Monday, 6 November 2017

Good news from Loliondo: Director of Wildlife Sacked and OBC to be Investigated for Bribery

Wannabe land grabbers fight back
Sensational online news report
Totally new view on Loliondo for a minister
Doubts removed
Who’s next?
The shadow
The background

Minister Kigwangalla has made unprecedented statements about Loliondo.

After almost two months of the worst illegal attack on village land in Loliondo since 2009, committed by rangers from Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area together with Loliondo police and KDU (anti-poaching) and OBC rangers involved in arson, physical assault and illegal seizing of cattle, while many Loliondo leaders (with very notable exceptions) kept quiet, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Jumanne Maghembe, was fired by President Magufuli in a cabinet reshuffle. Many ministers had been eager to fulfil the wishes of OBC that organise hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, but Maghembe was the most rabid of them all. OBC, that for years have been campaigning for alienating from the villages the 1,500 km2 of grazing land – that also is the core hunting area of the hunters from Dubai - next to Serengeti National Park, released in November 2016 a report urging the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to take action against the destructiveness of the Maasai, then PM Majaliwa tasked Arusha RC Gambo with “solving the conflict”, and the RC set up a select committee that in April 2017 handed a compromise proposal to the PM. While the select committee was at work, Maghembe showed up in Loliondo together with Manyerere Jackton (“journalist” who in well over 40 articles has indulged in hate speech against the Loliondo Maasai and extreme defamation of many individuals believed to be in favour of land rights) to declare that the land had to be taken before the end of March, and then Maghembe took a parliamentary standing committee on such a co-opted Loliondo trip that several members complained of being used to rubber stamp Maghembe’s wish of “giving the land to OBC”.

The arson attack that started on 13th August was very unexpected when everyone was still waiting to hear from the PM, but some leaders had got a letter, dated 5th August, from the DC, Rashid Mfaume Taka, that talked about an operation that besides inside the national park would take place “very near the boundary” (mpakani kabisa), which is illegal and should immediately have been taken to a court of law. At least 250 bomas were burned on village land per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999, from Ololosokwan to Piyaya 90 km further south. People who returned to the area were badly beaten, some were arrested and taken to Mugumu, the rangers illegally seized cattle, and blocked access to water sources. The illegal operation continued even after an interim stop order by the government organ Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance.

There was some hope that the sacking of Maghembe could have to do with Loliondo since a delegation from had visited the Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, who is a friend of President Magufuli, and only two days before the cabinet reshuffle Raila would have been promised that all involved in the illegal operation were to be fired. Some also had hope after Magufuli had collected protest placards about Maghembe and Loliondo when he commissioned new cadets in Arusha. Though there were other possible explanations, like Maghembe’s support for VAT on tourism services, which was very unpopular in the tourism industry. The words of the new minister, Hamisi Kigwangalla, when inaugurated, weren’t promising though, and few days later the spokesperson for the ministry published an article very much in favour of the illegal operation, and Kigwangalla issued a strange letter about 200 alien tractors in Loliondo that sounded like the typical distraction used by friends of the “investor”.  Hopes were again raised on 22nd October when Kigwangalla ordered the re-issuing of 2018-2022 hunting blocks through auction, and said that hunting blocks with conflict wouldn’t be renewed until the conflict was solved, and then when he visited Loliondo 26th-27th October Kigwangalla stopped the operation and confirmed that OBC would be gone before January 2018.

Wannabe land grabbers fight back
OBC didn’t show any signs of packing. Someone engaged Channel 10, Star TV, and sadly also the more serious ITV to air alarmist news pieces about too many cattle in Loliondo, and Kigwangalla not doing anything about it. Then on 4th November Serengeti rangers illegally seized almost 3,000 cows on village land in the Enalubo, Empipir, Endashat, Mederi, and Irkikai areas of Ololosokwan, and drove them into Serengeti National Park, to the Lobo area.

Sensational online report
On 5th November surfaced an online news report that Kigwangalla would have fired the Director of Wildlife, Alexander Songorwa, which he had communicated from inside Serengeti National Park on a surprise visit inspecting the boundary with the conflict area in Loliondo. Kigwangalla had ordered the permanent secretary of the ministry, Maj. Gen. Gaudence Milanzi, to immediately fire Songorwa, and the reasons were: suspicions that Songorwa would have shared secret government information with the press and made up stories to incite conflict in Loliondo. In the evening of the 4th information would have circulated that Kigwangalla was travelling in two private vehicles and would be staying at Acacia Hotel in Karatu, and next morning he was followed by unknown people who at every step reported on the internet.

