Tuesday, 12 December 2017

PM Majaliwa Announces Vague and Terrifying Decision about Land in Loliondo, and Says that OBC will Stay

In this blog post:
The PM’s vague and terrifying decision.
Whose land is it?
Press meeting
Kigwangalla’s promise down the drain
The PM “solving the conflict”
Background summary

There’s confusion and fear in Loliondo. Nobody seems to know exactly what’s going on, but I’ve tried to write a blog post about what’s known.

The PM’s vague and terrifying decision.
In the afternoon of 6th December, PM Majaliwa finally delivered his long awaited, and much feared, decision about the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land that Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC), that organises hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, have spent years lobbying to have alienated for a “protected area”. The PM was to decide between a Game Controlled Area 2009, which would be a catastrophic land alienation leading to destruction of lives and livelihoods, environmental degradation and conflict with neighbours, or the compromise proposal reached by the RC’s select committee, consisting of a Wildlife Management Area, which the Loliondo Maasai had rejected for a decade and a half of pressure, since it means setting aside land for “investors”, while handing away much power over the land to the director of wildlife, the said investors, and others.

First reports in the evening were that the PM would have announced some very worrying “special WMA”, and it didn’t seem like even those who were present at the meeting in Dodoma had understood, or wanted to understand, what the PM had said. Some said it was about an expansion of Ngorongoro Conservation Area where the Maasai live under the colonial style rule of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. A couple of very similar (copies of a brief press statement) newspaper articles the following day made things somewhat, but not much, clearer. The PM had ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to prepare a legal bill with the aim of forming a special authority to manage the 1,500 km2, even if all reports just mention “Loliondo GCA” which would be the whole 4,000 km2, to protect the ecosystem of Serengeti National Park, wildlife paths, breeding grounds and water sources, while benefitting all sides. The MP said it would be ensured that the interest of local people, their customs, traditions, and land use are considered in the legal bill that is to be rushed through so that a final draft is ready for February/March 2018, to be included in the 2018/2019 budget. A team of specialists, after going through various options, recommended this “special authority” for the broad interests of all sides, and with the aim of bringing peace and sustainable conservation to Loliondo. To some people, me included, this sounds like an all-out land grab, taking away the land from the villages to give it to a “special authority” prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Some of those who were at the meeting interpreted the PM’s – possibly intentionally - cryptic words as if the 1,500 km2 would be for “wildlife only” or very restricted grazing, the most feared outcome of all, and all clearly heard that Majaliwa said that OBC – contrary to the promises by Minister Kigwangalla - will stay even if the executive director (who apparently now has been fired) would be “investigated for corruption”.

Whose land is it?
The 1,500 km2 of important dry season grazing land undoubtedly belongs to the Maasai of Loliondo who, it should be remembered, already lost considerable land with the creation of Serengeti National Park, and whose relative compatibility with wildlife makes their land just too valuable to be left in peace by “investors”, the government that favours those above the Tanzanian landowners, and by some international organisations.

The Village Land Act No.5 of 1999 provides for the management and control of village land, and the main purpose of this act is to recognize and secure customary land rights, and not least protecting rural people from unscrupulous dealers.
All land in Loliondo is village land per section 7(1) of the Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 since it fulfils the following definitions - one definition being sufficient to qualify as village land.
-Land within the boundaries of villages registered according to the Local Government
(District Authorities) Act, 1982.
-Land demarcated as village land under any administrative procedure or in accord with any statutory or customary law.
-General land that villagers have been using for the twelve years preceding the enactment of the Village Land Act, 1999. This includes land customarily used for grazing cattle or
passage of cattle (definitions by TNRF in 2011).

Per the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights, the Loliondo Maasai have a right to free prior informed consent.

