Thursday, 7 March 2019

Fear, Confusion, and Cautious Hope in Loliondo - and OBC’s Director Charged with Economic Crimes

In this blog post:
Reactions to the president’s statement
The very unexpected arrest of OBC’s director Isaack Mollel
Remaining questions about the attacks by soldiers in 2018
“Reasons” for the illegal arrests in January
Extreme police brutality
Summary of osero developments of the past decades

This is another unacceptably delayed blog post that’s become too long. Much is happening, some very unexpected and somewhat promising, but exact information is harder than ever to come by. Those who know are silent, and even people on the ground in Loliondo ask me for information… Too many dots remain unconnected, and I’d need some assistance with this. For the first time since the 1990’s it looks like OBC are no longer untouchable. I hope to soon be able to write a blog post with answers to all the questions here, but for that I need some help.

Reactions to the president’s statement

As added to the latest blog post that now is old, on 15th January before sharing the link widely, president Magufuli that same day issued a statement about how unhappy he was seeing pastoralists and cultivators evicted all over the country, and therefore he had ordered the immediate suspension of operations to remove villages and sub-villages claimed to be situated in protected areas, and set one month for the concerned ministers to make amendments to the law and establish which wildlife and forest protected areas do not have any wildlife or forests, and to divide those among pastoralists and cultivators that now have problems finding land for their livelihoods. The president stressed that the order didn’t mean that people are free to invade protected areas, and that it’s important to conserve wildlife. He said that this order had been made necessary by the increase in people and livestock since independence. The president also asked the Ministry of Lands to keep sending him suggestions for farms to be revoked and divided to be used for crops and livestock.

This statement was somewhat surprising after terror against pastoralists (and just about everyone else) had been worse than ever under Magufuli’s regime. There were some hard to understand and frankly embarrassing acts of praise for the president by pastoralist organisations. Though they may have found it strategically necessary.

On 20th (or maybe 19th) January Ngorongoro district council chairman Siloma, with whose performance these past years I haven’t been overly pleased, read a press statement on behalf of the residents of Loliondo division in praise of the president’s statement of 15th January. I’ve only got the video version of this statement that I hope I’ve understood correctly, and it isn’t bad at all since it descibes the importance of the 1,500 km2 osero under threat and also mentions the land occupied by Thomson Safaris – as if expecting that the president’s statement means that these issues will be dealt with favourably for the Loliondo Maasai, since the land that would remain after the threatening alienation of the osero includes towns and agricultural land, which would lead to an unsustainably conflictive situation. The chairman mentions that people have been victims of much torture and abuse, including the burning of bomas, even if he doesn’t specify the most recent attacks committed by soldiers. Special seats councillor Kiyoolo Kakiya then appears in the video thanking the president and reminding of the terror that started with the illegal operation in 2009, that especially has affected women, and leads people to run away in fear upon seeing a government vehicle. She now has peace and faith in the government. Joseph Kungu from Loosoito reminds of how government organs have been used in different operations against the truth and against the law to chase away, terrorise and torture Loliondo residents, and to seize their cattle, and he now sees how these operations were conducted against proper procedures and he thanks the president. Justine Nekoren, speaking on behalf of traditional leaders, almost crying, traces the abuse back to the creation of Serengeti National Park in 1959, mentions how they were very near losing all hope about the land, but now thank the president for having opened hearts and prison doors. This video is in the Youtube account named “Ngorongoro District Council”, which in other social media focus on CCM propaganda, praising the DC and DED, and even unethical investors, while being hostile to those speaking up for land rights. The people behind that account, for some reason, didn’t even share the video in other social media than Youtube.
Some people have expressed their irritation with this statement by which leaders whose fear, or worse, has brought the problems are now pretending to be the ones solving them, so that they will again get votes.

