers continue to benefit from OBC.

On 21st November there was a press meeting in Arusha with political and traditional leaders, and women’s representatives. A press statement was issued exposing Nyalandu’s lies and making some demands like a written statement with the Prime Minister’s promises from 23rd September 2013, the revocation of LGCA as should already have been done according to Wildlife Conservation Act 2009, the resumption of the land use planning abruptly stopped in early September 2013 after a complaint from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and the stopping of tourist hunting in Loliondo, adding that if the PM fails to fulfil his promises they will have to engage the world and reach his office in thousands. They believe in peaceful means, but have lost their patience, and their land will never be taken for the benefit of OBC.

Clan Division and Incitement in the Press
On 6th November an article written by an unknown journalist called “Adam ole Timan”, who had never before written anything, was published in the Jamhuri newspaper. The style full of hatred (or just writing what one’s paid for?) inciting against the people of Loliondo was easily recognised as identical to that of the journalist Manyerere Jackton who has written like this before. This article with the headline “Wakenya waingiza mifugo Hifadhi ya Serengeti” (Kenyans enter cattle into Serengeti NP) was about a plan to damage the Tanzanian tourist industry with the purpose of attracting tourists to Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Kenyans are trying to impose Kenyan village chairmen in Loliondo, the Purko and Loita being Kenyan use Kenyan land laws in Tanzania, the Kenyans are so influential that Kagasheki failed at introducing good land use planning in Loliondo,  the NGOs are especially Kenyan and  “Adam ole Timan” accuses “Kenyan” NGO people and “Kenyan” politicians ( that he suspects of defending land rights, I suppose) of all kinds of wrongdoings. He concludes with saying that the Sonjo and Laitayok, who of course are Tanzanian, aren’t seen in manifestations, which is quite insulting to the many Laitayok that are serious about land rights.  

As I mentioned in the latest blog post, a delegation went to Dodoma on 16th October to support Thomson Safaris’ land grab meeting ministers. On the 17th they were sighted in Nyerere square together with the MP for Ngoronogoro who was taking them to Mary Nagu, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office for Investment and Empowerment. Unsurprisingly the councillor for Oloipiri, William Alais, was part of this delegation. What was more surprising and disappointing to me was that Gabriel Killel of the NGO Kidupo participated in this shameful activity, but now people have told me that it was what could be expected of him. The chairmen of Orkuyaine and Oloipiri, Lukas Kursas and Olorpunywa, also went, as did Ndinini Kursas and Simat Loongung’ who unlike the others actually are from a village affected by Thomson’s land grab, Sukenya.

I stated clearly that those unhappy about my blog should contact me and not anyone else, but the coward Gabriel Killel threatened several people that he thought had given me information (and some of them had unfortunately not even shared any information, which sadly proves that intimidation works).  I emailed him offering to apologize and let him state in the blog how he’d never support land grabbers like Thomson (in case he was innocent), but did not get a reply. I have information from several sources, people saw him in Dodoma and important part of this blog is to expose friends of land grabbers.

Then I was sent William Alais’ letter to Mary Nagu that had been published in the Jamhuri on 18th November. He is writing on behalf of the people of Oloipiri ward, meaning the Laitayok, and the letter is supposedly based on a ward meeting on 10th November. The letter expresses strong support for Thomson Safaris, and OBC. Alais claims that the people of Oloipiri ward want to work with these good investors, but evil NGOs are spreading lies that the investors mistreat people and want to take their land. Well, OBC do want exclusive use of the “corridor” and Thomson Safaris already have taken 12,617 acres from their private nature refuge – and there have been numerous instances of violence, some of them reported about in this blog. Purko and Loita that bring relatives with cattle from Kenya are of course also mentioned. The Jamhuri’s rather typical headline is, “Wakenya, NGOs wanvyoivuruga Loliondo” (Kenyans, NGOs stir it up in Loliondo). Alais, the investors’ tool, is in an extremely ugly way stirring up clan division to benefit his masters. One coming generation Maasai of Alais’ same section told me, “Trust me only few people are in sitting with him. 50 talk this bullshit and the rest of the community are against the plan of Arabs and Thomson”, “The problem is that those people don't understand the impact and what he tells is in a different way and not as how he wrote the letter to Mary Nagu.”

For new readers – that I've noticed can be confused – Thomson Safaris is a separate, but closely related problem to OBC. They occupy 12,617 acres of Maasai land calling it Enashiva Nature Refuge, are work with the police harassing the legitimate landowners (one herder was shot in July this year) and very aggressively present this as a model for community-based tourism. The owners Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland were recently in Loliondo wanting William Alais to arrange a community meeting for them. They got a meeting with six of their usual friends and then they returned to Arusha. Thomson’s land grab is not inside the 1,500km2 under threat of being turned into a protected area.

A Summary Background for Newcomers about the 1,500lm2
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 where 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 more than 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 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”.

On 3rd September 2013 a team from the Ministry for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Developments started a survey of the villages of Loliondo and Sale. The following morning they were ordered to stop and return to Dar es Salaam - allegedly after a complaint from the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism.

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.

A huge bango kitita, matrix document or log frame, based on the Prime Minister’s visit appeared and as a nasty surprise it contained the government’s continued “need” of taking the 1,500 km2. This appeared already in April and for some reason those that saw it kept very quiet.

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

Could everyone who cares please demand a written statement from the government that this 1,500 km2 will never be taken as a protected area, or anything else?

Susanna Nordlund

Remember that all complaints about this blog should be directed to me and not anyone else!

And please share any information you may have.

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