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The Tanzanian government is again preparing to grab grazing land in Loliondo for the benefit of the “investor” and this time it’s the Arusha Regional Commissioner who’s been sent as the messenger. Let’s stop any such plan!


The Arusha RC Sends a Message that the Government Must Grab Land in Loliondo to Please Investor for the Broader Interest of the Nation – He can Forget About it!

In this blog post:

The visit by the RC and the threat

Community Press statement delivered in Oloirien

The president appoints a human rights criminal as head of TANAPA

Despite credible information beforehand the RC was silent about NCA

The RC was also expected to drop a terrible message about Ngorongoro Conservation Area. He didn’t, but let’s prepare to stop that as well!

The enemies of the Maasai are very repetitive, but don’t let that divert your focus. There is a pattern of violence from authorities when local leaders are weak and ready to compromise, and when the rains fail and the dry season turns terrible, like now, but for some reason the Maasai are leavened up and ready to defend their land, after years of lying flat. 

The Osero will never be grabbed! 

 
Oloirien 13th January 2022


The visit by the RC and the threat

Arusha Regional Commissioner John Mongella had a trip scheduled for Ngorongoro district from 9th to 13th January with the official purpose of inspecting development projects funded by Covid-19 money. Already in advance there were widespread fears, and shared inside information, that the RC was sent to announce land alienation drives in Loliondo and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), with most details about the plan for NCA.

 

 

On 10th January the RC visited Arash with much cheering about how Mama Samia delivers classrooms. For 11th December, Mongella had summoned to the Ngorongoro District Council HQ in Wasso, Loliondo village and sub-village chairpersons, ward councillors, and ward and village executive officers (WEO and VEO) from the wards of Ololosokwan, Soitsambu, Oloipiri, Piyaya, Oloirien, Arash and Maaloni, and the villages therein with land in the contested 1,500 km2 Osero (bushland). 

The meeting started off with pleasant talk about development projects, but then Mongella moved on to the “conflict” over the land saying that it had to “end” – which is what so many before him have said when they’ve decided to do the exact opposite, issuing threats and causing disquiet. He told those present that the government will decide how to end the conflict, repeatedly saying that it must be a painful decision, for the broader interest of the nation, and that the local community must pay a price for the sake of the nation – forgetting that he was talking to people who already lost Serengeti. 

After the shocking but not totally unexpected remarks, RC Mongella wanted the local leaders to join his caravan of vehicles to go and inspect the Osero – but they refused. They also refused to sign the meeting attendance list. This is significant since the ward councillors range from those intimidated into silence to those totally bought and even formally employed by the worst enemies of the local pastoralists, and the village chairmen somewhat similar, but often less educated, while in some cases, like the Ololosokwan chairman, they appear to be quite serious indeed. The WEOs and VEOs are government employees, generally working for the local police state at the service of the “investors”. The RC, accompanied by the Regional Security Committee, and by OBC and Serengeti National Park representatives, went off to inspect the Osero, and the line of vehicles moved in a careless manner, killing at least one goat kid on the way. 

There were journalists at the meeting, brought by the RC, and a brief clip from Loliondo was shown on the ITV evening news on 12th January. It’s not the first time ITV are in Loliondo, but the clip just shows a few, very brief, unconnected and unanalysed moments. The DC talks about “solving” the conflict for the broader interest of the nation – as if he were the first person saying such things, and as if anyone would not remember what it means (pleasing the investors). The Oloipiri sub-village chairman, Sangoyan Tutunyo, says that people support investors, but that the investors aren’t transparent and won’t cooperate with the community. I’ve been told that he’s always been a good guy, but that it could be because as sub-village chairman he hasn’t been interesting enough to bribe. Today, 15th January, a clip from Channel 10 was published on Youtube by the reporter who, like often happens with Channel 10, shared the view that the RC was “solving the conflict”. In this clip the Ololosokwan councillor appears talking about living together as good neighbours. 

Reportedly, the councillor of Ololosokwan since 2020, Moloimet Saing’eu, spoke up with seriousness at the meeting, which while very positive is another complete turnaround by this person who, after having been a semi-activist, in 2015 joined OBC, as their assistant director, with the explanation, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” He did this fully aware of all their crimes and years of lobbying for violence and land dispossession. He stayed with them through heavily increased repression, the illegal operation of 2017 and the soldier violence of 2018. In 2018, he represented OBC handing over the “gift” of 15 vehicles to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. When several people were illegally arrested in 2016, he used the occasion to attack my incompetence (that I won’t fully dispute) and rile up his followers about my supposed sexual orientation. Moloimet has been an extremely bad influence for ambitious young men in Ololosokwan and some of his admirers have been truly vicious in their threats and fabrications about me. I haven’t heard from him directly since late-2017 - if I remember correctly – but several people, some of his admirers included, have told me that he left OBC in 2021 to better be able to vie for the district council chair that’s been left empty by the new MP Emmanuel Shangai. By all means, let Moloimet speak against OBC, even if the hypocrisy is hard to stomach, but don’t give the district council chair to such a person! Sadly, avoiding atrocious leaders is not what Ngorongoro is best known for … 