Humphrey Polepole, the CCM Ideology and Publicity Secretary, visited Ngorongoro on 12th February, and nobody seems to know anything he said about the president’s statement, except his message that Magufuli loves the people of Ngorongoro so much that he has even decided that villages bordering protected areas should not be disturbed and that this includes Ngorongoro. This is very vague indeed. As far as I’ve been able to find out the 1,500 km2 osero wasn’t mentioned by Polepole who maybe doesn’t have any understanding of or interest in the issue, but the message that the president’s statement concerns Ngorongoro was some kind of good news, even if it seems unlikely that the people of NCA would be liberated from living under the yoke of the NCAA, where they’re forbidden from practising subsistence agriculture and losing grazing area after grazing area. Hopefully someone pressured Polepole about specifics and was reassured about the osero, even if this information hasn’t been shared…

On 17th February a team of seven cabinet secretaries from different ministries came to Loliondo to inspect the osero and report back to the ministers. Why, if the president is so saddened by evictions that he’s even decided that some protected areas will be revoked, is important grazing land already on village land per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999 even something to - in long lines of fossil fuel guzzling vehicles - lose time on? Just call off any land alienation plans, and also PM Majaliwa’s destructive plan to place Loliondo under the NCA via a legal bill! I hope the actual presence of wildlife won’t complicate things, since the president seems to want clear separation, or should OBC have been asked to please finish them off? I can just hope that my worries are baseless. What’s been reported from the visit is talk about that everyone agrees totally with the president’s statement, that everything will be arranged in the best way, and so on. That’s the kind of talk that’s always maintained and it can mean anything from the very worst to the very best. The DC expressed how pleased he was that this time there wasn’t any manifestations. Local leaders that were present aren’t sharing any information, not only avoiding me, but apparently not holding any meetings to inform the villagers.  Some people and organisations must of course be working hard on getting confirmation that the statement means that the land is safe, but they aren’t sharing anything. And, sadly I’m quite sure that those who want land alienation aren’t passive in their lobbying, even if OBC could be busy with other issues.

The very unexpected arrest of OBC’s director Isaack Mollel

The first week of February ten Pakistani nationals who had been doing manual work for OBC from November to February were arrested for not having obtained the required work permits – which they would not have been given anyway for this kind of work. They were charged, released on bail, and the case was to be heard on 22nd February. RC Gambo wanted the employer, OBC’s director, Isaack (or Isack) Mollel, to be arrested as well, but the police were reluctant to do this. When the Minister of Home Affairs Lugola came to Arusha for his tour of the region, the RC complained to him that some police were barring criminals from being arrested, and on 13th February the minister ordered the arrest of Mollel, who then showed up, was charged, and released on bail. According to somewhat credible sources, PM Majailwa wrote a letter saying that Mollel must not be disturbed… I would like to get hold of that letter. Majaliwa has been a menace since he in 2016 set out to “solve the conflict”. Though, judging from what followed, such a letter - if sent - didn’t have any effect.

I have no idea who in Loliondo reported to the RC about the work permits. To me it seemed like an effort similar to going after Al Capone for his tax evasions (and exactly tax evasions would later be added). Mollel has openly been involved in much worse crimes, and there are very strong reasons to investigate him for innumerable offences. The problem is that most of these have been committed with the blessing and close cooperation by the Tanzanian government.

Mollel was OBC’s director already in the drought year 2009 when OBC rangers together with the Field Force Unit illegally attacked village land in the huge core hunting area that’s an important dry season grazing area, the osero (bushland), burning down hundreds of bomas, chasing away livestock into extreme drought areas, and creating chaos in which 7-year old Nashipai Gume was lost and never found.

After the illegal operation of 2009, Mollel said that OBC were ready to stay with “only” their core hunting area instead of the whole of Loliondo GCA – that includes towns, agricultural land, forests, the DC’s office etc… - and openly boasted in media that OBC had gifted Arusha region with 156 million Tanzanian shillings for land use planning to survey this area. The money resulted in the 2010-2030 draft Ngorongoro district land use plan that proposed alienating the 1,500 km2 osero as a protected area – which would have led to a more legal repeat of the human rights abuses of 2009. This plan was strongly rejected by Ngorongoro District Council.

