Friday, 3 March 2017

Plans to Evict the Maasai of Loliondo Continue

Maghembe and Manyerere continue their work for OBC
“Fake letter” scare
Meeting in Loosoito
Malicious prosecution dismissed
SENAPA attacks from the other flank
The committee and the PM - maybe good news?

Updated at the end.
As mentioned earlier, after the wave in July 2016 of illegal arrests and malicious prosecution that had the aim of silencing anyone who could speak up, and after the short rainy season failed to prevent a drought even worse than the one in 2009, those lobbying for the confiscation of 1,500 km2 of village land (land under control of village governments responsible to village assemblies, comprised of all village residents of 18 years and above, with the main purpose of securing customary land rights), which make up the critically important grazing land next to Serengeti National Park, increased their aggression with a “report”. This report was officially prepared by the hunters from Dubai, Otterlo Business Corporation, (OBC), and Prime Minister Majaliwa tasked Arusha Regional Commissioner Gambo with setting up a committee to “solve the land conflict.” Despite the Prime Minister's selection of the Arusha RC to resolve the land dispute, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Jumanne Maghembe, appeared in Loliondo on 25th January and, along with “journalist” Manyerere Jackton, who has written well over thirty inflammatory articles against the Maasai of Loliondo, declared that the land had to be taken before the end of March.  This made the ward councillors of Ngorongoro District issue a statement protesting Minister Maghembe’s unsolicited declaration and calling for him to immediately stop his plan for the vacating of ownership of the 1,500 km2.  The councillors stressed that he should stop stirring up conflict, as it was interfering in the process initiated by the Prime Minister to find a lasting solution that will benefit people, conservation and “investors”.

On 29th January, Minister Maghembe met the press in Dodoma and parroted OBC’s arguments for taking 1,500 km2 of grazing land from the Maasai. Maghembe didn’t limit himself to defending “conservation and tourism”, but repeated all OBC’s “arguments” about “Kenyans”, NGOs and tour companies that have contracts with the villages. Manyerere Jackton followed up with two of his malicious articles, then another one, and one more online on 22nd February.

More Statements against Maghembe
On 31st January, RC Mrisho Gambo told the press in Arusha that the work of the committee tasked by the PM to find a solution to the land conflict would go on, regardless of the statements by the Minister Maghembe. Similarly, the same day, four Ngorongoro District Councillors (the council chairman Matthew Siloma, Yannick Ndoinyo from Ololosokwan, and special seats councillors Maanda Ngoitiko and Kijoolo Kakiya) together with some community representatives from Loliondo and Sale divisions held a press conference at Lush Garden in Arusha, however, this press conference did not receive much attention from the media.

No other word than treason
The same day, 31st January parts of the press reported that the people of Loliondo would “differ” over the idea that the basis for their livelihood should be taken away for the benefit of OBC. Views favouring the land grab by OBC were aired on Channel 10 by the chairman of Wasso, Revocatus Parapara William, who became a great fan of OBC after switching to the ruling party (CCM). Parapara is originally from Mara Region and doesn’t own a single cow. He has probably never set his foot in the Osero if not for visiting OBC’s camp. Following Parapara on Channel 10’s piece, the director of the NGO Kidupo, Gabriel Killel, was featured. He was corrupted by OBC and Thomson Safaris in 2014, and since then, or maybe before, has been behaving in a very aggressive and apparently mentally unstable way, as was visible on Channel 10. Through the televised intervention Killel has taken one step further into the abyss of treason. Earlier, in the extremely OBC-friendly and anti-Loliondo Jamhuri paper, he and William Alais, councillor for Oloipiri, viciously attacked those that want to prevent them from “working with good investors” without saying anything about the 1,500 km2 at stake, and even mentioned that grazing in the Serengeti should be allowed! Killel has his own cows in the Osero.
The third person appearing on Channel 10 that day was a young man – Raphael Losiki - who hangs around in the streets of Wasso “Town”, and who praised OBC’s help for the youths of Wasso.  A few days later the long-time “investor-friendly” Oloipiri councillor William Alais and Tipap, councillor of Olorien-Magaiduru, appeared on Channel 10 distancing themselves from the other councillors, even if not expressly agreeing with Minister Maghembe about having the livelihoods of their people crushed into oblivion.

