Sunday 13 August 2017

Illegal Arson Attack in Loliondo – Rangers Say that They Have Started an Operation to Evict the Maasai from the 1,500 km2 Osero

An illegal eviction operation has begun in Loliondo.

While writing I was informed that five houses containing 12 families had been set on fire in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan and rangers say that they will continue evicting people in other areas.

This post is written urgently to inform anyone who can help. I hope to soon have more detailed information.

Update: the arson continues on Monday, 14th August, Tuesday, 15th August, Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th August. According to the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, and the DC, the insane and illegal operation will go on for 14 days.See below (in purple).


Posted 30 August: How Could Massive Human Rights Crime Happen Again in Loliondo and Why is There Such Silence?

Today, 13th August 2017, information has reached me that an operation to illegally remove livestock, houses, bomas and people from 1,500 km2 of village land, as per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999, has begun in Loliondo according to rangers that have started burning houses in Oloosek, and this information has been confirmed. This human rights crime is being committed at a time when there’s a drought even worse than the one of 2009 (the year of the latest illegal evictions) and many activists have been silenced by increased intimidation that culminated with a wave of illegal arrests and malicious prosecution in 2016. It’s reported that leaders claim to have been caught by surprise thinking that the operation would only affect Serengeti National Park to where many herders have been forced to take their livestock due to the drought, risking a disproportionate 50,000 Tshs fine per head of cattle. Such an operation, while unethical and cruel, would have been legal, but evictions from village land are totally and unquestionably illegal. The “investor” OBC that organises hunting for Emirati royalty has for years been campaigning for the government to turn the land currently under attack into a “protected area”. The latest news was that a “compromise proposal” prepared by a committee led by Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo was being considered by PM Majaliwa. The proposal (a Wildlife Management Area, which even that would be unsustainable without legal Serengeti grazing) was handed to the PM on 20th April and since then everyone has been waiting, which is another reason that the current attack seemed improbable. Though one person contacted me already on 1st August claiming to have been informed by a ranger that such an attack was on the way. Since I need more sources than one, I couldn’t write anything. Nobody had heard anything at all and all said that it wasn’t possible. The information is that the criminal operation has started in Ololosokwan and will continue to Piyaya. First information was that the rangers were saying that the order comes from the Minister, which means the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Jumanne Maghembe, who didn’t hesitate to make declarations that the land had to be taken while the RC’s committee was still at work, and has kept campaigning for the fulfilment of OBC wishes for a “protected area” made from the already insufficient dry season grazing land. Then it’s been said that the order could be coming from higher up, but nothing has been confirmed about where the order is coming from.

While writing I was told that five (some say nine) bomas had already been burned in the Oloosek area and that next they would be burned in Ng’ambo. The rangers are identified as being from the Serengeti National Park Authority, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, and the police from Loliondo are also involved. Some say there were some unidentified rangers as well. Most of the victims had gone to the Sunday market in Ololosokwan. The suffering by people already hit by the extreme drought isn’t possible to imagine.

Many people in Loliondo have lately seemed passive and depressed, and keep being too quiet even now. One line of thought seems to be, “Let’s just wait for an uprising against the rotten leaders who aren’t doing anything” and the other one, “Let’s be patient and work with the government. We are already doing something”. You can’t ask people whose homes are being burned to ashes to be patient, but I still hope that I was correct when thinking that some of the current leaders weren’t of the kind that can be corrupted, and are now taking action. Anyway, it should by now be clear that the “silent strategy” isn’t working.

The Shooting of Pormoson Ololoso
Other information that I was to include in next blog post is that Pormoson Ololoso (early 20s and from Ololoskwan) and a couple of other herders were grazing their cows in Serengeti Monday night, and got caught by rangers who extracted money from them. When the herders were exiting the park in the morning, 8th August, the rangers wanted more money, which the herders refused. One ranger opened fire in the Oloosek area well outside the park (where bomas have now been burned) and Pormoson was hit by three bullets – in both thighs and in the left arm. He was taken to Wasso Hospital, and doing well considering the serious injuries. I haven’t been able to get updates. The ranger was reportedly detained, and his colleagues cooperating without blaming the herders – but then other reports said the shooter wasn’t detained at all.