OBC kept lobbying for this land alienation, and there are so many crimes for which Mollel’s involvement should have been investigated long ago, like the efforts in 2013 by Minister Kagasheki to impose the rejected land use plan via the most convoluted lies, alleged attempts in 2014 by OBC to, besides Minister Nyalandu who assisted them, bribe all local leaders (with some cases of success), Channel 10’s “documentaries” in 2015 with extreme incitement and hate speech against the Loliondo Maasai, hosted by Jerry Muro, now DC for Arumeru, with appearances by Mollel, the by now over 50 articles by Manyerere Jackton inciting against the Loliondo Maasai in the Jamhuri paper, attacks against the village of Kirtalo together with the OCD in 2015, the report sent out by OBC to the press before PM Majaliwa set out to “solve the conflict” in 2016, the rabid support for land alienation by Minister Maghembe and his ministry during this “solving” exercise, the “unexpected” repeat of an illegal mass arson operation in 2017 with multiple human rights crimes while waiting to hear the PM’s decision, the very disappointing decision presented by Majaliwa in December 2017, the attacks by soldiers against people in wide areas around OBC’s camp in 2018, especially arson attacks when OBC were preparing the camp for important visitors, the constant divide and rule and stirring up conflict. These are just some of the far more serious crimes than some work permits, and tax evasions…

On 19th February Minister Lugola visited Wasso town. There was a meeting with the public – full of theatrics ordering about local officials - and the venue seemed dominated by non-pastoralist townspeople that to a far lesser extent have been affected by the terror of the past years. The only complaint about OBC apparently came from a man saying that they don’t employ local people (which isn’t factually correct, even if they also bring workers from abroad). An education officer, Emmanuel Sukumsi, at the time serving as acting District Executive Director (allegedly because DED Siumbu, another friend of OBC, didn’t want any problems with RC Gambo) was called up to the podium to describe the generosity of OBC and their great help to the district council and to the villages. One of the most destructive wannabe corruptees (some say he’s not only “wannabee” but is receiving benefits from OBC) a young Sonjo man called Paul Dudui in glowing words praised the police work dealing with gangsters the past year, and attacked those that the previous day in Longido had talked about torture (see below), and then he went on praising OBC to the extent of saying that they had built all the houses surrounding the meeting in Wasso. At least at that point loud booing was heard. This individual, Dudui, has in social media claimed that I’m a spy, a poacher, that I enter Tanzania through forbidden routes and bring weapons of war, that I’m a donor, that I’ve written the Oakland report, that I have an NGO that’s opposing the Mto wa Mbu-Loliondo road, to mention just a few obviously malicious and insane lies. Unfortunately, this is not just the products of one troubled and greedy mind, but people have been charged with espionage and sabotage for communicating with me (the case was dismissed after several months), innocent people have been arrested for looking like me (same skin colour), and almost nobody any longer dares to be in contact with me. Dudui and others also found it appropriate to stir up some tribal hatred describing the boundary conflict between the agriculturalist Sonjo and the Loita Maasai as “illegal immigrants” that are stealing their land at Kisangiro, using the “investor-friendly” way of describing most Maasai in Loliondo.

As some people may remember, in November 2017 after having stopped the illegal mass arson operation that year, Minister Kigwangalla, made big promises that OBC would have left before January 2018, that he had seen the corruption syndicate at their service, and he also complained about Mollel wanting to bribe him with 100.000 US dollars while his predecessors had got 200.000. OBC never showed the slightest sign of leaving, in some way Kigwangalla was called into line and made a complete U-turn wanting them to stay, but still saying that Mollel was troublesome. When the Oakland report was out Kigwangalla had a Twitter meltdown going to the extreme of denying that anyone was living in Loliondo GCA. I don’t know if he by then had improved his relationship with Mollel.

