Monday, 4 December 2017

Disconcerting News from Loliondo

In this blog post:
Rape and silence
Refugees in their own country
Ngorongoro chief conservator for “upgraded” LGCA
Council Chairman and German Pieces of Silver re-appear
What action has been taken against those responsible for the operation? (No signs of OBC packing)
Background summary

After the stopping of the long, illegal “operation” on village land in Loliondo, in which at least
250 bomas were burned to the ground, men, women and children were brutally beaten, and cattle illegally seized, and after the almost too good to be true news from the new Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism that OBC - that organise hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai and that for many years have been lobbying for turning the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land that’s their core hunting area into a “protected area”, inciting conflict and violence – will have to leave before January 2018, there is some disconcerting news from Loliondo.
This blog post has many questions and few answers, but is already getting too old and must be published. I hope there will eventually be answers.

Rape and silence
I haven’t written about rape during the recent, now stopped, illegal eviction on village land in Loliondo. Since there are so many rumours, and since this blog is by far the most accurate information source about the Loliondo land threats, I need to double and triple check. Rape and shootings have been mentioned, but not a single informed person has been able to confirm any cases of people being shot other than that of Parmoson Ololoso on 8th August. Besides the obviously crazy stories by “friends of investors”, also those on the side of the people are sometimes careless with facts, like when British press in 2014 reported about an eviction notice that nobody in Loliondo had heard about, or when several international organisations in 2015 reported that people had again been evicted from the 1,500 km2 so that OBC could “hunt lions and leopards”, when bomas had been burned inside Serengeti National Park next to Arash/Maaloni (definitely not Ololosokwan as one organisation keeps saying) and in a disputed boundary area. Due to how easily the victim is disbelieved or even blamed, rape is however more difficult to talk about than shooting, and patriarchy is no less of a scourge in Loliondo than elsewhere

On 6th – 8th November there were meetings with journalists in Ololosokwan, Kirtalo and Maaloni. Nondomoli Saile from Arash bravely came forward telling, as reported by Nasra Abdallah of the Mwanahalisi, that she had been raped on 19th September. In the morning Serengeti rangers arrived and ordered everyone out of the boma so that they could set it on fire. When Nondomoli still returned to try to save some belongings, she was raped and injured by a ranger. Nondomoli explained,
“Unajua kwa mila na desturi za kimasai ni aibu sana kwa mwanamke kueleza mtu namna ulivyobakwa na hivyo wengi nikiwemo mimi tumeamua kukaa kimya na wala hatujui hao waliotufanyia vitendo hivyo kama wana magonjwa au la na pia huenda hata wengine wamepata mimba.”
(“You know that per Maasai customs and traditions it’s a shame for a woman to tell someone how she was raped, so many of us, me included, have decided to stay quiet, and we don’t even know what diseases those who committed those acts may have, and maybe some have even got pregnant”)
“Tunachokiomba hapa ni serikali hasa kupitia huyu Waziri wa sasa wa Maliasili alioonesha nia njema ya kulitafutia suluhu mgogoro huu wa Loliondo kuwawajibisha na maaskari waliohusika kutufanyia vitendo hivyo wanawake na kuwafanya kuishi kwa mawazo hadi leo kwa kuwa ni mambo ambayo hayatoki akilini mapema,”
(“what we are asking for here, is for the government, and especially through the current Minister of Natural Resources who showed good intentions of finding a solution to the Loliondo conflict, to also discipline the rangers who committed these acts against women and made them suffer mental discomfort until today, as what happen to them will last long in their mind”.)

On 30th November Nasra Abdallah reported about another victim of rape, Naisenge Lilash, also from Arash. Rangers involved in the illegal operation came to Naisenge’s house in the morning of 22nd October while she was sleeping and forced her out into the bush where they raped her, and caused her injuries that still haven’t healed. Naisenge said that she would recognise the rapists if she sees them again. Due to beliefs that it would be harmful in case she’s pregnant, Naisenge stopped breastfeeding her one-and-a-half-year-old baby, which she otherwise would have done for three years. Besides arresting the attackers, the victims need medical information and treatment, but I’ve been told that nobody has bothered with that. Naisenge told the Mwanahalisi reporter that she’s asking the government to make sure measures are taken against all rangers involved in rape since the victims are affected both physically and psychologically for living with shame in front of the community.