Rangers have told people in Oleng'usa, near OBC’s camp, to move out before tomorrow morning. 

Sadly, there could be bad news from Arash. as well, but it’s yet to be confirmed.

Update 14/8: On Monday 14th August more bomas have been burned in Oloosek, Illoibor Ariak and Endashata in Ololosokwan, and also in Oleng'usa in Kirtalo village, Oloorkiku in Oloipiri and Loopilukuny in Oloirien. It’s estimated that some 70 bomas in total have been extrajudicially and criminally burned to the ground. I never thought this could happen again, like this, after 2009. Who can stop it? I don’t have words for the terror and those who have the words would not dare to be quoted.

The councillors have met media, but there’s not yet anything online. The DC, Rashid Mfaume Taka, and reportedly also the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism (not sure if he’s in Loliondo) have told local leaders that the “reason” for the illegal operation is that people enter Serengeti National Park too easily, which of course isn’t an excuse for a human rights crime, and doesn’t explain why the rangers say their job is to evict people from the 1,500 km2, and have burned bomas at quite a distance from the park.

Meetings are being held. 

Update 15/8: the human rights crime continues Tuesday 15th August in several areas from Ololosokwan to Arash. I don’t know how many people have been affected or how they will get food and shelter, nor where their cattle will go.

The first media report came after over 48 hours of ongoing human rights crime – and it was in Deutsche Welle Swahili.The DC told the journalist that he didn't have information about the operation. 

Four people from Arash were arrested yesterday in the Olembuya area and continue in police detention, in unknown location, today. They are Leayok Keko, Manayo Kukutia, Salangat Moti and Ndikale Kirewa.

Update 16th August: I thought that maybe the burning has stopped, but in the evening, there was news that it continued in Maaloni and Arash.

“Usiku huu opereshini inaendelea maeneo ya Maaloni na Arash .

Mali zinateketea kwa moto,

Wananchi wanakimbia na kuacha watoto wadogo wakilia nyuma yao.

Mifugo wanalia bila msaada na ndama waliodhoofika wakiachwa nyuma na kuwa kitoweo cha fisi.

Laana hii tutapeleka wapi ,kama mungu yupo wanaotekeleza hill watajibiwa very soon .

#Justice for people of Loliondo#”

Update 17th August: I have unfortunately been travelling with internet problems. Though I have been informed that the insane arson attack has continued the 17th in the Naibor-Soit, Ingaroi and Isindin areas of Arash and Maaloni.

On the 17th the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism issued a press statement not hiding the fact that people were being evicted and bomas burned on village land, which is totally illegal and a human rights crime. The purpose of the operation is to remove livestock and housing from Serengeti National Park and from the "boundary area" (village land per Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999), and in the words of the DC, who leads the Security Committee, this boundary area goes 5 kilometres inside village land! And then bomas have been burned even further from the National Park than that… The statement says that the operation will continue for fourteen days. Without any shame at all the government makes it clear that it doesn’t see the Maasai of Loliondo as citizens, but “something” to be managed for alleged environmental reasons without any regard at all for human rights or Tanzanian law. What OBC has been campaigning for in so many ways, the latest the “report” the presented in November is being fulfilled. Please tell me what’s  being done to stop this! And where are those 2 million people who signed the Avaaz petition? 

Update: A press statement from the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism doesn't´t hide the fact that bomas are being burned on village land, which is totally illegal. The insane operation is planned to go on for 14 days ... To the press, Minister Maghembe has lied that the 1,500 km2 is game reserve (pori la akiba). I have the audio file.

