Regarding the “unarmed wildlife scouts” people living around the land occupied by Thomson have confirmed to me long ago that these always carry traditional weapons, and also firearms when there are guests, and to this should be added the fact that the police for years were known to work as Thomson’s de facto guards. It has recently surfaced in sworn testimony to EarthRights International – assisting with discovery for the court case in 2014 – that Rick Thomson revealed that the company employs security staff both from the Wildlife Division and from local police on a temporary basis. When Moringe Parkipuny, the first MP for Ngorongoro, in 2010 took me (as his friend, a “church person”) to Enashiva to have a drink, we were turned away by a guard with poison arrow ready in hand. The guards also have the most formidable of arms, which is a vehicle.
One blog entry that Thomson haven’t removed is their early description of Enashiva Nature Refuge. Phrases like:
“Long ago, Maasai cattle herders called the creek Enashiva, the Maasai word for happiness. Today, Thomson Safaris is working alongside the Maasai to conserve this vast wilderness of wooded savannah and open grassland covering 12,600 acres within the Serengeti ecosystem.”,
“purchased the land in an open bidding process”,
“saw its potential to be a model for community development, conservation, and responsible tourism”,
“The council has officially voiced its support for Thomson Safaris and actively collaborates with Thomson on Enashiva initiatives.”,
“dedicated staff has led explorations of the land for prestigious researchers”,
“remarkable increases in wildlife numbers”,
“authentic cultural exchanges”,
“Enashiva represents the culmination of nearly 30 years of Thomson’s commitment to Tanzania.”
In this way, Thomson Safaris over the years, pictured an ideal environment for undisturbed wildlife viewing, benefitting the local economy and its people, whereas the reality on the ground for these same people had resulted in exchanges that had been far from the painted scenario. And, nobody seems to know about any creek with that name.
The PMs “Report”
In July 2008, thirteen members of Soitsambu village government went to Dodoma to face the Prime Minister over the ownership of the 12,617 acres. The PM set up a committee to investigate the conflict and this committee visited Loliondo in November 2008. The committee interviewed some community members, but it also spent an entire day at Thomson Safaris’ camp. A summary of the report was made public in Thomson Safaris’ blog in February 2010 and it concluded that Tanzania Breweries Ltd obtained the farm in a legal manner from the village, Tanzania Conservation Ltd legally purchased the land from TBL, conservation and photographic tourism was an appropriate land use and the problem was unnamed jealous tour operators, NGOs, Kenyans, and the Purko Maasai. Surprisingly, the report summary says that the Loita and not the Laitayok are the traditional residents of the area, maybe because the writer was not competent enough to follow Thomson’s instructions. When asked questions by media, Thomson and Wineland very often bring up this report.
Unanswered UN Letters
Despite the “all is well”- propaganda, a growing number of international groups had taken notice of some of the wrongdoings. In March 2009, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – after Minority Rights Group International had lodged an urgent action request - sent a letter to the Tanzanian Government requesting information about the situation, but they did not receive a reply. The committee requested some interim measures – like allowing grazing and watering, suspending commercial development, ensuring physical security and investigating brutality and criminality - to be put in place, which did not happen. CERD sent another letter in March 2011 and a third letter was sent in 2013. In April 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also sent a letter to the Tanzanian government.
The Court Cases
In February 2010 Soitsambu Village Council, assisted by Minority Rights Group International, initiated a court case against Thomson Safaris (Tanzania Conservation Ltd) and Tanzania Breweries Ltd. The court hearings faced many delays due to technicalities despite the urgency requested for. On 31st May 2011, the main case was dismissed on a preliminary objection being that it was “exactly the same” case as brought to court in the late 1980s. An appeal was sought and granted after another year had passed for a full trial in the High Court. On 10 October 2012, there was an injunction hearing for the land case. On 17 January 2013, the High Court upheld the objection against the injunction and ruled that Soitsambu Village lacks necessary legal status since it was split up into four villages in 2010. On 17 May, the land case was struck out by the judge who was not following proper procedures since she had earlier agreed to amendments to the case including Mondorosi and Sukenya.
On 4th July 2013, despite ferocious divide and rule tactics, Land Case 26 2013 was filed: Mondorosi Village Council, Sukenya Village Council and Soitsambu Village Council versus Tanzania Breweries Ltd, Tanzania Conservation Ltd, Ngorongoro District Council, the Commissioner for Lands and the Attorney General. The villages currently affected by Thomson Safaris are Sukenya and Mondorosi, but Soitsambu wanted to be included. There were many postponements, but on 4th April was there a verdict on the injunction that the judge did not admit. The main case continued.