Mollel failed to show up at the court hearing on 22nd February, since he was being questioned by TAKUKURU/PCCB (Preventing and Combating Corruption Bureau) and it was postponed until 1st March. This investigation is what Kigwangalla more or less ordered in November 2017, but that never happened that time. On 1st March Mollel was still being held by TAKUKURU/PCCB. His home and OBC’s office in Arusha had been searched, as had OBC’s camp in Loliondo. There was even an article by the very OBC-friendly journalist Masyaga Matinyi confirming it. Manyerere Jackton – the most "enthusiastic"anti-Loliondo journalist of all - is however so far silent. Other sources – close to OBC, but that could maybe be somewhat credible in this case – are mentioning that the camp is practically dismantled and that 200 vehicles have been impounded since taxes have not been paid by OBC. These sources are also saying that not even Mollel has the keys to these vehicles that are in the hands of  "the king” – Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai.

It seems like TAKUKURU/PCCB are serious, and on 4th March 2019 Mollel and OBC were charged on ten counts of economic crimes between 2010 and 2018, most concerning importing a considerable number of vehicles for OBC from Dubai, and the accusations were about economic sabotage and money laundering. TAKUKURU/PCCB had found Mollel to several times have forged documents, lied to the Tanzania Revenue Authority with the aim of tax evasion, and registered his own vehicle as belonging to OBC. Mollel didn’t have to answer these charges, since the court wasn’t able to hear the case, and it was adjourned until 18th March. Mollel was locked up in Kisongo remand prison.

The only theory that I’ve heard from somewhat informed people is that it’s being said in Arusha that the reason why OBC no longer are untouchable is a power struggle inside the CCM ruling party. It’s well known that the former CCM General Secretary Abdulraham Kinana has close ties to OBC since they first came to Tanzania and both he and Sheikh Mohammed, the current ruler of Dubai, were ministers of defence. Kinana appeared in media escorting Sheikh Mohammed in January 1993, and in March 2018 he was doing the same. In May 2018 Kinana retired, or was maybe retired. The Magufuli government’s problem with Kinana is that he’s believed to support the former Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe who’s in his turn is believed to be planning to challenge Magufuli in the 2020 elections. Whether actual plans, or a rumour, challenging Magufuli isn’t tolerated by the current government. Now, it’s said, the investigations have either found, or are expected to find, money moving from OBC in the direction of Membe. While this scenario is seen as an obvious truth by some, I don't have enough information to say that it's more than speculation.

Though I’ve also got a comment from a representative indicating that TAKUKURU/PCCB are investigating the actual lobbying for land alienation and terror in Loliondo.
Yesterday, 6th March, ex-minister Nyalandu, who in 2017 defected to the opposition where he so far has stayed, showed the very poor judgment of in social media sharing a picture of himself together with Sheikh Mohammed as some kind of example of international harmony. I really don’t know why he doesn’t try to hide that ugly period from his resume… He was very much working for OBC against the people, even if Kagasheki and Maghembe did the same with more rabid enthusiasm. Sadly, Tanzanians commenting don’t seem to care about land rights and human rights in Loliondo, but insist on some fake news from 2015 about Sheikh Mohammed flying off with giraffes in the plane - based on real events from 2010, not concerning Dubai, but Qatar. Not that anyone has been monitoring if OBC keep to hunting laws and regulations, but that “news” from 2015 was very fake indeed. TAKUKURU/PCCB must of course investigate Nyalandu – as Kigwangalla has repeatedly, and now again, called for – but if there’s any seriousness in this exercise, they must do the same with all Ministers for Natural Resources and Tourism, Kigwangalla himself included.

This whole issue is very confusing, but I hope that it can in some way lead to not only the end of Mollel as director, but to the end of OBC in Loliondo. While some are skeptical, many people in Loliondo seem very happy about what’s happening and now believe that there is justice in this world. “Malipo ni hapa hapa duniani” is rarely true, but maybe, possibly in Mollel’s case it is.
Isaack Mollel arriving at court. photo: TAKUKURU/PCCB
Remaining questions about the attacks by soldiers in 2018

As mentioned so many times before, soldiers from Tanzania’s national army JWTZ set up camp in Lopolun near Wasso town around 24th March 2018. Some people were worried from the start, while others said that they were there for normal border and soldier issues. Between late June and late August 2018, these soldiers attacked and tortured several groups of people while claiming that they were protecting Serengeti, looking for “Kenyans” and so on… The apparent focus was on those with many cows in Ololosokwan, and on those in Sukenya accused of inciting others to enter the land occupied by Thomson Safaris. Nobody was speaking up about the abuse that most said was ordered by “government” while some, without providing evidence or further explanation, said that the soldiers had been contracted by companies and individuals with grudges.

