Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Beacons from Hell

The most recent efforts by the Tanzanian government to grab a “corridor” of land from the people of Loliondo

The threat of a corridor of extension of Serengeti National Park onto village land in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District has again reared its ugly head. On 20th November 2012 villagers from Ololosokwan went to Klein’s Gate and it was established that Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) were planning to put border beacons – that had been brought and were being stored - far inside land belonging to the village. They already tried this in 2008 and then the beacons were destroyed by angry villagers, some of whom were arrested for a few hours until fellow villagers forced their release. Through the years TANAPA have tried many bad tricks and then there have been times of uneventful coexistence. Similar attempts at expanding borders are going on around most protected areas in Tanzania.

On the 22nd there was a big meeting in Ololosokwan to discuss the way forward.

On the 23rd hundreds of villagers marched to the gate where they met the Serengeti National Park Chief Warden whose view was that the land belonged to the park and it was the Prime Minister that had to make a decision about the boundary. The villagers put up a board informing anyone concerned where their land starts. The Chief Warden asked people to think twice before putting up the board and this angered those present.

On the 26th some 3000 villagers marched to the gate to again meet the Chief Warden who was not there. The villagers had arranged lorries for transporting the stored beacons to inside the national park where they dumped them. Both the Village Chairman Yohana Saing'eu and the Ololosokwan Ward Councillor Yannick Ndoinyo - besides rejecting beacons on village land - demanded that the TANAPA staff move from Klein’s Gate to inside the national park. The reason that the gate is situated on village land is that in the 80s people wanted protection from cattle rustlers and African Wildlife Foundation (that in later years have cheered on and even been directly involved in very ugly land grabs) supported the construction of a guard post on village land. However, the village did not have any people trained as park rangers and police to stay at the post. TANAPA used the post and it changed purposes from the guard post to entrance gate where thousands of tourist pass each year. It is now being used as a measure of a boundary. The District Administrative Secretary (DAS), the Land Officer and the Officer Commanding District (OCD) attended this meeting. The DAS told those present that the beacons were not to be placed on Ololosokwan land, but were for the western boundary and kept at the gate because of the rainy weather. Many of those present understood that he was talking about the boundary between Arusha and Mara Regions. Eventually the chief warden showed up and said the same thing, and the DAS even instructed the villagers to return the beacons onto village land. It’s obvious that this talk was meant to confuse people. The OCD said it was against the law to move the beacons and asked who would pay for the broken ones. This exemplary direct action by the villagers of Ololosokwan was shown on the news service of ITV television station. It can be viewed HERE.

On the 30th there was a meeting with the District Commissioner who said that the correct boundary was that of Government Notice 1968 no. 235, and the villagers thought that by this he meant the boundary that they agree to. The Ngorongoro Member of Parliament also attended and thanked the villagers – who thought they were now out of danger - for being patient.

On 3rd-4th December some villagers went with surveyors to have a careful look at the boundary and discovered that there were many irregularities and that the surveyors had an interest in the wrong boundary. The Government Notice of 1968 explains for instance that the boundary starts at boundary pillar 24, but the pillar being used is now marked BP 24 NEW. Also there are no coordinates originally setting the beacons described in the Government Notice of 1968.

On the 5th there was a meeting between TANAPA, village leaders, the District Executive Director and the District Commissioner. It became clear that the authorities claim that the Government Notice from 1968 goes together with a map from 1975 with a boundary far above the correct one and above a firebreak that a late chief warden dug on village land to protect the national park from fire set by the villagers for grass burning. In later years TANAPA themselves have taken up controlled burns – and almost going overboard with this activity.

The weekend 8th –9th December the villagers accompanying the surveyors withdrew because the whole exercise is being driven and imposed by the surveyors and the villagers’ opinion was not taken seriously. The villagers’ questions on current park management practices that even set boundaries are not being answered by the government

The land that the government is trying to grab from Ololosokwan extends some two kilometres inside the village land and has a width of some eight kilometres. Other villages – like Arash and Piyaya - from where it's more difficult to obtain information have also been visited by surveyors and they are even worse hit by this land grabbing plan.

On 9th December the village chairmen from Oloipiri, Kirtalo and Ololosokwan met and resolved to unite efforts and address this crisis jointly. They strongly feel that the Government Notice from 1968 has been wrongly translated to facilitate this current action to grab more land from the pastoralists. These three villages will each hold its village assembly on Tuesday 11th December to further discuss and decide on action forward. They hope to enlist other villages to join the move and seek legal action against this grabbing.
Despite their decision to withdraw from the surveying the villagers were informed that the beacons will be erected on the boundary starting Monday 10th December and the government will deploy military police and park rangers to keep guard and protect the beacons and the surveyors against any intrusion, especially from the villagers. Councillor Yannick Ndoinyo says: “This is against the land act, peaceful and positive neighbourhoods and democratic discharge of government.”

It’s been reported that on 9th December a woman called Kisaru Leitura was found grazing livestock with two boys on village land above the board placed by villagers and she was beaten by Serengeti National Park rangers that also took her panga (machete).

TANAPA staff, surveyors, security officers and about 40 policemen arrived in the area on the 9th. As I’m about to publish this blog post on 10th December it’s still unclear what has happened today.

