Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Bomas Razed by Serengeti National Park Rangers and Loliondo Administrative Police

A large number of bomas in areas of Arash and Loosoito/Maaloni have been burned by TANAPA and thousands of people left without food or shelter.

Exact details have been very difficult to come by.

The “investor-friendly”* group is worse than ever.

I should have published a blog post a week ago, but have had serious problems getting exact information. Now it has to be posted. (Updated below in purple.  It's been found that the bomas were inside the established park boundary, and some also inside another, unidentified, boundary. It has to be investigated if the unidentified boundary could have become the legal boundary.)

The first week of February the Commissioner of Immigration was in Loliondo holding meetings, and ordering the Community Development Officer to provide a list of all NGOs operating in the district, the directors of these NGOs with their phone numbers and the latest reports of what they have done.

On Thursday 5th February a meeting was held between the DC, the Commissioner of Immigration, the Director of Borders from the Immigration Department HQ and officials from the Ministries of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, and Natural Resources and Tourism. The meeting ended with a resolution of having the Immigration Department undertake an intelligence scanning and give feedback to the government on whether Kenyans are in Loliondo or not.

On the 7th there was a meeting in Oldonyowas between the three wards under “investor-friendly”* leadership: Oloipiri, Maaloni and Olorien/Magaiduru and there was an agreement to hold a meeting in the Osero, 1,500 square kilometres under threat, the following day and then to begin removing cattle from outside the villages. The meeting that they planned to hold in the Osero could not be held due to of lack of confidence to face the public. So that idea was abandoned. The group is reported to have taken OBC to survey village boundaries, without knowing much about these boundaries. The size of the area in the Osero belonging to wards under “investor-friendly”* leadership is also unclear and not that huge.
It has been discovered that Gabriel Killel and William Telele of the now extremely “investor-friendly”* NGO Kidupo on 30th January at Dommel Guesthouse printed out comments in social media by Supuk Maoi who is very concerned about the destructiveness of this group, and about the many other threats against the people of Loliondo. Supuk recently returned home after having worked in Simanjiro and is currently working as a teacher at Loliondo Secondary School (built by OBC). The intention of Killel and Telele Jr is to have him fired.

TANAPA Attacks

On 8th February over 8000 cows were impounded by TANAPA (SENAPA) rangers in bomas (homesteads) in the Irmolelian area of Arash close to the border of Serengeti National Park. The cows were held for two days, without grass or water, under the threat of being sold, until the herders had raised a “fine” of 15 million TShs for national park grazing. Some say that the rangers called in their counterparts from OBC to help them with this operation. No receipt was issued for the 15 million TShs.

Then on the 10th, continuing on the 11th -14th, the SENAPA rangers together with the police set fire to 114 permanent bomas in the Irmolelian, Oldarpoi, Nyori, Paipai, Mang'inng'n and Sirkoit areas of Arash, and in the Olekushin, Irpalakika and Olochoki areas of Loosoito/Maaloni villages. The rangers argued that they had orders from above (without specifying) and that the bomas were inside Serengeti National Park. (After further investigation it's been found that the bomas were inside the established park boundary, and some also inside another, unidentified, boundary, but people had been living there for around 5 years. The question is if this unidentified boundary could have become the legal boundary in some way.)

Two to three thousand people, or more, children included, are said to have been left without food, shelter, or medical services.
People who refused to leave their homes were forced out at gunpoint.
There are also reports of beatings. Young boys who were looking after cattle were beaten and one of them, 12-year-old Saruni Saoroi, was seriously injured and taken to Wasso hospital. Two men from the Olekoros family in Nyori were also beaten.
Many goat kids have been lost.
Over 200 children are sleeping out.
Women tried to set up temporary houses, but they were burnt again with serious threats.

There were conflicting reports about whether the bomas were inside the national park, on disputed border land, or on village land. Those that have visited the area say that the bomas definitely are outside the park but the Maasai used to graze their cattle in the park with localized arrangement with the patrol rangers. (This is disputed by those that have made an investigation and found that the bomas were inside the established park boundary, and some also inside another, unidentified, boundary that has to be investigated, and rangers were paid for this arrangement too.) In whichever case human rights abuse has certainly been committed. Most informed people mention disputed border land. There is a government notice from 1968 that wasn’t participatory or communicated to the Maasai and this notice extended the national park more than in the government notice from 1959, which was not supposed to be changed. The 1968 government notice is purported by SENAPA to be the correct one. (According to documents the 1959 and 1968 GNs are the same in this case).  It should also be remembered that the Eastern Serengeti was Maasai land. Some say that rangers for many years have been taking bribes to leave people in peace, but were triggered when the “investor-friendly”* group was surveying village boundaries together with OBC. (That exact trigger could just be gossip, there are other theories.)

An international organisation published a misleading article saying that eviction in the 1,500 square kilometres had started so that the land could be “sold” to OBC. This article was later removed. Some say that OBC rangers have assisted TANAPA in razing the bomas while others claim that they are confused and that it was anti-poaching squads from Arusha that participated in the human rights abuse. Many people also fear that benefitting OBC is a hidden reason for the destruction of homes. OBC have put a lot of resources to get exclusive use of the 1,500 square kilometre area which is the same area that TANAPA pretends is within the park. The Irmolelian area has fresh roads constructed by OBC recently and the UAE company has also been hunting for almost 23 years in the same area. How can that now be turned into national park? These are some of the questions on people’s minds. (There have later been several more very misleading articles.)

Rangers told journalists that had managed to reach the area on the 14th that “the Serengeti National Park management is conducting the operation to remove villagers who have put permanent settlements near the border of the park” while the Serengeti chief park warden William Mwakilema told the Guardian (Tanzanian newspaper) by phone on the 15th that the burned bomas were inside the Serengeti National Park, and affirmed, “We have documentary evidence on what we did. We are protecting the park; these pastoralists have been bringing large group of livestock to graze inside the park. We are clearing them out.”

According to the Guardian (TZ) traditional leader Peter Maleton told the journalist, “This is our homeland. Our fathers were placed here after they were evicted from Serengeti in an agreement way back in 1959 between the colonial government and the community during the establishment of the Serengeti National Park. We have lost almost everything.” The Guardian (TZ) adds, “Meleton said the agreement stipulated clearly that the Maasai will not face any other evictions from their land and wondered why it is happening now. He blamed the park management for conducting the operation and treating common harmless citizens as criminals.”

Noorkisaruni from Arash said women and children are starving and facing health complications resulting from food shortages. "I lost seventy kilograms of maize, milk and bread dough. The situation is getting worse every minute. Our government should help us,” she told the journalist.

Traditional leader Olekanduli insisted, “We will not leave, even by an inch. We are willing to die for our land; our community has lived in oppression, injustice and has continued to be poor. But enough is enough, no quitting.”

The Regional Security Committee and the Director General of TANAPA, Allan Kijazi, are all in Loliondo. The new Arusha Regional Commissioner, Daudi Felix “Kijiko” Ntibenda, will attend a meeting in Irmolelian on the 19th, but will first, tomorrow 18th, have a look at the border to Kenya. It’s said that he will be taken for an “aerial border survey”.

Could those that are in Loliondo please go to the affected areas with food and help to rebuild the houses? (Nobody did, it seems, but according to most information, people vacated the area and are now living in other bomas).

The rain that would be a blessing is falling on people without shelter. 

*This is a euphemism.

Susanna Nordlund

No comments: