I was locked up two nights at Loliondo police station and one night at Arusha police station.
Not allowed to contact anyone.
My computer was destroyed.
Instead of a court case I was deported to Kenya.
Then the usual journalist wrote an article full of lies about me.
Last week my latest trip to Loliondo – a part of the world that’s always on my mind - was cut short in a quite abrupt way when someone reported me to authorities. I wanted to meet some of the people who are not online, but who have information about the land threats caused by “investors”.
I arrived in Wasso by bus on 20th June and did not get much done while looking for a vehicle to go to the villages. I had one good offer, but then the owner announced that his driver could not go to “those villages” during daytime. On the 23rd finally I got a vehicle to go to Kirtalo for a half-day. On the way there I got a message that one of Thomson Safaris’ drivers had phoned a young man telling him that he had seen me together with my friend at Domel guest house. I met some people in Kirtalo, my friend had to stay there and I returned to Wasso together with the driver. On the way we met a vehicle carrying the “investor-friendly” councillor for Oloipiri. William Alais. My plan was to go to Mondorosi and Sukenya the following day.
Back at the guest house I was on my computer writing down what people had told me, but instead I fell asleep. When I woke up it was dark and I went for dinner at Honest guest house since I’d been seen too much at Domel. A vehicle arrived and those inside it got out and walked straight up to me. Immigration officer Angela asked me what I was doing in Tanzania and wanted to see my passport. I told her my itinerary and interests leaving out the interest in grabbers of pastoralist land. I had only a copy of my passport and was asked to follow the immigration officers and a policeman to Oloip where I was staying, and where there were memories of Moringe Parkipuny. I tried to send some messages to friends, but my phone was taken away before I knew if I had succeeded. I was told that immigration knew everything about me from the internet, which was a kind of relief since from then I could start telling my exact opinion about things. I was informed that I was under arrest and had to pack all my belongings. The DC for Ngorongoro, Hashim Shaibu Mgandilwa, whom I recognised from media, was around in the background, without introducing himself, talking with the immigration officers. On the way out to the vehicle the immigration officers took the hotel register of Oloip, and then I was driven to Loliondo police station.
At the police station I was informed that the reason for my arrest was that I had entered Tanzania as a prohibited immigrant.
In 2010 I visited Loliondo as a tourist to ask people if what Thomson Safaris – an American safari company that claim ownership to 12,617 acres of Maasai land and have beaten and harassed “trespassers” - were writing on their website corresponded with reality. I had become interested in this issue after discussions on the internet. Hardly anything of the company’s writings was true, but I also made the mistake of asking the ward executive officer of Soitsambu who phoned the DC at that time, Elias Wawa Lali, who would reply to my questions the following day. This was a lie and the following morning while waiting for transport I was instead approached by the police and taken to the Ngorongoro Security Committee and the DC who was not in Soitsambu. I was accused of different things, like working, until the committee decided that I had been doing “research” without a permit. My passport was confiscated and I had to go to immigration in Arusha to retrieve it where I was also declared a “prohibited immigrant” and had to leave the country. After this I started a blog – View from the Termite Mound - about the “investors” in Loliondo that are a threat to land rights – Thomson Safaris and the more widely known OBC from the UAE that repeatedly has tried to influence the Tanzanian government to declare 1,500 km2 next to Serengeti NP a protected area, and removing the Maasai from this area of great importance to their livelihoods. In 2009 this even led to violent evictions of people that eventually moved back. I have since returned to Loliondo in 2011 and 2013 without any problems, but I do get most of my information from the many people from Loliondo that are active in social media. My blog is an important resource since not only the government and “investors” are spreading misinformation, but also supportive people and organisations often mix up their facts. Local people in Loliondo that speak up against the land threats often become victims of intense harassment, not least being accused of being “Kenyan”, and sadly the biggest threat often comes from other local people that for personal benefit have seen it fit to befriend the “investors”.
At Loliondo police station I was asked to list all my belongings and I listed part of them, not knowing if it was a good or bad thing to do. I clearly stated that everyone present knew that my arrest was because of dirty politics in Loliondo and that it was those that endanger livelihoods by grabbing land that should be arrested instead. I had to phone family and friends, but was told that I was under arrest and didn’t have any rights. Angela said I would be given my phone next morning at the immigration office. All my belongings were locked up in a room and I was taken to a cell in the clothes I was wearing without even having brushed my teeth. In the cell my kikoi, that could have served as a blanket, my shoes and a blanket that was already there were taken away. I had to sleep on concrete in short jeans and a very thin long shirt in the pitch dark cell. After a while I was given my bottle of water that I used for trying to clean my mouth and not too much for drinking since there was no toilet in the cell. Later I saw that there were some buckets. In Loliondo town it’s quite cold at night and the highly situated window had no glass, only bars. There were also many mosquitoes and I did not have my repellent. I was a political prisoner. I shivered with cold, but words from Kirtalo about my blog kept me warm inside. The insanely disproportionate treatment of a blogger almost made me laugh. Some people at the police station showed discreet signs of support.
The following morning I got breakfast and was allowed a brief visit to the bathroom and some water for washing my face and then back to the cell again. From the writings on the walls I could see that other prisoners had stayed in the cell for both five and seven days without food. After some unknown time since I did not have my watch I was driven to the immigration office where Angela took my statement. She was friendly and gave me candy, but I still had to wait for my phone. I stated exactly what I do in Loliondo, but without mentioning any names, and I suggested who really should be arrested (the managers and owners of Thomson Safaris and OBC). Angela said that I would be taken to a guest house to stay and wash completely, before in the morning be taken to Arusha. She showed a surprising lack of knowledge about the land issues and I had to explain virtually everything.
Back at the police station I could brush my teeth. Followed a long wait while the immigration officers met inside the locked room with my belongings and also outside the police station with the DC. I got food, got back my kikoi, and waited even more. Now I was told that I would get my phone back at the immigration office in Arusha. I discreetly got a phone number and put it in my back pocket. Angela smiled with the DC and he showed her something on his phone. I was told that I was going back to the cell. I asked the DC if he thought he was doing a good job, but he just smiled, and continued smiling when I was taken away.
The former DC, Elias Wawa Lali. did his corrupt job working for central government – and investors – against the people, but did not seem to have any personal wish to make things worse. The current DC, Hashim Shaibu Mgandilwa, has “strange ideas” like that of making leaders walk 8 kilometres from Wasso to Loliondo to be locked up after a corrupt policeman was beaten up by other people, as happened on 6th May this year.
I could keep my kikoi the second night, could have my mosquito repellent and after a while an angel came with a foam mattress. Some came to my end of the corridor, shone a torch at me and uttered words of solidarity.
It was dark when I was woken up. Angela came with her boss, a driver and another man, and we were off to Arusha, via the crater route, but first photos were taken of me. At Oldupai prehistorical site I could have some toiletries and then there was a stop for a luxury breakfast at Serena Lodge on the crater rim. I don’t know if this was paid for by Tanzanian tax payers or by Serena Lodges. I considered approaching some Swedish or Spanish looking tourist, but they were out on game drives and I thought that someone in Loliondo must have contacted the embassy.
I did not get my phone back at the immigration office in Arusha, and I had to go through my belongings again. Angela now found a list of names in the pocket of my laptop cover and her face lit up. It was a list of those I email when I have a new blog post, which does only mean that I would like those people to get more involved.
Then followed a long wait locked up in a room at immigration that had a bathroom. I had a sore throat and around a hundred mosquito bites. My hair, that I normally wash every night, was kept in the same bun as the day I was arrested and I was wearing the same clothes. I fell asleep on the wooden bench. Keys were heard and the door opened. Lawyers sent by Onesmo Olengurumwa of Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition that were I contact with the Swedish ambassador entered. I was confused and did first not understand that one of the lawyers was Shilinde Ngalula , whom I’d heard a lot about in Mondorosi 2013. The other one was Elibariki Maeda, both from Legal and Human Rights Centre. I explained what had happened and was told that it would be looked into how I could be bailed out, if it was possible, as a foreigner. I had been arrested too long and it was illegal not to allow me to contact anyone. There would be a court case that I started to look forward to.
Then I continued sitting, locked in, waiting. I was told that I could wash completely and change clothes and that’s what I started doing until I was suddenly told that I had to go to the police station, so I dressed and went there half-washed with my hair lose not knowing that I would be put in a cell again, which I should have been able to guess. During the whole time I was arrested there was very little information, few people introduced themselves and when there was information it mostly consisted of lies. My limited Swahili could of course also have added to the confusion. I was not allowed my brush, hairpins and elastics in the cell at Arusha police station. My kikoi and shoes were also taken, but I was later given a jacket. I was sleeping on concrete in this cell too, but there was a bathroom, and I had company of the self-confessed thieves Saidamu who specialised in ATMs and Mary who had stolen water for her crops with a pump. Some of the male thieves opposite our cell – that had not yet been found guilty in a court of law, but said they were thieves, or in some case “real criminals with guns” – talked a lot the whole night. Saidamu braided my hair, but when I found that there was running water I washed it. It was less cold that in Loliondo and there were fewer mosquitoes. Instead of pitch darkness like in Loliondo there was too harsh light the whole night. At an unknown time, but hours before daybreak, Saidamu and Mary were let out to mop the corridor floor. I was asked if I could mop and was ready to get out to have a look, but the girls said that I was sleeping and they didn’t want me to mop, which was just as well since there was no mop, but some kind of back-breaking exercise.