Court hearings started on 8th December 2014 and were postponed several times. The case is based on adverse possession - a clear case since the Maasai had got their land back and used it undisturbed for well over the required 12 years. TBL only ever used a small part of the land, while the Maasai continued with their land use, had stopped using it sometime between 1987 and 1990, and Thomson Safaris did not arrive until 2006.
The judgement came on 28th
October 2015 when the High Court in Arusha, ruled against the Maasai on all points except a minor one concerning TBL adding 2,617 acres in 2004. The Maasai’s lawyers, Wallace N. Kapaya and Rashid S. Rashid, expressed their disappointment and stated “We are tremendously dissatisfied with this judgment and intend to appeal it at the first opportunity. Based on the evidence at trial the court did not come to a fair decision, and this judgment only serves to cement the marginalisation of the Maasai in Ngorongoro in the name of conservation.”
The villages appealed the injustice of the judgement that in practice legalized the questionable loss of Maasai land to an American tour operator that had bought it from TBL, the brewery that cultivated some barley for a few years in the 1980s. At the same time Thomson Safaris also decided to appeal the judgement insisting that all the 12,617 acres had been correctly acquired. At least that’s what I was told in 2015. I haven’t been able to confirm that Thomson appealed as well. As far as I know, the case is still in the court of appeal.
The need for international litigation seems obvious.
Becoming a blogger
I personally experienced how the Tanzanian authorities shielded Thomson Safaris when in February 2010, moving around as a tourist who had become involved in internet travel forums, after having met several people in Sukenya, I asked Soitsambu Ward Executive Officer, Amati, if whether the online statements by Thomson were true indeed (people in Sukenya had said that very little of it was). The WEO almost immediately phoned the DC who promised to answer my questions the following day, then the WEO showed off his phone display that said, “Thomson manager” and a Thomson vehicle loaded with USAID mosquito nets was parked next to where we were sitting. The following morning, when waiting for transport to Soitsambu to meet the DC – without much faith but thinking that maybe he’d set up some propaganda spectacle for Thomson - I was instead picked up by the police and taken to the Ngorongoro Security Committee, headed by DC Elias Wawa Lali, that, after considering other kinds of “crimes”, decided that I had been doing “research” without a permit, and confiscated my passport. I had to go to the Immigration office in Arusha where I was declared a prohibited immigrant. Following this experience, I started this blog View from the Termite Mound. In 2011 and 2013 I returned to Loliondo without problems, but in 2015 I was arrested
, locked up for two nights at Loliondo police station – where DC Hashim Mgandilwa was hovering around. Thereafter I was brought for another night to the Arusha police station – without being allowed to contact anyone (though fortunately someone had contacted Onesmo Olengurumwa of THRDC who sent lawyers to Immigration in Arusha) nor granted bail – and instead of being taken to court, I was again declared a prohibited immigrant and deported to Kenya from where I had entered. In Kenya, I discovered that the hard drive of my laptop had been stolen while in custody with Immigration. Manyerere Jackton, the most fervent anti-Loliondo “journalist” (close the OBC), wrote articles with the most bizarre claims about my arrest, like that I would have researched the Loita-Sonjo conflict without permits, and had sided with the Maasai (Raia Tanzania, 2015), that I’m out to destabilize the Serengeti ecosystem for the benefit of those who have “sent” me (Raia Tanzania, 2015), that I’m a western agent out to destabilize Tanzania for neo-colonial reasons (Jamhuri, 2015), that I’ve fundraised billions of money and given a lot to Maasai NGOs (that would have been nice…) (Jamhuri, 2015), that I would have said that I’d make sure Swedish aid to Tanzania is cut unless authorities stop harassing me (I wish I had that influence…) (Jamhuri, 2015). That was the level of reporting, and it worsened considerably in 2016. I haven’t been contacted by Thomson themselves since early 2010 when I was urged to come and see for myself, then turned away when doing so (anonymously as Moringe Parkipuny’s friend), and thrown out of the country for the first time.
In 2011, Minority Rights Group International approached Thomson’s lawyers through an international law firm called Hausfelds and asked if the company would be interested in an out of court agreement. The safari company’s lawyers came back with the information that Rick Thomson said he would be interested.