Maybe it isn’t surprising that those who can be ordered to burn down houses, beat up and arrest innocent people, and illegally seize their cattle, also rape. It’s totally unacceptable to limit the action taken against the rangers to just transferring them. They must answer to a court of law, and so must those who ordered them. The DC, the director of TANAPA, the Serengeti chief park warden, and also the Ngorongoro chief conservator and not least ex-minister Maghembe must be dealt with.

Also in the 2009 extrajudicial evictions were there initial reports about multiple rapes that could later not be confirmed by very serious, but male, researchers.

Refugees in their own country
On 26th November Nasra Abdallah published another article from Loliondo to where some reporters had returned. The Sereti family of 19 people from Ololosokwan told the reporters that since when their boma was burned to the ground, they are all still living in a makeshift shelter without any privacy, unlike when the mothers had their own houses in the boma. Rain is now a threat to the children’s health, and life has become much more expensive when the family must buy milk. The children often eat porridge without any in it. The father, Musa Sereti said, “Mimi sikuwa na maisha haya, nilikuwa ni mtu nina maboma yangu na watoto wangu waliweza kuishi kwa raha mustarehe, lakini kufanyika kwa operesheni hii kumenifanya nimi na familia yangu tuishi kama wakimbizi kwenye nchi yetu”. (“I didn’t have this life, I was a person who had my bomas and my children could live comfortably and happily, but this operation has turned me and my family into refugees in our own country”.) On Ayo TV Musa explained that he used to have 97 cows, but now only 3 are left.

The same day Nasra Abdallah published another article, about Arash this time. I’ve blogged about how on 25th October - the day before Kigwangalla’s firsts visit to Loliondo - 80 cows belonging to Sembere Kijuku from Arash were shot by Serengeti National Park rangers. There were unconfirmed reports about other shootings of cows in Arash and Maaloni. This is just one thing that the council chairman, who’s also councillor for Arash, should have raised alarm about. The reporters were told that, besides being in a bad state due to the drought, some cows in Arash have bullet wounds after the “operation”. Arash herders are not only in debt after having to pay for their cows, but also have considerable veterinary bills for treating the cows. Those affected asked for the government to just give back their cows illegally seized on village land (which is what Kigwangalla ordered, and as far as I know, cows are no longer held, but many people had to pay for their own cows, while some had died) and for the district livestock department to send them veterinaries.

Ngorongoro chief conservator for “upgraded” LGCA
On 11th November the Citizen reported that the Ngoronogoro Chief Conservator Freddy Manongi had told a group of journalists touring Ngorongoro that Loliondo Game Controlled Area should be “upgraded” to protect wildlife and especially the migration of wildebeest. Then the journalist went on to quoting the report released by OBC in November last year. NCA rangers were involved in the illegal invasion by rangers in village land in Loliondo. Though there wasn’t anything new in the article, except that Manongi still thought he should defend the idea.

Chairman and German Pieces of Silver re-appear
During the meetings with journalists 6th-8th November, the district council chairman, Mathew Siloma, who – like too many other leaders - had been very quiet during the illegal operation, started talking to the press. Many people had felt sad and demoralized by the chairman’s passivity while bomas were burned down in area after area, people brutally beaten, cows illegally seized on village land, and as was later revealed, women raped. The chairman showed no willingness whatsoever of assisting with the court case in the East African Court of Justice while the operation was ongoing, but has apparently changed now after it was stopped. It’s been explained to me that the chairman “changes a lot”, so I hope he now keeps changing for the better. Besides denouncing the crimes committed by rangers during the operation, those present at the meetings declared that they were now ready to work with Kigwangalla and would not allow anyone to graze cattle in the national park. Siloma said that he wanted cows to be marked so that they could be distinguished from Kenyan cows. He also joined others speaking up against national park beacons that were put up inside village land by Serengeti rangers following direction by PM Majaliwa early in 2017. Siloma now claims that not being seen in “media and social media” (he wasn’t seen or heard anywhere else either) doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been working hard, and he says the results of his work can now be seen.

On 14th November Minister Kigwangalla reported in social media that, “I, yesterday, received our development partners from @GermanyTanzania. The delegation was headed by H.E. Dr. Detlef Wachter, Ambassador of Germany in Tanzania.
They are going to fund community development projects in Loliondo, in our quest to save the Serengeti. The Loliondo project is worth more than TZS 10 billion and will include pasture development, infrastructure development, land use plan, water supply for domestic as well as cattle use, building a cattle market as well as education in de-stocking and livestock modernization.
Also the German development bank has given us more than TZS 40 billion for infrastructure projects in Selous Game Reserve.”

