Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Land Threat in Loliondo is at a Critical Point

Parliamentary Standing Committee co-opted by Minister Maghembe
German money used to press for land grab
Women’s manifestation
He RC’s committee was marking “critical areas” and meeting protests
Crying everywhere
Then the RC’s committee proposed a WMA
Summary for newcomers at the end.

In Loliondo the committee tasked by PM Majaliwa and led by Arusha RC Gambo has continued its work to “solve the land conflict”, and it’s come up with a proposal.  This so-called conflict is over 1,500 km2 of grazing land next to Serengeti National Park, that belongs to the villages per Village Land Act 1999 and is wanted for a “protected area” (not protected from hunting) by the hunters from Dubai known as OBC (Otterlo Business Corporation) that through the years have come up with different schemes to achieve this with the at times, or most of the time, devoted support from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. If achieved, such a land alienation would lead to destruction of lives and livelihoods, and to increased conflict, since the Maasai of Loliondo very obviously must go somewhere. As mentioned in previous blog posts, while the RC’s committee was at work, Maghembe, the Minister for National Resources and Tourism, made statements that the 1,500 km2 Osero (bushland) had to be taken, and he parroted all OBC’s arguments. Meanwhile, the dry season has been catastrophic, but is ending, OBC’s most admiring journalist kept up his hate speech until the past weeks when he’s been unusually quiet and then returned with more of the same, the Serengeti National Park Authority has been placing beacons on village land, a threatening letter was sent by the PM’s secretary and then revoked by another letter, there have been many meetings, and then a strangely behaving Parliamentary Standing Committee has visited, and the RC’s committee has been marking “critical areas”. Fear and confusion increased very sharply. Then a WMA was proposed.

Parliamentary Standing Committee or Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism?
On 5th–7th March 2017 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Tourism – chaired by Atashata Nditiye - made a most anomalous visit to Loliondo. The standing committee refused to meet with community members and the only representative allowed to follow them on the trip was the chairman of Ngorongoro District Council. However, he was not given a chance to speak.

The Standing Committee was joined by such already outspoken Osero grab supporters as the Director of Wildlife, the directors of TAWIRI and TAWA, the director of TANAPA, of NCAA, and several employees of OBC, the hunters from Dubai that have spent years campaigning for the alienation of the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land. The extremely OBC-friendly and anti-Loliondo Minister Maghembe kept giving his version of events and talking all the time. The committee was, according to the timetable, funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism when it should be funded by Parliament. Vehicles from TANAPA and OBC were used. The one-sidedness couldn’t have been more flagrant.

On the 7th a meeting was held at the District Council, but Minister Maghembe kept taking almost all speaking time. Onesmo Olengurumwa of Ngorongoro Professionals Association (and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition) wrote an open letter to the Speaker of Parliament.

On 8th March councillors and village chairmen managed to hold a meeting at Dommel guesthouse with some of the Standing Committee members. Though the chairman of the Standing Committee didn’t allow the press to attend. The Standing Committee continued to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but was stopped in Mbuken in Arash by some Loliondo residents blocking the road, wanting the Standing Committee members to listen to them, since contrary to the normal work of a Standing Committee, public hearings had been completely avoided. As usual, parts of the ridiculous Tanzanian press “reported” that NGO incitement was behind the protest, as if people would otherwise quietly watch those destroying their lives and livelihoods.

Then at Ngorongoro, over one thousand people stopped the Standing Committee by blocking the main access road to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority’s headquarters. The protesters demanded to have their concerns about several issues listened to, like the restriction of access to grazing, water and salt licks in more and more areas, not least Ngorongoro Crater, as announced by Prime Minister Majaliwa in December 2016, about which they demanded clarification.