The last days of October 2011, a representative from Minority Rights Group was present at several well attended community meetings. All Maasai sections joined in, even though the Sukenya chairman, who at that time was befriended by Thomson, chose not to attend. The meetings were arranged by the Pastoral Women’s Council and took place in Sukenya, Mondorosi and Enadooshoke. The MRG representative asked the community for a negotiation package that, instead of justice, would look for an agreement where fundamental stakes of both parties would be considered. The result of these meetings was to offer the safari company to keep 2,000 acres while the remaining 10,617 acres would return to the community and could be used by Thomson on a contractual basis considering the needs of the community. Thomson’s lawyers were informed about this outcome. However, the owners of the company told the Arusha RC that they had never talked about any negotiations and everything was a hoax made up by PWC (MRG, 2012).
Children have often been targeted by Thomson’s guards. For example, on 30th May 2011, two young Maasai boys herding cattle – 11 years old Tajewo Nanyoi and 13 years old Tobiko Nanyoi - were beaten with a stick and injured by a Thomson guard. When Tobiko’s father returned from a journey he tried to ask the guard why he had beaten his child and got the reply that “we will beat them until you stop grazing your cattle at this farm”. Two children were also dragged through court for “trespassing” for several months 2012-2013. Most of the people I’ve met on the ground have complained about the Enashiva guards beating children. When in a vehicle in 2013, I could personally see how some young herders who had brought cattle onto the occupied land, in apparent panic upon seeing the vehicle, started running at full speed towards a wooded area.
The harassment of herders continued and in January 2012, a colonial era cattle crush situated on the disputed land and used for dipping and vaccinating by the communities of Irmasiling and Enadooshoke was destroyed by Thomson. On 12th
June, the DC held a meeting on behalf of Thomson talking with village leaders about grazing. Besides the DC, Thomson were represented by the District Executive Officer, the company’s manager, their attorney from Dar es Salaam and the representative from FoTZC, Thomson’s “charitable” branch. Most people present were Laitayok, but reportedly nobody agreed with Thomson about grazing.
July 2012 three young men and two children, Kikana Rogei (15), Shashon Kiritani (18) and Somiti Ming’ini (14) from Sukenya, and Keng’otore Nanyoi (25) and Sambao Soit (25) from Mondorosi, were beaten by Thomson’s guards and the police for trespass
on the occupied land, then re-arrested and released on bail. The DC was trying to make an example of them and many court hearings were scheduled and adjourned so that Thomson could “gather more evidence”. After almost a year the case was finally dismissed on 5th
June 2013. The people testifying on Thomson’s behalf were contradicting themselves and each other too much and the judge established that it was crystal clear that the complainant, Thomson Safaris, according to the prosecution itself - that talked about Tanzania Conservation Ltd when the charge sheet said Thomson Safaris - was not the owner of the land, so there was no case. I met Sambao and Keng’otore in July 2013. They did not want to be anonymous, and were full of praise for their lawyer, Shilinde Ngalula from Legal and Human Rights Centre. They told me how Thomson were emboldened when Shilinde had a car accident and they thought he had died, but then he returned and won the case. Spending so much time in court had been very costly, but the herders were happy and felt that with unity they could defeat Thomson.
It's too painful to think of how lawlessness in Loliondo later went to such extremes that in July 2016, Shilinde was arrested – accused of incitement and espionage – inside the court precincts complete with his full court attire while waiting to represent his clients who were illegally arrested to intimidate and silence anyone who was even thinking of speaking up against the “investors”, Thomson and OBC. Not to mention the fact that the Mondorosi chairman has now “welcomed” Thomson’s projects.
Killing a website
On 14th February 2013 two young men, Mbekure Olemeeki (21) and Oloimaoja Ndekerei (18) and one young woman, Narikungishu Olemeeki (19), were caught by police and “Enashiva” guards when tending cattle near the land occupied by Thomson and taken to a place where they were kicked and punched and told to jump up and down. Later, the police showed an unusual interest in questioning these young people, that preferred to keep away. Eventually, it transpired that the police were trying to assist Thomson in the case against the Stop Thomson Safaris website, which they did via a written statement saying that the youngsters couldn’t be found.