Around 8th November 2018 the soldiers started beating up and chasing away people and livestock from wide areas around OBC’s camp that was being prepared for “the guest” (Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai). Reportedly they were telling their victims that they shouldn’t have sued the government. Between 14th and 19th November the soldiers burned down bomas in several areas of Kirtalo and Ololosokwan while not-one-single-leader spoke up about it; political leaders, traditional leaders, women’s leaders, activists, and NGOs, even those who were abroad participating in panels and media stayed totally silent about the ongoing arson attacks. This was the lowest moment of my years following the Loliondo land struggle, and I can’t imagine how it must have felt to the actual victims of the attacks. It was an occasion for loudly demanding the resignation of all leaders, but there wasn’t, and still isn’t, anyone ready or willing to replace them. The reason for the silence was an intense, and not unfounded, fear of being arrested, or of something worse happening to oneself and one’s family. The soldiers seized cattle at the Oloirien area between Ololosokwan and Kirtalo and drove them to Serengeti National Park where they wanted to hand them over to the rangers that refused and instead released the cattle among wild animals at night. The Serengeti rangers, who were the main implementors of the illegal mass arson operation in 2017 that was ordered by the DC and officially funded by TANAPA, later in November joined the seizing of livestock and brutally beat up owners of goats and sheep from Arash that had come to pay “fines” to get their animals back.

Not only weren’t there any press statements issued by Loliondo leaders, nobody was speaking up, nobody was coordinating information gathering. I kept getting piecemeal reports from people, mostly from Kirtalo, that I hadn’t earlier heard from. The attacks were in the most flagrant violation of interim orders issued by the East African Court of Justice on 25th September 2018. The soldier attacks have been added to the court case, but not much is being heard from that corner either.

To date I haven’t heard from anyone who’s seen any kind of written order for the very violent arson attacks by soldiers in November 2018, but all say that it was ordered by the highest level of government. The council chairman, the district CCM chairman, and some village chairmen on 21st November 2018 went to ask DC Rashid Mfaume Taka about the reason for the attacks. The DC, who is the highest central government representative and enforcer in the district, hand-picked by the president, and the head of the Ngorongoro Security Committee, denied any knowledge.

The week before Christmas 2018, the soldiers were driving around beating up apparently anyone not fast enough to run away, and on 20th December they again seized cattle from village land and wanted to hand them over to rangers at Klein’s gate who refused. On 21st December these soldiers attacked the Leken area in Karkamoru, Kirtalo were they burned down 12 or 13 bomas with all belongings inside. Lambs and goat kids perished in the fire.

The day after the attack on Leken a message from the DC was shared in Whatsapp groups. This time the DC had been out of the district, but said he’d been informed about the atrocities. He added that he was sorry and that he had commissioned a team of high officials to go to the village. He assured people that there wasn’t any ongoing operation…
Soldiers from the national army had for months been driving around in their uniforms, terrorizing people, and committed mass arson in November and December, and at last the DC and head of the Ngorongoro Security Committee had been informed… All leaders continued their silence.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco was expected to visit Loliondo (as he had done at least once before) the days before Christmas 2018, and one or more cargo planes from the Royal Moroccan Air Force landed with supplies, but the visit was postponed the last minute.