Fear and confusion about a “fake letter” from the PM’s secretary
On 15th February, extremely alarming information surfaced about a letter from PM Majaliwa’s secretary, dated 4th February, that would have announced the approval of turning the 1,500 km2 Osero into a Game Reserve, instead of the long-time threat of a Game Controlled Area as per Wildlife Conservation Act 2009, which is essentially the same thing. This was strange while the work of the RC’s committee tasked by the PM to find a “solution to the land conflict” was still ongoing. Eventually a new letter, dated 17th February, was sent, and this second letter cancelled the previous one declaring the Game Reserve, saying that the work of the committee, ordered to meet with four ministers – Natural Resources and Tourism, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development and the President’s Office responsible for Regional Administration, Local Government, Civil Service and Good Governance (TAMISEMI) would go on. Leaders in Loliondo did of course follow up the strange looking Game Reserve letter with the Prime Minister, and the help of Ngorongoro MP Olenasha has been specially mentioned, but why did the PM’s secretary, one Raymond Gowelle, write the first letter? The RaiaMwema newspaper published a far too rare article by Navaya ole Ndaskoi. Articles about Loliondo are usually either malicious or uninformed.

Meeting in Loosoito
On Sunday 19th February, some 1,500 people gathered in Loosoito to declare that the land is their life and they’re prepared to defend it for these and for coming generations, that they won’t consent to be swindled as with Serengeti, and that one person (OBC) can’t take the land that more than 70,000 people depend on. They called for the help of the president and declared to be ready to protect Serengeti through the measures he would want to assign to the villages.

Malicious prosecution dismissed
On 22nd February, the magistrate finally dismissed the ridiculous “espionage and sabotage” case against the secondary school teachers Supuk Olemaoi and Clinton “Eng’wes” Kairung, and the NGO directors Maanda Ngoitiko and Samwel Nang’iria. The case couldn’t go on forever and the prosecution had now had more than enough time to prepare something coherent. The charges had followed the mass arrests of a terror wave to silence anyone who could ever speak up in July 2016. All four had been charged with communicating “espionage and sabotage” information to this blogger, but the prosecution had failed to explain what the “espionage and sabotage” would consist of, or what the purpose would have been. Clinton was also charged with having mentioned a “stupid government” on 7th June 2016, which obviously isn’t a crime in any way, and was done in a private conversation. Supuk and Samwel had as well been charged with being in possession of unauthorised public documents that consisted of a press statement by Maasai women and the “contract” to vacate Serengeti from 1958.

The only accused present on 22nd February when the case was dismissed were Supuk and Clinton. The courtroom was full of police with handcuffs and all sorts of weapons, and Supuk and Clinton were swiftly re-arrested. After an hour in the courtroom they were granted bail, and now all four must report to the police every Friday.

Many thanks to Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition and Advocate Jebra Kambole.

SENAPA attacks from the other flank
Simultaneously, and not much talked about (I almost missed it) a group of supporters of alienating the 1,500 km2 (I have only approximately established what organisations are involved, besides SENAPA, obviously, and am waiting for more information) have also been renewing their plans for an expansion of Serengeti National Park. It’s been reported that they started by placing beacons in Piyaya in mid-January - it was apparently such a beacon that Minister Maghembe was photographed with on 25th January, the day he made his declaration of war against the Maasai of Loliondo. At the time, some thought it was a “GCA2009 beacon”, but were told it was just a National Park beacon, which it was, but inside village land! Other beacons have been put up in Soitsambu and Ololosokwan. This is an extremely dangerous development that has been overshadowed by the threat of having the 1,500 km2 Osero turned into a protected area for OBC’s enjoyment (Game Controlled Area 2009 or Game Reserve, the National Park is not for hunting, or for OBC that would lose some hunting area, in case new readers are confused, and misleading articles from 2015 are currently being circulated again…) I have no doubt that much work is dedicated to stop this threat as well, but there is hardly any information to the public.