In late April 2013, the anonymous people behind the website Stop Thomson Safaris were informed that Thomson Safaris had sued them in the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, for “defamation and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage”. The safari company had used a subpoena to make the web host, Weebly, disclose their identity, but Weebly refused. This website was started in August 2012 by some people who had seen first-hand the effects of Thomson's land occupation on the residents of Loliondo and decided to raise awareness about the situation, and for some time the reported about different cases of abuse. Thomson had written declarations from Josiah Severre (local manager while Yamat was working with FZS), Daniel Yamat, and another employee called Emmanuel Lorru, and of course from the councillor for Oloipiri, William Alais. Most telling was Judi Wineland’s declaration anticipating that a business competitor would be revealed as creator or co-creator of the website (I know this is totally untrue), shamelessly invoking the “investigation” from 2008 and mentioning that the website had made Thomson incur fees of thousands of dollars per month to an agency specializing in search engine optimization, online reputation management and analytics. Although others (like me) without any commercial intentions, had reported the same information about Thomson, and more, the court seems to, for inexplicable reasons, have taken Thomson’s claims seriously and the case against the website continued. On 5thDecember 2014, the Cyberlaw Clinic of Harvard Law School filed an amicus letter on behalf of two organisations, Global Voices Advocacy and the Media Legal Defence Initiative, saying that by allowing this frivolous lawsuit the California Court of Appeal created a dangerous environment of persons reporting anonymously on issues with governments and corporations outside the United States. The amicus letter didn’t help, and in early 2015 those behind the website were forced to agree to a settlement to keep their anonymity and safety in Tanzania, and it was taken down.
More Journalists in Trouble
In December 2014, the American journalist Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and photographer Noah Friedman-Rudovsky interviewed Daniel Yamat and were taken to a community meeting arranged by the councillor for Oloipiri and in which Gabriel Killel of Kidupo held a speech. Alais was not totally happy with the reporters, phoned the DC and a lengthy and threatening interrogation by the Security Committee followed. What saved these reporters was explaining that they would spend their last day in Loliondo visiting Thomson’s projects, talking to their supporters and interviewing William Alais, whose men were told not to leave the reporters alone. Still, the Thomson supporters the reporters were introduced to had their own complaints about harassment by the company’s guards. The article was published in Vice
magazine on 12th
May 2015, and like all about Loliondo it could have needed some proofreading, but it was a powerful reminder of what could happen in Loliondo before things got even worse. (Friedman-Rudovsky, 2015).
Gabriel Killel, coordinator of the Laitayok dominated NGO Kidupo, who appeared in a video in the article, is working closely with William Alais to defend the “investors” that threaten land rights in Loliondo. Both have a background as catholic priests that somehow managed to get fired. In October 2014, Killel went to Dodoma with a delegation, of course also including Alais, to support Thomson and OBC on a visit to the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office for Investment and Empowerment, and has since behaved in an increasingly violent and deranged way, starting with threatening everyone he suspected of having informed his Norwegian Sami donor – that’s for and not against indigenous people’s rights - that he had begun working for “investors” against his own land rights. Killel spent some time in prison after multiple court cases, like insulting a district magistrate, physically assaulting special seats councillor Tina Timan, and another case filed against him by his wife. He got out very soon though.
On 13th and 14th January 2014 Thomson’s guards, together with the police, physically assaulted several herders: Songori Nkoitoi from Mondorosi was caught by the guards and was badly beaten.
24-year-old Munjaa ole Musa from Sukenya was looking for lost cows when he got caught by Thomson guards and the police. He was beaten with sticks and belts on legs and arms. He got a knife-cut in the arm which led to considerable bleeding. A policeman holding a firearm told Munjaa that he would be killed. The attackers wanted Munjaa to provide information about a man he had not heard of who had fought with a policeman. Munjaa was taken to Thomson camp where he was detained for unknown reasons.
Kendo ole Maiwa from Sukenya was found by Thomson’s guards and police when grazing calves near his home together with two young sons. Kendo was beaten with sticks, handcuffed and taken to Thomson’s camp. He was released after seven hours.
Naboye Ngukwo, from Sukenya, was also approached by Thomson Safaris guards and local police when he was grazing his cattle in the nearby “Enshiva”. He was knocked to the ground and his hand badly injured where he was hit with a rungu. X-rays in Wasso hospital showed broken bones.
