Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Case Against OBC’s Director has Got Closer to Serious Crimes in Loliondo – and then Tragedy Caused by Soldier Brutality has Struck Wasso Town

The bad news of an article in Science Magazine (no news in the actual article, but its massive media coverage at this particular time is bad news,) and the good news of former District Security Officer Issa Ng’itu being charged with receiving money from Isaack Mollel have come at the same time, and I’ve got stuck with a delayed blog post that’s too long and confusing, and that I couldn’t get anyone to read and comment on, but then I was advised to separate the two issues into two blog posts. The post about the Science article will follow very shortly.

Then there was tragic news as well… On 2nd April Yohana Saidea, also known as Babuche, passed away in Wasso town from injuries inflicted by the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (JWTZ) soldiers stationed at Lopolun, who on 7th March had tortured him. The information I’ve got so far is found at the end of this blog post.
Poleni sana familia na marafiki. Pamzika kwa amani Yohana.

In this blog post:
District security officer charged in the Mollel case
The questions
Death caused by the bullying and torturing soldiers in Wasso
Summary of osero developments of the past decades

As mentioned in several blog posts, OBC, or at least the director Isaack Mollel, are no longer untouchable. In February, ten Pakistani nationals were arrested for having done temporary manual work for OBC without permits. Arusha RC Gambo wanted Mollel arrested as well, but the police were reluctant. Then Gambo complained to Minister of Home Affairs Lugola, who was touring Arusha region, and Mollel was arrested, charged, and released on bail only to then get caught by the Preventing and Combatting Corruption Bureau, TAKUKURU/PCCB, and charged on ten counts of economic crimes, mostly concerning importation of vehicles from Dubai, and forging documents to evade taxation. Mollel was locked up in Kisongo remand prison. On 18th March the ten charges about employing foreign nationals were dismissed, and Mollel instead got 37 new charges concerning this case.

On 29th March (confusing since next hearing had been announced for 1st April when nothing happened as far as I know, unless the case about foreign workers was adjourned then) PCCB moved somewhat closer to the real issues when former Ngorongoro District Security Officer Issa Ng’itu was charged on fifteen counts of corruption, submitting false documents, and forgery between 2017 and 2019. The charges concern Ng’itu several times receiving money – in total over 10 million Tanzanian shillings - from Mollel while knowing that this is against the law, having bought (or otherwise obtained) a Landcruiser Prado from Mollel, and together with Mollel having forged different documents relating to this vehicle. I haven’t got access to the actual charge sheet, or talked to anyone who was there, but some media were present in the court room. Apparently, the money transactions were found on a SIM-card, which maybe is what happens to those who feel too confident to use brown envelopes.
Ng'itu at court
I’ve been informed that Ng’itu was in office as District Security Officer (DSO) until February this year. The DSO works under the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS), which means that he’s basically the chief spy of the district, and a medium-sized fish indeed. PCCB could be moving closer to dealing with the serious issue of OBC’s many years of lobbying for terror and land alienation in Loliondo. Though for this some really big fish must be caught, even if what they’ve been doing is quite illegal also without actual corruption… A tip would be to investigate all past and present DCs and Ministers for Natural Resources and Tourism, not least Kagasheki and Maghembe.

Let’s not forget that, even if it was done very openly and boasting, in April 2018 OBC gifted the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism with fifteen Landcruisers, and that it wasn’t the first time the hunters showed this kind of “generosity”. Nebbo Mwina, the at that time acting Director of Wildlife, said that the government recognised the continued important contributions by OBC, wanted them to continue developing the long-time relationship, and not despair because of underground talk, while James Wakibara, director of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) also wanted to thank OBC, and especially the company’s director who couldn’t attend... Even more interesting for PCCB should be to investigate OBC funding the 2010-2030 draft Ngorongoro district land use plan that proposed turning their core hunting area into a protected area. As known, this plan – that would cause a catastrophic loss of important grazing land - was rejected by Ngorongoro District Council, but OBC, and others, have kept lobbying for it.

The current threat is PM Majaliwa’s decision to, via a legal bill allowing hunting, place Loliondo under Ngorongoro Conservation Area that’s under the colonial-style rule of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, and where subsistence agriculture is prohibited, grazing area after grazing area is alienated, and child malnutrition is rampant. This decision was announced by Majaliwa on 6th December 2017 – and much celebrated in the worst anti-Loliondo and pro-OBC press - but its implementation has fortunately been delayed. The same day, 6th December 2017, Majaliwa announced that OBC were staying, after Minister Kigwangalla had earlier announced that they would have to leave Tanzania before January 2018, never to be given another hunting block. Kigwangalla had made this statement after stopping the illegal 2017 mass arson operation on village land implemented by TANAPA/SENAPA (Serengeti rangers assisted by other rangers and local police). Kigwangalla also mentioned OBC’s corruption syndicate that reached into his own ministry, and that Mollel had wanted to bribe him cheaply using 100,000 US dollars, wile his predecessors had got 200,000 US dollars, and that the director would be investigated. OBC never even started packing, and eventually Kigwangalla was saying that OBC weren’t a problem, that with the “new structure” more investors of the kind were needed, and that only Mollel was troublesome. When the Oakland report was out in May 2018, Kigwangalla’s U-turn was complete, and in a Twitter meltdown he was claiming that nobody had ever lived in Loliondo GCA…