It was reported that Kigwangalla had said that Songorwa had been working following the directions of OBC.

Songorwa would also have been involved in the scandal of illegal granting of hunting blocks, and Kigwangalla had stopped the non-transparent and possibly corrupt way of granting the hunting blocks to introduce a way of doing it through auction.

Kigwangalla had directed TAKUKURU (PCCB, Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau) to investigate OBC for corruption, starting with questioning the director, Isaack Mollel, who had been boasting everywhere about having bribed Maghembe with 200,000 US dollars, while saying that 100,000 would be enough for this little boy Kigwangalla. Kigwangalla had insisted on being unbribable and that’s why Mollel had been stuck in his efforts, even when using people close to him as messengers.

To strengthen Serengeti’s eastern boundary, Kigwangalla had removed all rangers from Klein’s gate, since they had been used by OBC that has close relations to Songorwa, and also had close relations to Maghembe, Nyalandu, Kagasheki, and other former ministers for natural resources and tourism.

Totally new view on Loliondo for a minister
This is an unprecedented way for a Tanzanian minister to talk about Loliondo, recognising that the problem is the close relations between authorities and the “investor”, whether the reason is bribes or otherwise convergent interests. Usually the talk is about a conflict between two sides, “Maasai versus investor”, but sometimes even pretending that the Maasai would be caught in between OBC and other exterior interests (this is how OBC, similar actors, and their “friends” like to present things). There are other “investors” (especially Thomson Safaris) and organisations that threaten land rights in Loliondo, but those have largely the same story and the same friends as OBC, and unfortunately some of those friends are very powerful.

Doubts removed
Sources in Loliondo confirmed that the online report by an unnamed reporter was indeed Kigwangalla’s words, but the fact that he didn’t mention anything in social media made it seem that it wasn’t meant for all audiences, and even the press, Mwananchi and Citizen, reported from the online report, but leaving out important parts. Not until the evening of the 6th did I get hold of another source: Ayo TV, and it was even better. Kigwangalla makes it clear that the rangers at Klein’d gate have invaded village land, and that he’s going to clean up his house.

Who’s next?
During the work of the RC’s committee to “solve the conflict”, Songorwa was a strong supporter of OBC’s long-wanted 1,500 km2 “protected area”, which means taking this important land away from the Maasai, but Songorwa was very far from alone in this. Every director within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism was of the same opinion, including Allan Kijazi, Director of Tanzania National Parks Authority that, at least officially, paid for the illegal operation on village land. A letter to the DC from TANAPA about the funding was for some reason shared in social media. William Mwakilema, Serengeti Chief Park Warden, in March told Maghembe’s co-opted standing committee that funds from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the state owned German Development Bank (KfW), for a Serengeti Ecosystem Development and Conservation Project implemented by Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and TANAPA, were subject to the approval of the land use plan that would alienate the 1,500 km2 for a protected area, which has neither been confirmed nor denied by the Germans. If the house is really to be cleaned up, it’s also time for the FZS, that have been inciting against Maasai land rights since the 1950s, to leave. Mwakilema would be an obvious case after the Serengeti rangers have spent months on invasion of village land and countless human rights crimes. If indeed the president is behind this radical change for the better in Loliondo policy, and the intentions are serious, we should expect to soon see DC Rashid Mfaume Taka, who ordered the illegal operation, leave Ngorongoro District.
Wasso 15th March. 

The shadow
There is now reason to celebrate, but with the shadow of waiting for PM Majaliwa’s decision hanging over Loliondo. Let’s hope there’s a decision to let the Maasai plan sustainable land use undisturbed, through village land use plans, without any formulas that leaders agreed to at a time of intense threat.

Susanna Nordlund

The background
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 calling for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to intervene against the destructive Maasai. 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 March 2017 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 by the RC’s committee, handed over to PM Majaliwa on 20th April, and we are still waiting to hear something from the PM.

While still waiting, on 13th August 2017 an illegal eviction and arson operation was initiated in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan and then continued all the way to Piyaya. Beatings, arrests of the victims, illegal seizing of cows, and blocking of water sources followed.

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