Press meeting
On 8th December ward councillors and village chairmen from Loliondo and Sale (Malambo ward) held a press conference. The statement read by the council chairman Mathew Siloma, was timid considering the circumstances. Several of those involved have expressed their deep unhappiness and fear caused by the PM’s decision.  “Believe me, we are in for the worst”, is what I’m being told, but the statement, especially as it was reported by most news outlets, for some reason seemed to focus much on thanking the PM! Maybe it’s seen as the best strategy to make the most positive interpretation possible due to the vagueness of the decision. The only explanation I get is that people are “confused”. After a more complete article in the Mwanahalisi, and then finally getting hold of the full statement, it makes more sense. It starts with a brief, but correct description of the problem, and a strange appreciation of the RC’s select committee as “participatory”. Then the local leaders express that they are pleased (my non-expert translation):
  • that the government acknowledge that the land that has been intruded into by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, and where people have been beaten, is the land of legally registered villages, recognized by the law.
  • that the commission admitted that the operation in August violated the law, that there wasn’t a formal government order, and thus it had no legitimacy.
  • that the PM has recognised that the citizens of Loliondo are traditional conservationists and there isn’t any conflict between them and conservation.
  • that solving a conflict of interests like this one is done by means of strong involvement by stakeholders, and making a joint plan that will consider the interests of each stakeholder.
  • that the government will ensure the participation of wananchi (citizens/grassroots/people, I don’t know what’s the best translation) at the highest levels in the advancement of the organ that’s to administrate the areas of village land with conflict. 

Some articles only reported about the five points about being pleased, which doesn’t tell readers anything about what’s going on, but the Mwanahalisi continued beyond these points adding that the statement also says that the decision to form a special authority to manage the areas of village land under conflict has left questions unanswered, like how it will be formed and what its role will be in managing the interests that are currently well and legitimately managed by the village governments. It clarifies that village and ward leaders will be ready to participate in the process if:
  • any decision made doesn’t affect the legitimate ownership of village land, and land use by local people will continue and be protected by land laws and village land use plans.
  • village land use plans, surveying and certification take place as a first step, before any other process.
  • people are fully involved in determining the boundary between the villages and Serengeti National Park, and beacons put up in a participatory way, agreed by both sides.
  • when setting up any system of land management and legislative development it starts with local people at village level and not with the government introducing a system that people don’t understand and don’t see as a solution for bringing peace to this area.
  • the discussion period is extended from the two months wanted by the PM to two years, to facilitate community participation.
  • investors are put under community control so that the community can benefit from tourism resources.
  • the whole program is initiated at village level, not by specialists from the concerned ministries.
  • a written version of the PM’s speech is made available to avoid different interpretations that can be used by specialists.
  • legal measures are taken against everyone involved in human rights violations, including the former Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Jumanne Maghembe, who ordered the burning of bomas on village land, hurting people, and dragging the government into unnecessary conflict, soiling its image.
  • the government looks at the possibility of compensation for those affected by serious violations of their rights, including loss of property.

Kigwangalla’s promise down the drain
As now seems to be known by some people all over the world, even those who apparently haven’t heard a word about the recent extreme abuse inflicted on the Loliondo Maasai, the current Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Hamisi Kigwangalla, clearly announced that Otterlo Business Corporation that’s held the hunting blocks in Loliondo since 1992, would not have their permit renewed and would be gone before January 2018.

After arriving in Loliondo, with the task of ending the illegal operation, and then seeing the more than obvious “syndicate” at the service of OBC that for so many years has worked for divide and rule, and incited conflict, it was hardly difficult for Kigwangalla, or anyone, to see that this “investor” had to leave. It must even have looked like a road to easily obtained popularity. Kigwangalla was, however, na├»ve about how many, and how powerful, people are benefiting from being at the service of the hunters from Dubai.

OBC never showed any signs of leaving. When asked – before the PM’s speech – the assistant director told me his employer wasn’t going anywhere and that I’d have a heart attack, while the public relations officer said, "OBC is waiting for you to come and pack them off". Though now people are saying that at least the executive director, Isaack Mollel, has been fired.
Update: Mollel was never fired.