On the 15th villagers were holding a meeting about the attacks by Thomson’s guards and the police. At the meeting, much bitterness was expressed about Daniel Yamat. People resolved to continue grazing on the occupied land. While the meeting was taking place, Thomson detained a big number of cows. Upon hearing about this, warriors headed towards Thomson’s camp wanting to burn it down. Thomson called in police from Loliondo and the police fired shots into the air. The cows were released in the evening. But the next day, the Sukenya leaders were summoned by security officers and warned that they were going against the “government’s prohibition” of grazing on the land occupied by Thomson.
The village chairmen of Sukenya, Mondorosi and Soitsambu went to Arusha to consult with lawyers. In the meantime, Yamat instigated the women of the “cultural boma” in Sukenya to complain that their leaders wanted to stop tourists from doing business with them.
Two weeks later, on 3rd February 2014, a meeting was held in Sukenya called by the DC and attended by security officers, councillors, village chairmen, and villagers. Thomson’s Arusha manager, John Bearcroft, was also present and said that the safari company and the villagers are fighting over a fish. “One gets the head and one gets the tail while the lawyers and village governments get the fat middle part.” As I wrote at the time, Thomson were obviously munching on a fish belonging to thousands of Maasai that are supposed to be grateful for having a market for fish-bone handicraft (and to be the objects of fish “charity”). The village governments weren’t getting any fish fat and the community lawyers got low-fat fish from Minority Rights Group. Only Thomson’s lawyers get corporate fish. A committee, including the Thomson-friendly councillor for Oloipiri, was formed to look into grazing. All three village chairmen stayed united.
On 6th March villagers refused to attend a meeting organised by the committee arguing that the it was not legitimate and was lobbying for Thomson.
From 3-7 May 2014, there was a District Council meeting attended by the village chairmen on the 4th, a team was set up to investigate how the council could get out of the court case and support the villages instead. The major hurdle was that many council employees supported Thomson.
In early June 2014, Torian Karia and Kotikash Kudate from Mondorosi were caught by Thomson Safaris employees, beaten and forced into a Thomson vehicle. The prison magistrate under pressure from the manager initially refused bail and after a few days were bailed out after efforts by the chairman of Mondorosi, Joshua Makko. They were accused of being “Kenyans”, threatening Thomson staff with spears and rungus, and trespass. The case was to begin on 20th June. The outcome was that the herders had to pay a fine.
On 13th June 2014, at Wasso market Ndolei Musa from Sukenya was identified by Thomson’s guard Lucas Semat as a herder that had beaten him up on 4th June when the guard was chasing cows. Thomson’s manager Daniel Yamat had reported the matter to both Wasso and Loliondo police stations. It was decided that the group of leaders, including the village chairman, should consult Daniel Yamat to try to resolve the matter, but this attempt was refused by Yamat who wanted a court case (which those attacked with the occupier’s guards can only dream of). Ndolei Musa was released on bail and told to appear in court on 18th June. There were several postponements. Ndolei did not have a legal representative in court and he admitted without regrets of beating up the guard, who was chasing away cows in preparation for the arrival of tourists to “Enashiva Nature Refuge”. The sentence was supposed to have been read on 4th July, but was postponed until the 11th. On the 22ndNdolei was released with a fine of TSh 150,000. Ndolei was told that if he does it again he will end up in prison. When in the usual manner being asked who “sent him” Ndolei said that he felt obliged to protect his land.
In the evening of 8th July 2014, Olunjai Timan and some other herders from Mondorosi were looking for lost cows on the land occupied by Thomson Safaris. They saw car lights supposedly driving the cows towards Olunjai’s boma, so they went towards the vehicle. Almost all Thomson’s guards were present as well as two policemen. Olunjai heard, “mko chini ya ulinzi” (you are under arrest), and a Thomson guard said,“piga huyo, piga huyo, washa risasi” (“shoot that one, shoot that one, open fire”.) Olunjai was ordered to kneel, which he didn’t do. The herders were running, and two shots were fired. The second shot hit Olunjai in the hip and he continued running for 50 metres before losing energy and falling to the ground. He was found by his neighbour, Kitenge Daniel Saing’eu, who saw blood all over. Olunjai was already weak by the time he was found. He told the neighbour that he was shot by a policeman stationed at Nginye police post. The village chairman called the ambulance from Wasso that came and rushed Olunjai to hospital. Reception at hospital was first slow and the police form needed for these cases was not collected. Olunjai was discharged from hospital after one week and recovered completely.