In case there are newcomers reading this blog post, I must remind of that the 1,500 km2 Osero is legally registered village land and an import grazing area, the loss of which would have grave consequences on lives and livelihoods, also beyond the directly affected villages. (More here.) 

Otterlo Business Corporation that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai has the hunting block (permit to hunt) in more than the whole of Loliondo Division (plus part of Sale Division) of Ngorongoro District, but the core area, where they actually hunt, is in the 1,500 km2 Osero, and for years they have lobbied to have it turned into a “protected area”, evicting the Maasai. This lobbying has led to two major, totally illegal, invasions of village land with mass arson and various other human rights crimes, ordered by the DC’s office, in 2009 and 2017. Around OBC (and the American Thomson Safaris) a local police state has been built, in which basically every government official, particularly the district security committee and always the consecutive DCs (though currently the DED has taken this place) openly, shamelessly, and with astonishing lawlessness work for the investors, threatening, defaming and arresting anyone suspected of being able to speak up.

 

 
OBC funded a draft District Land Use Plan, not by accident proposing to make a protected area out of the 1,500 km2. This proposal was rejected by the District Council in 2011. In 2013, Minister Khamis Kagasheki tried to impose the same via vociferous lies, but the (with hindsight) exemplary unity of the Maasai at that time, who managed to garner the support of both ruling party and the opposition, made PM Pinda declare that the land was theirs and that Kagasheki would not be allowed to bother them anymore. Then everything went downhill with increased divide and rule, and shocking treason.

The past few years, the situation has deteriorated further with heavily increased repression to the point that not one local leader dared to speak up when soldiers from the national army, working for OBC, in 2018 tortured people and burned down bomas in Kirtalo and Ololosokwan. There was brief relief in 2019 when OBC’s director got into problems with the law (or more likely with those above the law) but then a practically genocidal proposal for NCA was presented, including plans for surrounding areas, like the Osero in Loliondo that was proposed to be turned into a no-go zone for people and livestock, but not for hunters, tourists and researchers.

The court case filed in the East African Court of Justice by the villages of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Oloirien and Arash during the illegal 2017 operation has been under attack several times via threats and summons to police station. The DED that came into office in 2021, Jumaa Mhina, has shown a particular dedication to having it withdrawn. This government decision that the RC is threatening with is crystal clear contempt of court, and I expect it to be dealt with for this reason too.

On 12th January, the RC’s caravan reached Malambo where people reportedly were crying bitter tears and refused to attend. Only some leaders went to see Mongella. The villagers decided to hold a peaceful manifestation the following day. I have not yet been able to find out if this manifestation was held, or if my source meant that people were going to Oloirien (the councillor and chairman did).

 

Community press statement delivered in Oloirien

A hastily prepared meeting was held in Oloirien on 13th January, with good attendance considering the short notice and the prevailing drought spell. Spirits were high and everyone was determined to defend the land. It’s been a long time since that happened. Everyone has been flattened since 2016, and even worse since 2018. Due to logistics problems, journalists couldn’t come, and the meeting was postponed to the following day. 

On the 14th a press statement was issued, and by the Loliondo standards we’ve got used to since 2018, it was brilliant except for the first two paragraphs that went a little over the top about the president (Kim Jong-Un’s praise team would blush …). I also have some questions about the need to bring up former RC Gambo’s committee as something worth remembering. 

The statement starts by saying that the signatories stand before the press with great sadness and long-standing concern for the safety of their land. 

RC John Mongella’s visit has caused great disquiet after reinitiating the well-known Loliondo land conflict. 

At his meeting with village and ward leaders, investors and conservationists from Serengeti National Park, the RC insisted on that the area of 1.500 km2 inside village land will be set aside for the interest of the nation. 

The Loliondo land conflict involves 14 villages bordering Serengeti National Park, and the investor from the United Arab Emirates who has the permit to hunt wildlife on village land. 

For a long time now, this conflict has not reached a solution, due to a lack of inclusion of the residents who are victims of being moved from Serengeti by the colonial government in 1959. 