Surprisingly, on his visit to the district on 11th or 12th January 2019 Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo made a statement condemning the burning of bomas. The RC had met the victims and wasn’t happy about what he’d seen, or about how the process had been, bypassing both the district and the regional security committee. He said that leaders must not consent to being used by people with money managing what happens in Ngorongoro via remote control, clearly referring to OBC, while it’s much more unclear which leaders he was referring to. He didn’t mention that the arson was committed by soldiers from the national army, but made it seem like it would have been unknown “wasiojulikana” arsonists. I’ve been told that on ITV, that I haven’t got access to, the MP joined the RC in condemning the burning, also without mentioning the soldiers. This statement by the highest central government representative in Arusha region, handpicked by the president, came after all local leaders and “activists” had - out of intense fear that the arson was ordered by the highest level of government, which is the president himself – stayed silent for months.

Things are not adding up.

“Reasons” for the illegal arrests in January

As mentioned in the previous, now quite old, blog post, the secondary school teachers Supuk Olemaoi and Clinton “Eng’wes” Kairung were – as is a stupid habit in Loliondo – again illegally arrested from 7th to 13th January, while according to Tanzanian law they should have been taken to court or granted bail after 24 hours. I’ve had some problems finding out the exact “reason” for these arrests, that were ordered by the DC, but those that have followed-up have told me that the only thing Clinton and Supuk were questioned about was “reports” that they would have met with me at Olpusimoru market in Kenya on 6th January. This is quite tragic stupidity on so many levels.

  • Clinton and Supuk weren’t in Olpusimoru on 6th January and I was sadly over 7,300 km away (as the crow flies).
  • On a tourist visa, I can visit anyone (from any country) in Kenya as long as that person wants to see me, and it’s in no way the business of any investor-pleasing DC from Tanzania. Though the very painful reality is that these two arrested are so intimidated that they would never come to see me. I shouldn’t say it since it will make very bad people very happy, but the most probable scenario would be that everyone from Loliondo would run off in panic if I were sighted at Olpusimoru market.
  • I’ve never done anything bad, especially not in relation to Loliondo. Finding and sharing correct information about the investors that threaten land rights is the most useful thing I’ve ever done, and it’s my right per the constitution of Tanzania. My assistance to anyone who wants to write about Loliondo is invaluable, I don’t even want to think about what would otherwise be written, though I just wish that everyone would use me to avoid unnecessary mistakes that are still made, by everyone, all the time. As could be seen in the arson cases last year, at times I’m the only person to turn to who will speak up about abuse in Loliondo, and in the past people who could maybe at that time have done it themselves, but preferred not to, have used my blog to get their message out. Most of the time, I’ve been much on my own setting the record straight about extreme and malicious misinformation in media, and on this I've spent much more time than I can afford.
  • There are obviously some investor-friendly people that don’t want the truth the be known and I regularly hear from their foul-mouthed tail, but this insane repression still doesn’t have that much to do with me. People are targeted blindly, lazily, and without any investigation. Nobody has ever been “hacked”. The aim is obviously to silence everyone in Loliondo – which has basically been achieved - and I’m used as an excuse. 

It’s reported that what unleashed this insanity was that a white woman was sighted at the market. Though it could just as well have been any wannabe corruptee – they are sadly very active (not sure how Mollel’s arrest has affected them, but it seems like initially it made them even more prone to telling me that my days are numbered as someone “interfering” in Loliondo, or in some cases meant biologically) and greatly contributing to terror in Loliondo - having a nightmare about a nasty white woman, and with the hope of getting a gold star from the “investors” running off crying to the DC to report that Clinton and Supuk had met me.

It’s also been mentioned that the DC could have found it very convenient to have Clinton and Supuk locked up during the visit by the RC, fearing that they could raise issues of student enrolment of form one (I’m not sure what exactly this issue is about), and of the soldier brutality.

Someone who met Manyara Karia who was arrested on 8th January was told that the only thing she was questioned about was a supposed “uchochezi” (these days mostly translated as “sedition”) meeting with white people present at the Nanyoi boma next to the land claimed by Thomson Safaris – when the truth was that she had attended a meeting of practical and traditional preparations after the passing away of an old man, in which there were only local people present. This must have been the work of the same kind of delusional wannabee corruptee that runs off to the DC.

Extreme police brutality

This issue doesn’t have to do with the land threats, but with extreme brutality by the Loliondo and Ngorongoro police. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) have been reporting about it since they were informed on 13th January and the issue has appeared in the press in connection with other abuse of arrested people in Loliondo.