Obviously this move by the Tanzanian government is an extension and not a “sell-off” of the Serengeti (as in the Avaaz petition). Though there are strong suspicions that Otterlo Business Corporation – that have got their hunting block renewed for 2013-2018 - will have the land for hunting, in which case it would be declared Game Controlled Area as in Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 – like in the rejected Land Use Plan. (Read about the history of OBC HERE) Either way would be total disaster for the people of Loliondo.

Kiyyian ole Kiyiapi, livestock herder from Ololosokwan says, “Dark has end, light is working now. It was enough for our grandparents to be evicted. We can’t agree easily like that now. Better to die in a single day than to survive in an oppressed life of long days. I hope and believe even if it’s not now, tomorrow or days coming, but even after a long time there’s a day a day will be a day in a tortured situation. In Tanzania now people are treated as ants. The fact that it’s a peaceful country is being used to defraud. It’s a country of dictatorship in democracy, especially to pastoralists. 14 kilometres from Kenya we are refugees in our own country. Again dark has end, light is working now.”

While this is happening, not far away at all the ownership of 12,617 acres of Maasai land is being claimed by the Boston-based tour operator Thomson Safaris as an abomination called Enashiva Nature Refuge that’s aggressively marketed as community empowerment (read more about Thomson HERE, from 2010, and in subsequent updates); further away in Ngorongoro Conservation Area people under the rule of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority are starving; and a parliamentary committee is recommending that the village of Engaresero too be placed under NCAA rule. In another part of the country pastoralists are being eradicated as pests from the Kilombero Valley and this operation is continuing despite a court order to stop it. The Serengeti National Park is 14,763 square kilometres, but it seems like the Tanzanian government’s lust for pastoralist land is so insatiable that people’s livelihoods and dignity, social peace and the rule of law have to be regularly violated to increase the area of protected land - not least to protect the habitat of investors. Wild animals already have access to large part of the village land and investors are welcomed – more warmly than can be expected from bad experiences - if they pay the landowners for their use of land and refrain from lying, grabbing and cheating.

This must stop! Enough is enough!

Susanna Nordlund

Christmas update: The beacons have not been erected and it's believed that nothing will happen before a visit by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism in January. 

Update March 2013: On 27th January Khamis Kagasheki, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, attended ”stakeholders’” meetings in Loliondo without showing any sign of understanding the issues. Then the last weekend of February he attended meetings in Ololosokwan where he affirmed that the best “solution” for land conflict in Loliondo was the government’s idea of grabbing a massive “wildlife corridor” or Game Controlled Area as in Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009. This was strongly rejected by local representatives. The minister mislead the press to believe that the people were being “given” their own land – except the corridor – under the condition that they form a WMA (increasing central government control), and that this was a way of  “addressing a historical injustice” instead of committing one. 


Unknown said...

# Government Needs, Government takes:
## Maasailand taken because Government needs it!
The way you summarized the case for the first time readers cannot simply be clearer. It was like seeing the real case from its physical existence being planned on those corridors and sent to shunk and sell entities, so thirsty for your piece of cake that they'd delete your existent just like that!
I am not sure my friend Lioness, that there is any support for our people, above the disillusioned and dis-enherited powerless generation, in a process to identity their greatest enemy.
In this kind of powerlessness, what do you advise?
A process of going in oblivion with all the knowledge, guilt, misery and shame, or
a continuos bark of volume not even effective enough to neutralize the source of the enemy fire?
Thanks a lot for the little you project from the tarmite Hill.
Ole Ngais, ( sorry i made some corrections)-apologies,,,

Susanna said...

Government Wants, Government Takes.
I see no option but to become louder and more organised.
Thank you for you comment Saidimu.

Dan Ndoinyo said...

The recurrence of ugly land grabbing plans in Loliondo, provides a clear picture of great humiliation and grave violation of human rights, causing constant fear of eviction to people. Foul play and defraud practice employed by Tanzanian government is unthinkable to be happening over and over again.
The government has an obligation to protect her people and not-to-harm them through terrifying circumstances. For this reason, the government must come clean on issues surrounding land conflict in the country.
Now than before, speaking louder is of great importance to realize peace and stability.

Sussana, this is a comprehensive record, a piece of mastery study of happening as experienced by people in the ground.


Susanna said...

Thank you Dan.

Anonymous said...

Oh Susana - you should resume posting updates on this topic on Safaritalk. Just because some didn't agree doesn't mean that all were not interested. Also, you will reach a much wider audience.

Susanna said...

Hi anonymous. Thank you for your nice comment. I’m glad I’m missed by someone. ;) My blog is here for those that are interested. I post links in many places, almost like a spammer. Though they are not that welcome in travel forums.

Anonymous said...

ok, but I feel that it is a missed oportunity to reach more people when they are in the planning stages of a safari. I don't know that anyone ever stated that you were not welcome (an even if a couple of people felt that way too bad for them)!

Susanna said...

The message from ST was quite clear. Though even if I was no longer that welcome, unlike on other forums, my links were and still are admitted. Nowadays I only post links when someone else is writing about Loliondo (and I see it).

Btw, I was going to post an update before the end of the year, but it looks like everyone is out of internet access until January.