Some hours after daybreak I was again taken to the immigration office and then followed many fingerprints and photographs. In the afternoon I had to go through my belongings again and was declared a prohibited immigrated. It was explained that I could never again enter Tanzania. The only thing I could try was to write to the minister for home affairs. I asked for my list of people to send emails to, but did not get it back – and I did not get my phone, even though I explained that I had the right to contact people.
I was escorted to Namanga, as always in the middle of the backseat between two people. At the border followed more waiting and more photos. I asked for a copy of the notice to prohibited immigrant, but did not get one. I said I would be back and one of the immigration officers told the border personnel, “haogopi kitu” (she doesn’t fear anything). At the Kenyan border control I got my phone back and a sympathetic person drove me to a hotel where I on my phone saw what had been said on social media about the arrest and I contacted people to say I had been released. My family had not got any information at all. The embassy was not allowed to contact them without my consent that was impossible to get when I was not allowed to communicate. My computer that I’m normally glued to was to my frustration impossible to switch on.
The following day a local IT specialist in Namanga opened the computer and found that a ribbon that connects power to the motherboard was missing, which I would have to go to Nairobi to repair – and in Nairobi it was found that it was worse than that. Samsung in Nairobi are currently having a look at it.
On Wednesday 30th I was informed that Manyerere Jackton had written about me in the Jamhuri. The following day I could read the article online and it was full of the most insane lies. As expected, Manyerere uses the occasion to incite against Tina Timan whom I’ve never met. She’s the only one of the supposedly “Kenyan” activists in Loliondo that was actually born in Kenya, even if she’s lived in Tanzania for many years and has several Tanzanian children – but Manyerere uses anything little thing he can find – and many things that only exist in his mind - to stir up xenophobia. His incitement in the Jamhuri against the people of Loliondo is well known and has often been reported about in my blog.
Manyerere – or his source - lies that I would have said that I’d make sure that Sweden cuts its aid to Tanzania if the government does not stop persecuting me. Not only do I obviously not have any such influence, but anyone who knows me also knows that I would never say such a thing. The only thing I said about my country was that, as in any half-serious democracy, anyone with a tourist visa can talk politics with any person - this was after the usual nonsense at the police station that, “in no country is a visitor allowed to talk politics with people”. With the most nauseating hypocrisy the perpetrators of neo-colonialism pretend to be victims of the same.
In the article Immigration Commissioner Abdullah Khamis Abdullah lauds the work of DC Hashim Shaibu Mgandilwa bringing peace to the district. Not only is the existence of district commissioners a colonial relict, but this current one has taken “controlling the natives” to new levels as could be seen in the operations earlier this year.
I wish Manyerere would have mentioned my blog by its name View from the Termite Mound, but instead he says that Just Conservation that publishes some of my posts is my website.
With great “imagination” Manyerere writes that my supposed partners and I have raised billions of money for “abused” pastoralists and funded the NGOs so that they can keep stirring up the conflict. I have never raised a single penny and unfortunately not given anything to the NGOs. I am a blogger.
Worst of all are the threats of investigating those that helped me, and with usual cluelessness the focus is on the owner of the guest house where I was staying, and with whom my relation is of a strictly business character. I will have to make room payments through Western Union once at home since I did not think of that when I was taken to Loliondo police station.
I don’t know why the idea of a court case was dropped. It would have been a good opportunity to expose what’s going in Loliondo, and to ask the questions: Are tourists not allowed to ask questions in Tanzania? Do those tourists that have a blog need a special kind of visa?
Now my intention is to continue blogging about Loliondo for the rest of my life, and I will be back.
Susanna Nordlund, in Nairobi on borrowed computer
Update: Samsung in Nairobi established that the hard drive was taken.
Manyerere Jackton emailed me that he had read my blog post and explained that he was defending his country against my "neocolonialism", "Tanzania for Tanzanians" etc. The obvious reply to that was wondering why he then worked so hard to in multiple articles incite against the Tanzanian Maasai of Loliondo for the benefit of foreign investors. Instead of replying Manyerere rapidly revealed an informant by sending photos telling me how every step of my "illegal activities" had been monitored. He did not explain how meeting people could be an "illegal activity" in a democratic country. Neither did he explain why the article did not have his name. The informant was the driver Mangusha.
|My late computer in Wasso before being arrested.|