Meeting between PM and committee
On 2nd March, the committee of “stakeholders” – good, bad and very, very ugly - led by the RC met with PM Majaliwa and handed over their report (that I still haven’t got). Articles that appeared the same day show the smiling faces of bad people that made me ill with worry, and a in a video the PM is shown saying approximately, “we can’t have conflict, there have to be livestock officers", not a word about the injustice and the horrifying abuse of power. Though apparently, those presents say it was a “good” meeting, in which the PM recognised the obvious fact that the 1,500 km2 is village land, so let’s hope for that. Though the RC has already declared that the options are the huge land loss of the GCA 2009, or a WMA that would mean that the land remains as village land, but giving more power to the “investor” (OBC), the Director of Wildlife, other external forces, and some local individuals with the right inclinations to become WMA big guys, which would open another can of worms.  Anyway, losing the Osero is not an option.

That all land in Loliondo is village land per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999, and more than the whole of Loliondo is also a Game Controlled Area (of the old kind that doesn’t affect human activities and can overlap with village land) where OBC has the hunting block. Stan Katabalo – maybe Tanzania’s last investigative journalist - reported about how this hunting block was acquired in the early 90s.

In 2007-2008 the affected villages were threatened into signing a Memorandum of Understanding with OBC.

In the drought year 2009 the Field Force Unit and OBC extrajudicially evicted people and cattle from some 1,500 km2 of dry season grazing land that serve as the core hunting area next to Serengeti National Park. Hundreds of houses were burned and thousands of cattle were chased into an extreme drought area which did not have enough food or water to sustain them. 7-year old Nashipai Gume was lost in the chaos and has not been found, ever since.

People eventually moved back, and some leaders started participating in reconciliation ceremonies with OBC.

Soon enough, in 2010-2011, OBC totally funded a draft district land use plan that proposed turning the 1,500 km2 into the new kind of Game Controlled Area that’s a “protected” (not from hunting) area and can’t overlap with village land. This plan, that would have allowed a more “legal” repeat of 2009, was strongly rejected by Ngorongoro District Council.

In 2013, then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, made bizarre statements as if all village land in Loliondo would have disappeared through magic, and the people of Loliondo would be generously “gifted” with the land outside the 1,500 km2. This was nothing but a horribly twisted way of again trying to evict the Maasai landowners from OBC’s core hunting area. There’s of course no way a Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism would have the mandate for such a trick of magic. After many mass meetings – where there was agreement to never again enter any MoU with OBC - and protest delegations to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, then Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda in a speech on 23rd September the same year revoked Kagasheki’s threat and told the Maasai to continue their lives as before this threat that through the loss of dry season grazing land would have led to the destruction of livelihoods, environmental degradation and increased conflict with neighbours.

Parts of the press – foremost Manyerere Jackton in the Jamhuri – increased their incitement against the Maasai of Loliondo as “Kenyan” and governed by destructive NGOs. OBC’s “friends” in Loliondo became more active in the harassment of those speaking up against the “investors”, even though they themselves don’t want the GCA 2009, and rely on others, the same people they persecute, to stop it…

Speaking up against OBC (and against Thomson Safaris, the American tour operator claiming ownership of 12,617 acres, and that shares the same friends as OBC) had always been risky, but the witch-hunt intensified with mass arrests in July 2016. Four people were charged with a truly demented “espionage and sabotage” case. Manyerere Jackton has openly boasted about his direct involvement in the illegal arrests of innocent people for the sake of intimidation.

To review, in July 2016, Manyeree Jackton also wrote an “article” calling for PM Majaliwa to return the Kagasheki-style threat. In November 2016 OBC sent out a “report” to the press detailing the need for the alienation of the 1,500 km2 of essential grazing land. In mid-December 2016, the Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo was tasked by the PM with setting up a committee to “solve the conflict”, and on 25th January 2017 the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, in the middle of the drought stricken Osero, flanked by the most OBC-devoted journalists, and ignoring the ongoing talks, made a declaration that the land had to be taken before the end of March. In February 2016, a “fake letter” was received saying that the PM had approved turning the 1,500 km2 into a “Game Reserve”, but this letter was cancelled by another letter on 17th February.

Now we are waiting for the PM’s decision. As said, losing the Osero is not an option.

Susanna Nordlund (Please contact me with information, or if you can help against the land grabbers in any way).

Update 8th March: On 5th-7th March a most the parliamentary standing committee on land, natural resources and tourism made a most anomalous visit to Loliondo. Onesmo Olengurumwa wrote an open letter to the speaker of parliament. 

Update 19th March: developments have been extremely worrying, but I've been asked to wait with writing until the committee's proposal is known in a couple of days.  

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