Information from the police said that it was another policeman that had two bullets missing from his weapon. He was under custody and his case had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecution. Later on, doubts were aired by local people, who reported that they saw him walking around in Ololosokwan and Soitsambu for weeks until he was transferred to Karatu together with his colleague. It’s very unclear if any investigation at all has taken place.
On the 13th and 14th July 2014, there were meetings in Mondorosi calling for the government to act against the shooting and against Thomson Safaris. Warriors wanted to burn down Thomson’s camp, but were calmed by leaders asking them to wait until after a meeting with the DC. People were bitter and shocked by this shooting that happened while they were contributing money for Torian Karia and Kotikash Kudate that had trespass cases filed against them by Thomson. There was a short news piece on ITV about the protests, but the written press never published the story.
On 15th July there was a very well attended meeting with the District Commissioner, District Executive Director and District Security Officer. The DC told the enraged attendants that wanted Thomson removed from the land once and for all that he had no power to do so, but that the government was very concerned about the shooting. The gathered community fearing that the leaders could be corrupted wanted to prevent them from having a closed meeting with the DC, but did eventually give in.
The recommendations that the DC, village leaders and ward councillors came back with were as follows:
-The community should not fight Thomson Safaris. Instead they should be calm and use the legal system to support their case;
-The government will revitalize a committee that was established in January 2014 (the one including the councillor for Oloipiri) and was meant to coordinate grazing and tourism in the area;
-The committee will arrange for cattle to continue grazing on the disputed land;
-The government will hold the police to account for the shooting;
-The District Council will join the villages in the principal court case.
On 18th July 2014 Daniel Yamat and the committee consisting of the chairmen of Sukenya, Mondorosi and Soitsambu, three traditional leaders, three women, and the councillors for Soitsambu and Oloipiri wards held a meeting, walking the land, without reaching an agreement about grazing. Yamat could only stretch to agree to allow grazing in wooded areas.
The case had to be taken to a meeting with the DC on the 21st. Several district officers and the executive officers of the two wards attended this meeting together with the earlier committee, ward councillors and Thomson’s Yamat. The meeting ended with an agreement that cattle would graze on the entire 12,617 acres starting immediately and continuing until the court case was over. Yamat resisted till the end wanting to restrict grazing to bushy parts and far from the camp, but was pushed by the government officials, who in the past had always been friendly to the company, to agree. Yamat was advised by the officials to work with the committee to coordinate grazing and tourism
At a district council meeting on 26th July councillors made a statement saying that they wanted Thomson Safaris to leave community land. The councillor for Oloipiri kept completely quiet and the councillor for Enguserosambu, who in 2010 was corrupted by Thomson, spoke aggressively against Thomson this time.
The harassment stopped, but there was a relapse on 15thAugust when Yamat returned from a trip and started chasing cows. After this Thomson seem to have restricted from this aggression towards the local community.
The Big Intimidation Campaign
Alais and Killel continued their destructive path in defence of OBC and Thomson, even working together with OBC’s “journalist” Manyerere Jackton, who besides campaigning for the alienation of 1,500 km2 of grazing land - which at least Alais can’t possibly agree with (Killel’s mental state admits anything) - has gone as far as claiming that 70 percent of the Loliondo Maasai would not be Tanzanian. Some Laitayok traditional leaders spoke out against the efforts to separate them from the rest of the Maasai, but to no avail. Killel also appeared in an anti-Loliondo “documentary” in Channel 10 together with OBC’s director, Isaack Mollel.
2015 saw the arrival of a new DC, Hashim Mgandliwa, who was even crazier than his predecessors working for the investors and against the people. In May, after some warriors had beaten up corrupt policemen extorting people at Ololosokwan market, the DC used the occasion to arrest leaders suspected of being able to speak up against the “investors” and made them walk from Wasso to Loliondo in front of police vehicles. Then an “anti-Kenyan” operation was used by William Alais (Oloipiri councillor) and the Officer Commanding District to attack the village of Kirtalo where OBC have their camp.
When I visited Loliondo again in June 2015, I was arrested, or rather kidnapped since I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone (see above), for three nights and deported to Kenya before having the opportunity to go to Sukenya and Mondorosi, but people who should know told me that herders were still entering the land occupied by Thomson, the guards were still ignoring them as decided after Olunjai Timan was shot. One of Thomson’s drivers was boasting about having seen me, but it’s unclear if or how he and Thomson were involved in the arrest. Killel was, regardless of what he actually did, of course also boasting. Another driver was definitely involved, while the one I first tried to arrange things with decided that it sounded to risky to go and have a look at Thomson’s private nature refuge. The arrest unfortunately made some people even more afraid of communicating with me.