As mentioned before, in early March this year the Serengeti Chief Park Warden, Mwakilema, told parliamentary standing committee members on a Loliondo tour co-opted by ex-Minister Maghembe, 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 TANAPA and Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), were subject to the approval of the land use plan that would alienate the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land next to Serengeti National park, land that also serves as OBC’s core hunting area, for a protected area, which was neither confirmed nor denied by the Germans.

On 15th March, when the RC’s committee was in Loliondo, 600 women held a manifestation in Wasso town with placards against losing more land, against OBC, and against the District Council accepting money from Germany - and the District Council Chairman, following a decision by the council, refused to sign accepting the German pieces of silver.
"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", 15th March 2017
Some people, however, suspected that the chairman had secretly signed the German money.

Even some councillors seemed surprised by Kigwangalla’s news on 14th November, made phone calls to the District Executive Director and the Serengeti liaison officer that confirmed that the chairman had indeed signed the German money. The chairman clearly had to be removed, but now there was the problem of not getting into conflict with Kigwangalla, who had shown such good intentions, but maybe didn’t know about everything going on. The chairman himself said he hadn’t signed, but was going to very soon, since it was such a wonderful project, and didn’t have anything to do with the threat against the 1,500 km2. Reportedly, a day later the Ngorongoro MP asked Kigwangalla who said that the development projects were meant for the whole 4,000 km2 area, and shared this information in closed groups.

As mentioned, the Serengeti Ecosystem Development and Conservation Project is implemented by TANAPA and FZS. TANAPA officially funded the illegal invasion of village land by extremely violent rangers. There was arson, brutal beatings, arrests, illegal seizing of cattle, and even rape… FZS have been scheming against Maasai land rights since the 1950s.

On 21st November the official Facebook page of the office of the Ngorongoro MP reported about a visit to Ololosokwan and Soitsambu during a Loliondo and Sale tour by MP Olenasha. The behaviour of the MP during the rangers’ very violent and illegal arsonist (and rapist, as was later revealed) invasion of village land was shocking and painful to see, maybe the biggest and most unexpected let-down seen since I started following the Loliondo land threats. Other than a post early on in social media saying that he’s very sorry, that the he and other leaders were only aware of an operation to remove livestock from Serengeti National Park (the DC had issued a written order including “bordering areas” on 5th August), that residing near the boundary isn’t against the law, and that they were doing all they can to stop the operation – the MP’s silence was deafening while extreme abuse went on for over two months. According to the official report, the meeting on the 21st was to tell people about the ongoing efforts to solve the land conflict of many years, to explain and remove people’s fears about the German funds for development projects, since those will be implemented in the whole 4,000 km2, and to emphasize the importance of building relations and good neighbourhood with Serengeti National Park. Unlike the chairman, the MP knows better than anyone that the Germans aren’t less dangerous than OBC.
Though I do suppose that the MP has at least been much involved in successfully explaining Loliondo to Kigwangalla.

Loliondo is still waiting for PM Majaliwa to decide either to take the 1,500 km2 osero of important dry season land, which can’t be implemented without violence, and would lead to severe degradation of remaining land and conflict with neighbours, or the expected decision of a WMA, the supposed “choice” of the people of Loliondo that they managed to reject for a decade and a half of pressure from government and FZS. A WMA means setting aside land for “investors” to supposedly earn more money, while handing away much power over the land to the director of wildlife, district council and the said investors, and there isn’t any surplus land lying about in Loliondo. Lately, since the very threatening situation in late 2016 and early 2017, “all” (not quite true) leaders in Loliondo are said to favour a WMA. In March this year when the committee of the RC (the “only ally”) toured “critical areas” in Loliondo, protests in every village showed that the grassroots saw the issue in a very different way.  I don’t know if the massive human rights abuse that went on for two months, and was then stopped in a sensational way, could have changed people’s minds. Neither do I know exactly what the purpose of such an unexpected illegal operation on village land was. The DC and the Ministry of Natural Resources claimed the “reason” was that people and cattle were entering Serengeti National Park “too easily”, while ex-minster Maghembe lied that the land was already the “protected area” wanted by OBC and others.