The PM “solving the conflict”
Majaliwa’s work to “solve the conflict” started a year ago, while the partly successful operation to intimidate into silence everyone who could ever speak up for land rights in Loliondo was still ongoing – after multiple illegal arrests, a bizarre case of malicious prosecution for “espionage and sabotage” was still in the court against four people - and OBC had sent to the press their “report” urging the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to solve their problems with the destructive Maasai. Then the PM tasked the Arusha RC Gambo with “solving the conflict” via talks between the villages and OBC. Gambo set up a select committee consisting of representatives of government organs, not least the various parastatals within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, “investors”, conservation organisations, NGOs, women and youths, and local political, traditional and religious leaders - to “find a solution”. This was a select committee of “stakeholders” representatives – some extremely hostile - and not a participatory committee of the Maasai rightsholders. However, those in the committee that could be seen as community representatives came to view the RC as their only ally. Loliondo was in the middle of a severe drought, and committee members like he director of TANAPA, the regional security officer, and the Director of Wildlife aggressively supported the GCA 2009 land alienation that OBC had spent years lobbying for. Minister Maghembe showed up in Loliondo together with the journalist, Manyerere Jackton who has written some 50 articles full of hate rhetoric against the Loliondo Maasai, and vicious defamation of individuals he suspects of being against the land grab idea - and the minister declared that the 1,500 km2 osero had to be alienated as a protected area before the end of March. Then Maghembe brought the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Land and Natural Resources on a totally co-opted Loliondo trip, and this committee was told by the Serengeti Chief Game Warden Mwakilema that funds from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the state owned German Development Bank (KfW), for a Serengeti Ecosystem Development and Conservation Project implemented by TANAPA and Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), were subject to the approval of the land use plan that would alienate the 1,500 km2 of important grazing land next to Serengeti National park. 600 women protested both against OBC and against the German money that (as was said at the time …) wasn’t signed by the district chairman (now it seems like he did it secretly anyway!).
As an example of how “participatory” the RC’s committee was, it was met with, sometimes violent, protest everywhere it went to inspect “critical areas”. Finally, on 21st March the RC’s committee reached through voting the compromise proposal of a WMA, which was by then seen as a victory… The proposal was presented to Majaliwa on 20 April, but the report has still not been made public.

While waiting to hear from Majaliwa, on 13th August village land was invaded by Serengeti and NCA rangers assisted by local police and OBC and KDU (anti-poaching) rangers, and the illegal operation went on for two months. At least 250 bomas were burned from Ololosokwan to Piyaya 90 km further south. People who returned to the area were badly beaten, some were arrested and taken to Mugumu, the rangers illegally seized cattle, and blocked access to water sources – and raped women. The illegal operation continued even after an interim stop order by the government organ Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance. Some Loliondo leaders, council chairman and MP included, were shockingly silent.

After the removal of Maghembe and stopping of the illegal operation, the new minister, Kigwangalla, ordered the firing of the director of wildlife, and promised that OBC’s hunting block would not be renewed, and that they would have to leave before January 2018, but the decision about the land was in the hands of the PM.

Now the "special authority" must be stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In July 2016, Manyeree Jackton wrote an “article” calling for PM Majaliwa to return the Kagasheki-style threat. In November 2016 OBC sent out a “report” to the press calling for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to intervene against the destructive Maasai. In mid-December 2016, the Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo was tasked by the PM with setting up a committee to “solve the conflict”, and on 25th January 2017 the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, in the middle of the drought stricken Osero, flanked by the most OBC-devoted journalists, and ignoring the ongoing talks, made a declaration that the land had to be taken before the end of March. In March 2017 Minister Maghembe co-opted a Parliamentary Standing Committee, and then Loliondo leaders’ “only ally’s”, RC Gambo’s, committee started marking “critical areas” while being met with protests in every village. German development money that the standing committee had been told was subject to the alienation of the 1,500 km2 was – after protests by 600 women – not signed by the district chairman. On 21st March a compromise proposal for a WMA (that had been rejected in Loliondo for a decade and a half) was reached through voting by the RC’s committee, then handed over to PM Majaliwa on 20th April, and a long wait to hear the PM’s decision started.

While still waiting, on 13th August 2017 a very unexpected illegal eviction and arson operation was initiated in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan and then continued all the way to Piyaya. Beatings, arrests of the victims, illegal seizing of cows, and blocking of water sources followed. Women were raped by the rangers. Many leaders stayed strangely and disappointingly silent.

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

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

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

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

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

On 6th December, PM Majaliwa announced a vague, but terrifying decision to form a special authority to manage the 1,500 km2 osero.

The celebratory mode of the anti-Loliondo “journalist” Manyerere Jackton in today’s (12 December) Jamhuri newspaper gives a clue to who the PM has pleased.

Susanna Nordlund

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