Sadly, Alais continued as councillor for Oloipiri after the elections 2015, the new MP was William Olenasha, which at that time sounded like wonderful news … Joshua Makko – who at that time, and for years until recently, was believed to be very serious - stayed as chairman for Mondorosi, and the new chairman for Sukenya was Ledamat Maito who was described as a great guy and big against Thomson, but was reportedly soon gifted with a motorbike and became “like Thomson’s wife”.
Then, when I visited Kenya in June-July 2016, since my prohibited immigrant status hadn’t been revoked – my fingerprints were registered at border crossings, and I didn’t have anyone brave and competent enough to assist me with a Loliondo visit under such circumstances - I couldn’t go to Tanzania. The Jamhuri published several anti-Loliondo articles, including another one about me, upon the occasion of Manyerere Jackton and by now ex-DC Hashim Mgandilwa having got hold of my request for revocation – which they also boasted about via email and in social media. In one email Manyerere Jackton informed me that, “Finally you will know who’s the worst journalist and who’s the worst mzungu”. Starting on 13th
July there were multiple illegal mass arrests of up to ten days, while the law requires that those arrested should be granted bail, or taken to court, within 24 hours. The first person arrested was the secondary school teacher Clinton “Eng’wes” Kairung who had visited me in Kenya. Among several people who were arrested for shorter periods of time was the chairman of Mondorosi. Clinton was eventually charged together with the secondary school teacher Supuk Olemaoi and the NGONET coordinator Samwel Nang’iria. A special task force from Dar es Salaam came to Loliondo for the interrogations, and it later transpired that Samwel and Supuk were beaten during the interrogations, and that Thomson’s and OBC’s big “friend” Gabriel Killel of Kidupo had been meeting with this task force before its arrival in Loliondo. Bail wasn’t granted until advocate Shilinde Ngalula from Legal and Human Rights Centre was himself arrested in full court attire, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition filed a habeas corpus application, lawyers in Arusha held a manifestation, and the Tanganyika Law Society issued a statement. Later was Maanda Ngoitiko of PWC, when summoned to Arusha Police Station to collect her passport, arrested illegally for three nights, taken to Loliondo, and added to the rather bizarre espionage and sabotage charges
. Hearings kept being postponed. On 22nd
December 2016, 60 days had passed since the last extension, and the plan was to file for dismissal, but as the magistrate chamber was full of police with handcuffs ready for re-arrest upon dismissal, the defence agreed to postpone until 19th
January 2017 so that the prosecution could get more time for “investigation”. On 22nd
February 2017, the judge dismissed the case since it couldn’t go on forever and the prosecution had now had more than enough time to prepare something coherent. Then followed a very swift re-arrest and the victims of malicious prosecution had to report at Loliondo police station every Friday, while the Office of the Public Prosecutor continued the “investigation”. Though after some time these very cumbersome visits to Loliondo police station were dropped.
Those prosecuted were not those who had shared the most information with me, nobody believes that I engage in “espionage and sabotage”, and the other charges – being in possession of “government documents”, and mentioning “a stupid government” – aren’t even illegal in any way, but that’s not the point. The point was to intimidate everyone in Loliondo into silence, and I could be used as a “dangerous foreigner”. Very sadly, the intimidation campaign was quite successful, and even more so in the Thomson case. Since this blog post is about Thomson Safaris and one of those maliciously prosecuted, Maanda Ngoitiko, is their pet obsession, I must add that when arrested I hadn’t had any contact with her for a very long time, since she kept being very badly harassed about my blog (though never telling me to stop blogging), and after the intimidation campaign, nobody even associated with PWC is allowed to contact me. Neither have I ever got any assistance from PWC, or anyone else half-organised, when on the ground in Loliondo, but have had to arrange things with whoever has taken pity on me, which sometimes has been highly unsuitable people (more than one have later been employed by OBC).