What action has been taken against those responsible for the operation?
What has happened after Kigwangalla stopped the illegal operation, fired the director of wildlife, declared that OBC’s hunting block would not be renewed, that the hunters would have to leave before January 2018, and that a corruption syndicate working for OBC, including former ministers, would be investigated, starting with OBC’s executive director? Not much it seems…

Songorwa has – maybe - been fired, but there isn’t any new director of wildlife appointed.

It’s unclear if the rangers at Klein’s gate have been transferred and new rangers installed, as ordered by Kigwangalla. Some do say that they are gone, while others say that they are still there... Since it isn’t a complicated issue to confirm, the lack straight information is totally unreasonable. Lately I’ve been told that some rangers are gone, and some remain. Anyway, the rangers have been involved in very serious crimes and transferral is not enough.

OBC must leave before January 2018, but nobody has seen any signs of them packing. The assistant director says his employer is there to stay and that I will have a heart attack, which could of course have been said just to wind me up, or out of despondency. Others think that Kigwangalla’s promise was “political technical” to “level the atmosphere”, since the pastoralist community was upset by the abuse. In plain English I suppose that would mean that the minister lied, which I hope wasn’t the case.
Update: I've got some kind of reply from OBC's public relations officer, Loserian Mollel, who says, "OBC is waiting for you to come and pack them off".

It isn’t known if corruption investigation of OBC’s managing director has been initiated.

There doesn’t seem to have been any action taken against the worst former ministers of natural resources and tourism. In social media, Kigwangalla assured Kagasheki (the most vociferous 1,500 km2 osero grab supporter after Maghembe) that he hadn’t been mentioned. The only ex-minister mentioned as corrupt by Kigwangalla – very loudly in parliament - is Nyalandu, who recently defected to the opposition party Chadema. Kigwangalla has also made a comment indicating that his respect for Village Land Act No.5 of 1999 has decreased since his Loliondo visit.

The DC, the director of TANAPA, the Serengeti chief park warden, the Ngorongoro chief conservator, and the Officer Commanding District stay put so far, unfortunately. Though these criminals were never even mentioned by Kigwangalla, as far as I know.

Background summary
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, the 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 destructive, “Kenyan” and governed by corrupt 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 Loliondo leaders’ “only ally’s”, RC Gambo’s, committee started marking “critical areas” while being met with protests in every village. German development money that the standing committee had been told was subject to the alienation of the 1,500 km2 was – after protests by 600 women – not signed by the district chairman. On 21st March a compromise proposal for a WMA (that had been rejected in Loliondo for a decade and a half) was reached through voting by the RC’s committee, then 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 a very unexpected 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. Women were raped by the rangers. Many leaders stayed strangely and disappointingly silent.

The DC and the Ministry of Natural Resources explained the operation with that people and cattle were entering Serengeti National Park too easily, while minster Maghembe lied that the land was already the “protected area” wanted by OBC and others.

There was an interim stop order by the government organ Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), but the crimes continued unabated.
A case was filed by four villages in the East African Court of Justice on 21st September.
When in Arusha on 23rd September, President Magufuli collected protest placards against Maghembe, OBC and abuse, to read them later.
On 5th October the Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, told supporters that his friend Magufuli had promised him that all involved in the illegal operation in Loliondo would be fired.

In a cabinet reshuffle on 7th October Maghembe was removed and Hamisi Kigwangalla appointed as new minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Kigwangalla stopped the operation on 26th October, and then made it clear that OBC’s hunting block would not be renewed, which he had already mentioned in Dodoma on the 22nd. On 5th November he fired the director of wildlife and announced that OBC’s managing director would be investigated for corruption. It’s unclear how much of this, if anything, is taking place.

Kigwangalla announced in social media that he on 13th November received a delegation headed by the German ambassador and that the Germans are going to fund community development projects in Loliondo, “in our quest to save the Serengeti”. Alarm was raised in Loliondo that the district chairman would have signed secretly, which some already had suspected.

PM Majaliwa is expected to announce his decision very soon.

Update: in the afternoon of 6th December, PM Majaliwa announced his decision. First people were worried that he would have announced a “special WMA”, but it was something even worse: a legal bill would be prepared to create a special authority to govern Loliondo for conservation and people – basically the same as the colonial style NCAA, but allowing hunting, I suppose.

Susanna Nordlund

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