What I’ve been informed is that on 20th December 2018 an iPad, camera equipment, sun glasses, some money, and other items were stolen from tourists at Simba B campsite in Ngorongoro. The following day, five camp workers were arrested, suspected of having been involved in the theft. A task force arrived to investigate and started by threatening with killing the suspects if they didn’t disclose the location of the stolen items. When they were unable to reveal the identity of the unknown thieves, the investigators decided that the camp workers were these thieves. Then started two weeks of beatings to extract evidence or confessions from the suspects. These suspects were hung up in arms and legs, face down, and beaten, mostly on their feet. An NCA warden, security officer at the campsite, was arrested as well, but not tortured.

The suspects were taken to Loliondo and first told they’d be taken to court, but then the police decided to continue with the torture instead. One suspect, Musa Yahya, made a false confession to end the torture, and they were all taken back to the Ngorongoro campsite, but when the stolen items couldn’t be found they were moved to Karatu and threatened with being handed over to soldiers that would kill them in the forest. They were again brought to Ngorongoro where another of the suspects, Francis Arusha, made a false confession, and when nothing could be found at the indicated location, a police officer pointed a gun at Francis Arusha threatening with shooting him. This was Christmas Day and the suspects were returned to Loliondo where the torture continued, and the police anally raped them using Coca-Cola bottles. Thereafter the suspects were told mop up their own blood.

The wounds became seriously infected and on New Year’s Eve the police brought a doctor who refused to treat the suspects, since he feared that they would die in police custody and that he could be held liable. Instead the police tried pouring kerosene at the wounds, which worsened the injuries. Fearing that they would die, the police took two of the suspects to Wasso Hospital, and threatened them to tell the doctors that a brick wall had fallen on them, but when alone with the doctors they told the truth anyway. The Wasso Hospital Authority refused to hand the patients over to the police. The police then had to seek consent from the Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Division of Ngorongoro district (OCCID), Mathayo Mmari, and later the other three were taken to hospital.

The Ngorongoro DC visited the patients that all, as well as some family members that were present, said that the DC phoned the OCCID (who according to the victims was very active in the torture) to inquire about the basis for the torture and was told that it was instructed by the Arusha Regional Crimes Officer (RCO), (I need to get the name confirmed), and the Arusha RC, Gambo. Two of the victims also reported having seen the RCO physically present during the torture, and that he afterwards had visited them at their homes. One of the victims, Francis Arusha, needed to have a toe amputated.  

Pictures of the injuries have been widely shared, but I’m almost unable to look at them. After finally being informed, THRDC, raised the alarm and together with Legal and Human Rights Centre initiated a campaign for the rights of suspects. In Namanga, the day before Minister Lugola on his Arusha tour visited Loliondo, one of the victims, Musa Yahya, told the minister about the ordeal, and once in Loliondo Lugola ordered an investigation.

The Loliondo police have always been more than helpful to investors that threaten land rights, participated in illegal operations, and worked for Thomson Safaris harassing the legitimate landowners for “trespass” at a cost of 10,000 TShs per policeman per day (I don’t know if this is still being done, or what the current rate is). I wasn’t beaten or threatened with physical violence when I was arrested in 2015, even if everything else about the arrest was illegal and totally unreasonable (not allowed to contact anyone, held for three nights without being taken to court, being lied to all the time, hard drive stolen etc.) Two of the people arrested for espionage and sabotage (for communicating with me) in 2016 were badly beaten at that time.


The president’s statement must be used to call off all alienation plans for the 1,500 km2 osero, to stop the PM's vague plans to place Loliondo under NCA, and to revoke Thomson Safaris very illegitimate right of occupancy of Maasai land. 

Summary of osero developments of the past decades
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, that organises hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, has the hunting block. Stan Katabalo – maybe Tanzania’s last investigative journalist - reported about how this hunting block was acquired in the early 90s. By 2019 there does no longer seem to be journalists of any kind.