I've written and shared this request for urgent intervention

Update 25th August: It seems like the last arson was committed in Naibor Soit, Piyaya on 23rd August. People have returned to some areas and are re-building their bomas.

Update 26th August: the illegal “operation” continues with arrests of people and cows in the Oloosek area in Ololosokwan.

As feared in March, German money could also have its part in the ongoing human rights crime. 

The background
All land in Loliondo is village land per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999, and more than the whole of Loliondo is also a Game Controlled Area (of the old kind that doesn’t affect human activities and can overlap with village land) where OBC has the hunting block. Stan Katabalo – maybe Tanzania’s last investigative journalist - reported about how this hunting block was acquired in the early 90s.

In 2007-2008 the affected villages were threatened into signing a Memorandum of Understanding with OBC.

In the drought year 2009 the Field Force Unit and OBC extrajudicially evicted people and cattle from some 1,500 km2 of dry season grazing land that serve as the core hunting area next to Serengeti National Park. Hundreds of houses were burned and thousands of cattle were chased into an extreme drought area which did not have enough food or water to sustain them. 7-year old Nashipai Gume was lost in the chaos and has not been found, ever since.

People eventually moved back, and some leaders started participating in reconciliation ceremonies with OBC.

Soon enough, in 2010-2011, OBC totally funded a draft district land use plan that proposed turning the 1,500 km2 into the new kind of Game Controlled Area that’s a “protected” (not from hunting) area and can’t overlap with village land. This plan, that would have allowed a more “legal” repeat of 2009, was strongly rejected by Ngorongoro District Council.

In 2013, then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, made bizarre statements as if all village land in Loliondo would have disappeared through magic, and the people of Loliondo would be generously “gifted” with the land outside the 1,500 km2. This was nothing but a horribly twisted way of again trying to evict the Maasai landowners from OBC’s core hunting area. There’s of course no way a Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism would have the mandate for such a trick of magic. After many mass meetings – where there was agreement to never again enter any MoU with OBC - and protest delegations to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, then Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda in a speech on 23rd September the same year revoked Kagasheki’s threat and told the Maasai to continue their lives as before this threat that through the loss of dry season grazing land would have led to the destruction of livelihoods, environmental degradation and increased conflict with neighbours.

Parts of the press – foremost Manyerere Jackton in the Jamhuri – increased their incitement against the Maasai of Loliondo as “Kenyan” and governed by destructive NGOs. OBC’s “friends” in Loliondo became more active in the harassment of those speaking up against the “investors”, even though they themselves don’t want the GCA 2009, and rely on others, the same people they persecute, to stop it…

Speaking up against OBC (and against Thomson Safaris, the American tour operator claiming ownership of 12,617 acres, and that shares the same friends as OBC) had always been risky, but the witch-hunt intensified with mass arrests in July 2016. Four people were charged with a truly demented “espionage and sabotage” case. Manyerere Jackton has openly boasted about his direct involvement in the illegal arrests of innocent people for the sake of intimidation.

In July 2016, Manyeree Jackton wrote an “article” calling for PM Majaliwa to return the Kagasheki-style threat. In November 2016 OBC sent out a “report” to the press detailing the need for the alienation of the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land. In mid-December 2016, the Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo was tasked by the PM with setting up a committee to “solve the conflict”, and on 25th January 2017 the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, in the middle of the drought stricken Osero, flanked by the most OBC-devoted journalists, and ignoring the ongoing talks, made a declaration that the land had to be taken before the end of March. In March 2017 Minister Maghembe co-opted a Parliamentary Standing Committee, and then the RC’s committee started marking “critical areas” while being met with protest. On 21st March a proposal for a WMA was presented by the RC’s committee, handed over to PM Majaliwa on 20th April, and we are still waiting to hear something from the PM.

While still waiting, on 13th August 2017 an illegal eviction operation was initiated in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan and five bomas were burned.

The illegal operation has to be stopped before more bomas are targeted. 

Susanna Nordlund

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