Some time in early May 2018, started a clampdown on the villages that had sued the Tanzanian government in the East African Court of Justice for the illegal operation with mass arson and other crimes in 2017, and to stop the attempt to alienate 1,500 km2, lobbied for by OBC. In a stream of arrests common villagers are severely harassed and intimidated by the Officer Commanding District and several police officers working under him. Their authority to sue the government is questioned, and they are interrogated about who, within and outside Tanzania, is supporting them. The police have demanded that the applicants withdraw the case and that signatories to the minutes of village meetings that authorized the litigation withdraw their signatures, or state that they did not sign the said minutes. They chairmen of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, and Arash were arrested and released on bail, and now have to report to Loliondo police station on Fridays, which prevented them from attending court on Thursday 7th June. They have been charged with instituting a case against the central government without permission; holding a community meeting without permission from the government; contributing financial resources to pay the lawyers without government approval; and, being involved in the production of a report by the Oakland Institute, an accusation that according to Oakland themselves is unfounded and false. The chairman of Oloirien was arrested for 25 days before being taken to court and granted bail on 1st June, then re-arrested and bail applied for the same day. – and when summoned to Loliondo police station on Monday 4th taken to Simiyu by a task force. Most terrifying of all is that almost nobody dares to speak up and share information about the current abuse, overtly calculated to interfere with the court case.
Under this climate of fear Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland came for a very happy trip to Loliondo, in close company of district officials.
Charity as a Weapon – and Recently Buying who Could Not be Bought
Thomson Safaris have been very active using charity, fundraised for by their former clients, to gain support among Maasai communities and keep their hold on the land. This is another characteristic that they share with OBC. Money raised from tourists by Thomson’s charitable branch Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FoTZC) – has been used to initiate many projects like the construction of teachers’ houses, school dormitories, a dispensary, lately water projects in Oloipiri ward under the “investor-friendly” leadership of William Alais. The tour operator took the US ambassador for the inauguration of the teachers houses in July 2010. Their most advertised project is support to Enyuata Women’s Collaborative – a group which had already formed before Thomson’s arrival with the help of the Laitayok dominated NGO Kidupo – whose sale of beadwork to Thomson’s tourists has featured widely in Tanzanian media. Maasai land is full of compromised people who don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, how accepting charity from wealthy forces that are trying to take your land and destroy your way of life, is bad for one’s credibility. Too many think that you can have the cake and eat it, but Mondorosi village, maybe because of the particularly aggressive hypocrisy of Thomson Safaris, has refused FoTZC projects and has resisted intense pressure, and threats, from district authorities. In May 2015, Mondorosi villagers protested Thomson Safaris and not least the increasingly “investor-friendly” MP for Ngorongoro, Telele, who was in Sukenya to inaugurate the dispensary. The Minister for Health who had also been flown in, left early because of the protests. Though it seems like the Mondorosi chairman in 2017, finally gave in to pressure (he had been one of the victims of illegal arrest), and wrote a letter about opening the door to Thomson’s projects, since they’d been using Mondorosi land for years without any benefit to the village, later clarifying that it had to be done through the District Council not to endanger the court case to regain the land. This is however definitely something that Thomson will (and do) use in their propaganda, and in the court case, and nothing that the chairman can decide on his own. I wish I could get hold of the chairman for a comment about this. I know for a fact that he in December 2017 - when he had already sent those letters – complained, or lied, that Thomson were trying to enter Olepolos sub-village using an employee and a maize milling machine.
On 10th June 2018, a Sonjo youth who’s Loliondo’s worst wannabe corruptee published a post on Facebook of an inauguration of a water project in Mondorosi. He has often done the same with OBC’s “charity”. In a video Joshua Makko is thanking FoTZC and Thomson Safaris while Judi Wineland is seen looking extremely pleased filming it all with a pink phone, Rick Thomson standing behind her. Most attendants consist of DC, security committee and district officials that apparently have taken a break from the ongoing intimidation campaign against the villagers that have sued the government in the East African Court of Justice to stop the threat against the 1,500 km2. While Joshua stands there, three of his fellow chairmen will not be able to attend court since they must present themselves at Loliondo police station, and one chairman has been taken to Simiyu by a special task force. The wannabe corruptee quickly removed the post, but then published another one without the video, but with photos of the water project, the said maize milling machine, and teachers’ housing under construction.
District Primary Education Officer, District Security Officer, District Commissioner/human rights criminal, Judi Wineland, Rick Thomson, current FoTZC coordinator Elizabeth Mwakajila, Daniel Yamat photo: Paul Dudui, 2018.