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 didn’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, Maghembe, 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”, 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 a long wait to hear the PM’s decision started.

While still waiting, on 13th August 2017 an 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, but not all, leaders stayed strangely and disappointingly silent.

The DC and the Ministry of Natural Resources explained the illegal operation with that people and cattle were entering Serengeti National Park too easily, while Minister 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 2017.
When in Arusha on 23rd September, President Magufuli collected protest placards against Maghembe, OBC and abuse, to read them later.
On 5th October 2017 the Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, (who had met with people from Loliondo) 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 2017 Maghembe was removed and Hamisi Kigwangalla appointed as new minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Kigwangalla stopped the operation on 26th October 2017, 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 rangers at Klein’s gate that had been colluding with the investor would be transferred. Kigwangalla emphasized that OBC would have left before January. He talked about the corruption syndicate at their service, reaching into his own ministry, and claimed that OBC’s director, Mollel, wanted to bribe him, and would be investigated for corruption. However, OBC never showed any signs of leaving.

Kigwangalla announced in social media that he on 13th November 2017 received a delegation headed by the German ambassador and that the Germans were 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.

On 6th December 2017, PM Majaliwa announced a vague, but terrifying decision to form a “special authority” to manage the 1,500 km2 osero. He also said that OBC would stay. Manyerere Jackton celebrated the decision in the Jamhuri newspaper. Further information and implementation of this “special authority” has fortunately been delayed, even if it was mentioned in Kigwangalla’s budget speech on 21st May 2018. The only additional information that has been shared is that the whole of Loliondo, per Majaliwa’s plan, is to be put under the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Sheikh Mohammed, his crown prince, and other royal guests visited Loliondo in March 2018, and Kigwangalla welcomed them on Twitter. Earlier, in restricted access social media, Kigwangalla had been saying that OBC weren’t a problem, but only the director, Mollel, and that Loliondo, with the “new structure” needed more investors of the kind.

Around 24th March 2018 a military camp was set up in Lopolun, near Wasso town, by the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (JWTZ). Some were from the start worried that the aim was to further intimidate those speaking up against the land alienation plans, non-alarmists were saying that it was there for the Kenya border and for normal soldier issues.

An ambitious report about Loliondo and NCA, with massive media coverage (and some unnecessary mistakes) was released by the Oakland Institute on 10th May 2018, and Kigwangalla responded by denying that any abuse had ever taken place, and threatening anyone involved with the report. He went as far as denying the existence of people in Loliondo GCA.

In May-June 2018 there was an intimidation campaign against the applicants in the case in the East African Court of Justice, and silence became worse than ever.

From late June to late August 2018 there were several incidents of soldiers from the military camp set up in Olopolun attacking and torturing people.

On 25th September 2018 the East African Court of Justice ordered interim measures restraining the government from any evictions, burning of homesteads, or confiscating of cattle, and from harassing or intimidating the applicants.

In November 2018 while OBC were preparing their camp, reports started coming in that soldiers were attacking people in wide areas around the camp, while all leaders stayed silent. Information was piecemeal, and after a couple of days many people were telling that bomas had been burned in areas of Kirtalo and Ololosokwan.

Beatings and seizing of cattle continued in some areas, and on 21st December the soldiers descended upon Leken in Kirtalo and burned 13 bomas to the ground, while the silence continued.

It was later revealed that a visit by Mohammed VI of Morocco had been planned for the days before Christmas 2018, but that it was postponed.

In January 2019 innocent people were again illegally arrested for the sole sake of intimidation.
Then RC Gambo on a Ngorongoro visit spoke up about the burning of bomas, but in a very vague way.
On 15th January the president issued a somewhat promising statement against evictions of pastoralists and cultivators.

In February 2019 OBC’s director Isaack Mollel was surprisingly, on the initiative of the RC, reluctance by the police, and order by Minister Lugola, arrested for employing foreign workers without permits, released on bail, and then caught by the Preventing and Combatting Corruption Bureau, and on 4th March charged with economic crimes.

Susanna Nordlund

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