Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Politics and Injustice in Loliondo

There are election results.
An unbelievable unjust – but not unexpected -court ruling was delivered, and there will be an appeal.

There’s some good, some bad and some downright ugly news, and this blog post has been somewhat delayed due to confusion.

The new MP for Ngorongoro is William Olenasha who has no track record whatsoever of being befriended by land grabbing “investors”. On the contrary, William has always been more than helpful in the land struggle. The District Council chairman Elias Ngorisa switched to the opposition after losing the CCM elections. Ngorisa used to be on very friendly terms with OBC, but has since 2013 spoken up for land rights, both against OBC and against Thomson Safaris. The incumbent MP, Telele, who turned totally befriended by “investors”, and then was appointed as Deputy Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, was not even third in the CCM elections.

The opposition has advanced in Ngorongoro wards in the recent elections. This has mostly happened due to CCM losers in the nomination elections in August swiftly moving parties, and becoming instant heroes for change.

The worst part of the election results is that the horrendously “investor-befriended” incumbent councillor for the Laitayok-dominated Oloipriri ward, William Alais, won the CCM elections and then there was no opposition candidate.

In Soitsambu ward the incumbent Daniel Ngoitiko won the CCM elections, and the losing candidate, Boniface Kanjwel, joined the opposition, after which he returned and won the ward elections. Boniface was the chairman of Soitsambu village before it was split up, and did then oppose Thomson Safaris, but some are not sure about his capacity to deal with “investors”. Others are confident he will always stand up for the land.

In Olorien-Magaiduru, with some - relatively - more urban areas, the OBC employee Marekani again won the CCM elections, but then lost to Metui Tipap who was a member of the opposition party Chadema since before the elections.

In Loosoito-Maaloni the investor-friendly Long’oi lost already in the CCM nomination election to Mbeka Rago.

In Enguserosambu that’s geographically not really relevant to the “investors” Kaigil Ngukwo Mashati lost the CCM elections, and joined the opposition, but it did not help him. The new councillor is William Parmiria. Mashati has figured prominently in the nightmares of this blogger. As councillor for Orgosorok, before the wards were split up, he spoke up against OBC, but then as councillor for Enguserosambu he entered a “partnership” with Thomson Safaris at the same time as he was having correspondence with me pretending to be something completely different to what he really was. Parmiria is seen as an activist.

Yannick Ndoinyo and Mathew Siloma continue as councillors for Ololosokwan and Arash respectively. Yannick has written about his election manifesto on land.

Ngorongoro District now has a total of nine non-CCM councillors: eight from Chadema and one from ACT-Wazalendo.

On 28th October the High Court in Arusha handed down a ruling in the case against Thomson Safaris (“Tanzania Conservation Ltd”) and Tanzania Breweries Ltd. More than five years after legal proceedings started – and over two years after the current lawsuit was initiated following the dismissal on technicalities of the first one – the court ruled against the Maasai on all points except a minor one concerning TBL adding 2,617 acres in 2004. The court decided not to do anything about a title to Maasai grazing land being in the hands of family of four from Boston, or their intent at converting the land use classification to tourism, and neither were the Maasai awarded any damages for the violent exclusion from their own land.  While not entirely surprising, it is sad that also the judiciary participate in the stupid/cruel farce in defence of injustice.  We are now at least six visitors who have first-hand experienced the ridiculous harassment by local authorities for doing nothing more than asking questions about Thomson Safaris, and beating this in ridiculousness are the regular accusations against local Maasai as “Kenyan”. Such an accusation was the first I ever heard from a friend of Thomson, back in May 2008. It is hard to understand how the judge, district commissioners, police, government employees, and not least local leaders who have been “befriended” can act which such shamelessness. Maybe there’s some clue in what I was once told about the former DC – a more reasonable man than the current one, which does not say much – who had angrily confronted a land rights activist and said, “you are not going to take the food away from my children”.

Already the same day did Minority Rights Group International, that is assisting with the court case, publish an excellent article, in which MRG’s Head of Law, Lucy Claridge, says, “MRG is dismayed by this decision. It is a setback for not only for the Maasai, but for all indigenous peoples across Africa struggling to have their rights over traditionally-owned land recognised and respected, “ adding “Although the community won on a minor point concerning an illegal transfer of part of the land, no damages were awarded and the conflict over land and resources remains. It is a significant defeat for the Maasai of Loliondo, who depend on raising and herding cattle in this harsh environment to earn their fragile living, and have had their main means of survival jeopardised by both international investors and their own government.”

The messages from the Maasai’s lawyers, Wallace N. Kapaya and Rashid S. Rashid, in the MRG article is, “‘We are tremendously dissatisfied with this judgment and intend to appeal it at the first opportunity. Based on the evidence at trial the court did not come to a fair decision, and this judgment only serves to cement the marginalisation of the Maasai in Ngorongoro in the name of conservation.”

It’s good that the appeal will be speedy, but more has to be done. The focus can’t lay exclusively on lawsuits. Thomson’s land grab does almost not exist for Tanzanian media, and a concerted campaign is needed.

As mentioned many times, and as will in the future again be mentioned in more detail, TBL got 10,000 acres of Maasai grazing land for barley conservation in a very irregular way in the mid-80s, cultivated a minor part of it for a few years, while the Maasai continued grazing their cattle on the rest of it, and then TBL left. The whole of the land returned to the Maasai, but many years later, in 2003/2004, TBL obtained a right of occupancy to 12,617 acres that they in 2006 sold to Thomson Safaris. This tour operator from Boston has worked in collusion with the police and other local authorities to turn the land into their own private Enashiva Nature Refuge, and this has led to uncountable cases of harassment and beatings of the legitimate Maasai landowners, minors being taken to court, Lesinko Nanyoi and Olunjai Timan being shot, and the most nauseating PR campaign presenting this crime as a “model for community-based tourism”.

Thomson Safaris will continue spending thousands of dollars on lawyers to defend their violent prestige project. They have to be stopped!

Susanna Nordlund

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