Early on when Mollel was arrested, I got fairly trustworthy information that PM Majaliwa would had written a letter saying that Mollel must not be disturbed – but then I haven’t heard anything at all about this. I would be grateful for any information, but it’s starting to seem like there never was such a letter. It would have been good news indeed, and indicate that Majaliwa’s influence is diminishing.

A brief reminder of the problem with OBC’s hunting block on village land in Loliondo and why they should have been chased away long ago: OBC’s involvement in several illegal arson and other human rights crimes operations on village land. The fact that they paid for the rejected land use plan that proposed alienating their core hunting area from the villages to turn it into a protected area. The too enthusiastic support they’ve got from several ministers for natural resources and tourism. The too rabid hate campaigns conducted against the Loliondo Maasai in some media. The too crazed slander, harassment, and illegal arrests against anyone speaking up (or just thought to be able to speak up…) against them (and against Thomson Safaris) by Loliondo authorities. Their constant work to divide and rule, stirring up conflict, and turning some people into dangerous traitors.
The problem is that the main responsible in these crimes is the government itself (the word “state” is never used in Tanzania). Though some say that if there were agreement inside the government, the land would already be long gone. Some have said that OBC are no longer protected since former CCM general secretary Abdulraham Kinana – who’s well-known as for decades having been close to OBC and Sheikh Mohammed -  is now alleged to be supporting Bernard Membe who’s “suspected” of wanting to challenge Magufuli in 2018. I’m however not getting any more information about this.
Former DSO Ng’itu is second from the left in this photo attending a Thomson Safari propaganda spectacle in June 2018. I so wish that this land grabbing “investor” will not be allowed to get away...
It seems like next hearing in the PCCB case is on 11th April, and the case about foreign workers on 5th April.

The questions
What’s happening? If there was any seriousness in the president’s statement of 15th January (that he’s so unhappy to see pastoralists and cultivators being evicted all over the country that he can even consider removing some protected areas), all past and potential plans to alienate the 1,500 km2 osero should already have been declared stopped, just like PM Majaliwa’s decision to place Loliondo under Ngorongoro Conservation Area via a legal bill, and Thomson Safaris illegal right of occupancy should have been revoked.

How could soldiers from the Tanzania People’s Defence Force in November and December 2018 – in flagrant violation of interim  orders issued by the East African Court of Justice - physically assault and chase away people from wide areas around OBC’s camp that was being prepared for guests, and burn down bomas in areas of Kirtalo and Ololosokwan, while not one leader spoke up due to fears that the attacks were ordered by the highest level of government, and the DC claimed to be unaware? How could then RC Gambo on his visit in January condemn this burning of bomas in a vague way not mentioning the soldiers, or who had ordered the attack?

Death caused by the bullying and torturing soldiers in Wasso
These soldiers, who’ve camped at Lopolun near Wasso since March 2018, are also a serious problem for non-pastoralist residents of Wasso town, bullying people everywhere.

On 7th March, 26-year old Yohana Saidea who’s also known as Babuche, together with his friend Boniface Jackson were abducted by more than ten soldiers who took them to the camp where they were tortured. The soldiers had been bullying Yohana for a long time and at the camp they whipped him with their belts, and put bricks on his chest, which more than one soldiers then moved on top of.

When released Boniface had a broken arm, and Yohana started fainting frequently, and complained about headaches. On 2nd April Yohana passed away.

When reached by the tragic news, youths of Wasso town organised a peaceful manifestation to the DC’s office. As far as I know, no leaders have made any statements, except for a post in social media by the district CCM chairman expressing his condolences and saying that CCM will follow up and make sure those responsible are dealt with.

The District Administrative Secretary advised Yohana’s parents to see the Officer Commanding District (OCD), instead of the DC, and the OCD in his turn advised them to sit down and “negotiate” with the soldiers…

On 3rd April Yohana’s parents opened a murder case, and all soldiers at the camp (maybe some forty, nobody knows exactly) were transferred somewhere else and new ones arrived – instead of the criminals being arrested and taken to court… Yohana was one of Loliondo’s best football players. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition have got involved.
Manifestation in Wasso town
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… With Lazaro Nyalandu as minister the focus was on holding closed meeting trying to buy off local leaders, and there was sadly some success in this.

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 and Tourism 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. On 29th March, the former District Security Officer Issa Ng’itu was added to the charges accused of having received over ten million shillings and a Landcruiser Prado from Mollel.

Those who know what's going on are more than welcome to contact me.

Susanna Nordlund

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