Reportedly, the Standing Committee was divided, with some of the members supporting the land rights of the Maasai of Loliondo, and these members had been side-lined during the Loliondo tour. Several members – contrary to the instructions by the chairman – stopped to talk to the people in Arash that blocked the road and demanded to be listened to. According to the RaiaMwema, some of these members were Joseph Kasheku Musukuma (MP for Geita Vijijini, CCM), Paulina Gekul (MP for Babati Mjini, Chadema), Godwin Mollel (MP for Siha, Chadema) and Omari “Jabbir” Kigoda (MP for Handeni Mjini, CCM), who claimed to have every reason and right to listen to the people who would be affected by the alienation of the 1,500 km2 of grazing land. Godwin Mollel complained to the RaiaMwema newspaper about the biased chairman who didn’t listen to some members, and only wanted to use them as a rubber stamp to push through a special agenda, “Kama mnavyoona hata nyie waandishi wa habari, Mwenyekiti hatoi fursa ya sisi kusikilizwa na ameegemea upande moja na hii maana yake ni kwamba kuna ajenda maalumu inataka kupitishwa na sisi tutumike kama rubber stamp,”, he described being told about an invasion of Kenyan livestock and tractors, and then only seeing normal amounts of cattle. Paulina Gekul added that the Standing Committee members were misled by Minister Maghembe to assist him with his interest in having the land divided, and who the day they were starting their Loliondo tour said that cattle and tractors had been removed during the night. She added that the chairman of the Standing Committee had shown open hatred towards the members who had wanted to defend the interests of Loliondo pastoralists. Joseph Kasheku awkwardly said that he as a ruling party MP would wait for the appropriate occasion to express his views and would then see if the chairman continued with his authoritarianism.
Unsurprisingly, the committee members had been accused of being “bribed” by NGOs and investors. The Standing Committee chairman tells the newspaper that those are very serious accusations, and Paulina Gekuls says, “Vyombo vya ulinzi na usalama vifanye kazi ya kutuchunguza basi, hapo tutawajua waliowekewa fedha kwenye akaunti zao za benki na kama ni sisi basi pia itafahamika,” (Let security organs investigate us then, and we will know who have had money put into their bank accounts, and if it’s us it will also be known). That could be revealing indeed, but will hardly happen.
The RaiaMwema also asked for the comments of the MP for Ngorongoro, William, Olenasha, who tells the reporter that Loliondo with its 14 village would lose 90% of its land with the proposed 1,500 km2 “Game Reserve”, says that nobody opposes “solving the conflict”, but that it has to been done with a diplomatic approach taking into account the broad interests of the country, that the 54,000 people from  the 14 villages will lose water sources and tourism income with the idea, and that it would increase conflict with cultivators in Sale, and put pressure on Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to where cattle could be moved, and then adds that we should wait for the RC’s committee and use wisdom. If the issue is to save the Serengeti ecosystem, there are many ways to do this using our experts. 

Germans for Land Grab?
Some insight into what the Standing Committee was told can be found in the reporting in the Daily News (Marc Mkwame, who now many years ago used to be on the side of the people of Loliondo, until he changed along the way, has written the other articles about the Standing Committee in this paper) and by Paul Sarwatt in the RaiaMwema newspaper. According to Sarwatt, the Chief Conservator at Serengeti National Park, William Mwakilema, told the Standing Committee that German funds of 4.5 million euros will not be released to Ngorongoro District until the 1,500 km2 Osero is alienated as a protected area. Sarwatt also reported that Dr. Kohi of TAWIRI talked about how the funds will be used for drilling wells outside of the protected area, that the committee chairman Nditiye complained about how the investor, OBC, had seen the hunting block sabotaged by lots of livestock in the area OBC legally pays for, ”Na kwa upande wa Mwekezaji OBC amekuwa akiona kama anahujumiwa kutokana na kuingizwa kwa mifugo mingi katika kitalu cha uwindani ambacho amelipia kwa mujibu wa sheria za nchi”, and that Minister Maghembe said that the government has planned to turn the osero into a protected area.
The Daily News (article only online on another website, and without the reporter’s name) reported that, “The Frankfurt Zoological Society in conjunction with the Tanzania National Parks and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) plans to implement an ambitious project to protect the country’s top destinations to the tune of 20 billion/.” and that Mwakilema told the Standing Committee, “Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area will each get 3.5 million Euros for initial conservation and development programs, and again each park will get an addition 1 million Euros to develop their respective road networks; the grant will add up to 8 million euros,” and the reporter added that, “Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) plans to finance the Serengeti Ecosystem Development Programme through the state owned German Development Bank (KfW) based in Frankfurt.” and that, “According to the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the objective of the Serengeti Ecosystem Development and Conservation Project targets socio-economically sustainable development within the Serengeti ecosystem (Serengeti and Ngorongoro Districts) while contributing to its maintenance of the ecological integrity.
But the funds are subject to the confirmation of the proposed land use plan in Loliondo Game Controlled Area, where 1500 square kilometres in Loliondo need to be annexed from the 4000 square Kilometres of the Game Controlled Area.” while Minister Maghembe and chairman Nditiye talked about “shocking environmental destruction” and “misunderstanding” between residents and investors.

