Thursday, 15 October 2015

Grabbers of Pastoralist Land Join Forces and Loliondo is Misused in the Election Campaign

A partnership between AWF and Thomson Safaris has been loudly announced.
Sheikh Mohammed visited and this was used in a dishonest way in the election campaign.

Since everyone who has some information is busy with politics it's even harder than usual to obtain information from Loliondo.

Grabbers Join Forces
In the court case to regain the land occupied by Thomson Safaris there were hearings of the defendants 14th to 16th September and then the judgement date was set for 26th October – the day after the elections.

The following week a press release from African Wildlife Foundation announced that “Thomson Safaris and AWF Join Forces for Conservation”. Thomson are described as “a leader in responsible Tanzanian Safaris”. Judi Wineland again talks about “give back to the community” which is nauseating when Thomson are spending huge sums of money on lawyers to keep the land they have stolen, and where they have many times used violence against "trespass" by the legitimate landowners. Thomson have already been organizing trips for AWF for years, and the only concrete description of the partnership is that it “includes a membership to AWF for all returning Thomson Safaris guests”. On 27th September the Daily News published thepress release with “Daily News Reporter” in the by-line.

AWF have – with funds from TNC -  been involved in a land purchase leading to brutal evictions of a Samburu community in Kenya, as has been reported by Survival International, and when the Samburu fought back with a court case AWF and TNC gave the land as a present to the government for a national park.

Also in the Tarangire ecosystem, or AWF's Maasai Steppe “Heartland”, has AWF been encouraging land alienation and evictions, as reported in “Disconnected Nature: The Scaling Up of African Wildlife Foundation” by Hassanali Sachedina, and in “Conservation, Commerce, and Communities: The Story of Community-Based Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania's Northern Tourist Circuit" by Jim Igoe. In "Strangers in their own land: Maasai and wildlife conservation in Northern Tanzania" Mara Goldman describes AWF's flagship project Manyara Ranch as a conservation opportunity lost.  And now AWF officially support a deeply unethical safari company.

I don't know what AWF gain from publicising this partnership. Thomson's benefit is obvious.

The King Visited and there were Fake Giraffes
On 25th September Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai landed in Loliondo with an entourage of 134 people, and then left on the 29th.

On the 29th pictures from OBC's airstrip started appearing in social media and soon there were also pictures of the capture of giraffes passed off as from Loliondo, even if it was the wrong subspecies, and the pictures not hard to find elsewhere on the internet. Someone photoshopped a vehicle carrying a giraffe into a picture from the airstrip, and this spread like wildfire with opposition supporters wanting to expose CCM. Some of them weren't happy when told that the giraffes were fake. CCM supporters online countered with not only exposing the photoshop and fake giraffes, but also adding their own misinformation baselessly claiming that the airstrip in the photo – obviously OBC’s airstrip in dry season – was from “Limpopo National Park in Mozambique”.

On the 30th there was a press conference with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, Dr Adelhelm Meru, telling journalists that the information was unfounded and misleading, and in the usual silly and exaggerated style saying, “Any one circulating that information has bad intentions towards the government and the country at large,”. It is sad though that people that don't care one bit about Loliondo use it - wilfully or ignorantly - for their own purposes.

There are sometimes suspicions of abuse of hunting regulations in Loliondo (also that the whole Tanzanian hunting industry is corrupt) and it would be helpful if someone could provide photographic evidence, even if any authentic pictures will now be harder to trust after this stupid, dishonest, and unnecessary photoshop incidence.

It seems like in 2010 - not now - giraffes and other animals were flown off to Qatar - not Dubai - from Kilimanjaro International Airport in a military plane. There’s no evidence at all of the involvement of OBC, and it seems unlikely that the animals would be from Loliondo when there are other, far more accessible, areas where they are found. There hasn’t been any evidence of OBC shipping out live animals since the 90s, but Loliondogate is fixed in the minds of many Tanzanians who seem totally uninterested in the human rights abuse and extreme land threats that have taken place since then.

There were extrajudicial evictions in the drought year 2009, since OBC were disturbed by too many people and cattle in their core hunting area next to Serengeti National Park. Around 200 permanent and temporary bomas were burnt to the ground. Some 60,000 heads of cattle were pushed out of the dry season grazing area. Many cases of beatings, humiliations and sexual assault have been reported. Several children were lost in the chaos and terror and one of them – 7-year-old Nashipai Gume from Arash – has not been found, ever since.
In 2010-2011 the Draft District Land Use Framework Plan 2010-2030 - totally funded by OBC - proposed the alienation of 1,500 square kilometres of osero next to the National Park for a "protected area", not protected from hunting. The plan was vigorously rejected by the District Council.

In 2013 then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, declared that the 1,500 square kilometres would be grabbed, but he did this in the most twisted and misleading way lying that the whole of Loliondo was a protected area and the Maasai landless, and would be "given" the land that would not be taken. After many meetings and several protest delegations to Dar es Salaaam and Dodoma did PM Pinda revoke Kagasheki's threats in a speech - but the promise that the Maasai could continue living in peace on their land has still not been put in writing, while there have been allegations that Minister Nyalandu has been threatening in meetings with councillors from Loliondo, and parts of the press have continued inciting against the Maasai.

The above seem not to be of interest to some interested in attacking the governing party, and instead they decide to share fake giraffe pictures.

From what I’ve heard, justice in Tanzania can’t always be expected, but let’s hope for some good news. An unethical American company can’t be allowed to manage Maasai land and royal hunters should be made to leave before they again threaten the 1,500 square kilometres. The struggle continues.

Susanna Nordlund

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