Do German citizens have any idea how their Development Bank is used to pressure for a huge and nasty land grab? If Mwakilema wasn’t telling the truth, why hasn’t any correction by the Germans been heard?

Women’s manifestation
On 15th March, as several times before, some 600 women held a manifestation in Wasso town, with the message, “Ardhi yetu, maisha yetu” (Our land, our life). The RC with his committee were in town and the women demanded a real solution to the land conflict with placards against losing more land, against OBC, and against the District Council accepting money from Germany.

"Conservation is our tradition, OBC leave us our land" and ""District Council, don't receive money from the Germans, since it's death to us"

The Council Chairman, Matthew Siloma, refused to sign accepting the German pieces of silver.

Ololosokwan and southwards with the RC’s Committee meeting protests
On 17th March, the RC’s committee was met with protests in Ololosokwan. People were tired of not being informed about what was going on, and felt a warning was necessary. Some car mirrors were broken and some protesters were detained by the police.

The committee’s work continued and “critical areas” were to be marked (not with beacons) and on 18th March, it reached Arash.  The committee was met by women crying and screaming for the government to abandon the plans to take the land. The Regional Police Commander was ordered to arrest anyone interfering with the process, and the protestors were irrationally accused of being “bribed”.  

On the 19th the committee continued to Piyaya and Malambo. An “anti-Kenyan” operation was announced in the most inappropriate way.

Information is lacking, the committee that’s supposed to work for a solution benefitting all sides (everyone knows that’s not possible) has a heavy presence of the worst enemies of Loliondo land rights (besides community representatives), and while the RC’s committee is working, Minister Maghembe announces that the land will be taken. Then Maghembe co-opts a stupid Parliamentary Standing Committee, and the RC’s committee starts marking “critical areas”, while media say they are marking the boundary of the GCA. Even educated people from Loliondo are confused asking how they can do that while “looking for a solution”. The committee is guarded by the Field Force Unit that in 2009 – extrajudicially and very illegally – assisted OBC in burning people’s houses, and then the protesters are accused of being “bribed”. How are people supposed to react? More patient and less warlike people than those from Loliondo are hard to find on this planet.

The RC’s committee kept talking at Dommel late into the night of 20-21st March without coming up with a proposal.

On the 21st there was another article by Manyerere Jackton in the Jamhuri newspaper, as usual lashing out against those in Loliondo this he, not always correctly, believes aren’t on friendly terms with OBC. Four pages of the most demented ramblings, which makes me start wondering if it really is wilful. The example I’m most familiar with makes it clear that this “journalist’s” writings aren’t even distortions of reality, but pure delusion. I am described as an international spy with lots of interests in Loliondo (that would be interesting), that’s raised billions of money from Europe and America (not a shilling, unfortunately), whose incitement and sabotage website allows living off conflict in Loliondo (why do I get up before dawn to try to teach rude teenagers?), wants white people to enter contracts with the Loliondo villages (like Thomson, or what? Not that they have contract, but the colour is correct.), and is in close contact with some people I don’t know, and some that I would like to be in close contact with. The following day there was an article by OBC’s other journalist, Masyaga Matinyi, who claims that the 2009 evictions were legal since people had invaded a protected area, and then calls for the area in question to become protected…

In the afternoon of 21st March the proposal reached through voting was announced – a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This means that the land will remain village land, but a part of it will be turned into a protected area, and the “investor’s” (OBC’s) influence will increase. OBC’s Isaack Mollel said that they didn’t have anything to comment as investor until the two parties (the government and the communities) have decided what the WMA will look like. A WMA, pushed for by the Tanzanian government and Frankfurt Zoological Society, was successfully rejected in Loliondo in the early 00s. WMAs are usually imposed through heavy coercion, and as in this case, existential threat.

After being asked to, I’ve removed descriptions of thoughtless words by very helpful people in this blog post before it was published.

Summary of the threat against the 1,500 km2
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.

In July 2016, Manyeree Jackton 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 important 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. Minister Maghembe co-opted a Parliamentary Standing Committee, and then the RC’s committee started marking “critical areas” while being met with protest. On 21st March a proposal for a WMA was presented…

Susanna Nordlund

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