Knowingly, or unknowingly, the RC has re-created this conflict that had already passed through his administrative authority. In 2016, PM Majaliwa set up a commission to collect recommendations on how to end this conflict, and hand in these recommendations to him. 

The commission handed over the recommendations to the PM in April 2017. However, the PM said that the government would work on the commission’s recommendations, among which was the issue of joint management and use of the area under conflict. Until now, the government has not been able to formalize these recommendations and make them public. Here, I as a more than concerned blogger, must question why some can’t stop bringing up that Gambo commission (the PM tasked RC Gambo with it) that included local leaders at their weakest point, was met with spontaneous protest in village after village, and came up with an impossibly sad compromise proposal, which was followed by an unexpected illegal invasion of village land with massive human rights crimes. Can’t we just forget about it? That kind of attitude (in the form of a MoU with OBC) was followed by the illegal operation of 2009, so we should have learnt something. 

The statement goes on to say that in August 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism again implemented an operation razing bomas, arresting people and seizing livestock in the area of conflict. The villages decided to open a case in the East African Court of Justice, so that their rights would be defended by the court. 

This case continues and is in its final stages before a ruling. This regional court issued interim orders on 25th September 2018, restraining the government from evicting people, destroying property, and arresting or harassing residents of the disputed area while the main case is ongoing.

As a blogger, I must add that these interim orders were brutally violated in 2018 while local leaders stayed silent. 

Therefore, the RC’s act of renewing the conflict by visiting the area and saying that it will be set aside breaks the foundations of good governance, interfering with the court and causing great disquiet among residents of Loliondo and Sale divisions. 

We councillors of the affected wards, village chairpersons, customary leaders, and women ask our government to take the following action: 

-To recognise that the 1,500 km2 is village land and not a protected area. There has not been any time when this land has been set to be become a protected area with the villagers’ consent.

-To abandon the ambition of setting aside village areas for hunting, since Loliondo residents don’t have any surplus land to move to.

 -Unfortunately (I must say), the statement also asks the government to make public the recommendations by then RC Gambo’s committee that identifies how to manage the land while protecting the interests of villagers, conservation and investors. This information also identifies the land as legal village land, it says.

-Further, the statement asks the government to respect the court case and stop disturbing villagers while the case continues, according to the interim orders issued in September 2018.

-The statement ends by the signatories asking to meet their president to explain the reality of this conflict enacted by conservationists to protect investors without recognising the vital interests of the villagers (there isn’t any good translation for wananchi). And this last point is very much on point indeed.

 45 local leaders have signed the statement, and among them are those extremely close to OBC, like the councillors of Ololosokwan and Oloipiri. Oloipiri has been targeted for divide and rule for years, but Ololosokwan used to be at the forefront of the land rights struggle.

 

 

A video clip from the meeting indicate that the message was much more powerful than the press statement.

 

“We are not leaving, we are not going, go and tell Samia we are not going, finish us all here.”

 Indeed, a conflict enacted by conservationists to protect investors, without recognising the vital interests and rights of the Maasai landowners.

 The president appoints a human rights criminal as head of TANAPA

The same day as the RC issued his threat against the Osero, 11th January, it was announced that President Samia had appointed the known human rights criminal William Mwakilema as head of the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA). Mwakilema who was the Serengeti chief park warden and in 2016-2017, together with Minister Jumanne Maghembe, campaigned for the alienation of the 1,500 km2 Osero, telling a co-opted standing committee that German funds would only be available if turning this land into a protected area. He was heading Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) during the illegal invasion of village land in 2017, an operation that SENAPA was officially tasked with implementing, and in which his rangers committed mass arson, tortured and raped people, seized and even in some cases shot cattle. In between Mwakilema has served as TANAPA's Deputy Commissioner for Conservation and Business Development.

Mwakilema replaces Allan Kijazi who was sitting on two chairs as head of TANAPA and Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. He was first removed as Permanent Secretary, with Francis Michael, whom I don’t know anything about, as his replacement. The MNRT could also be named as ministry for land grabbing and violence, Kijazi has been an integral part of it, he too was speaking up for taking the Osero away from the Maasai before the illegal operation in 2017. Still, there are trustworthy reports that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, or its notorious chief conservator Freddy Manongi, has complained about the inaction of the ministry, and Kijazi in particular, in removing the Maasai from their land. Others say that he, through his late brother John Kijazi was too closely linked to Magufuli’s Sukuma gang. Kijazi has been transferred to the Ministry of Lands.

 As mentioned in the previous blog post, Manongi was supposed to retire in November 2021, but continues as chief conservator of the NCAA. Reportedly the president has given him two more years, which is bad news to anyone who cares about the rights of the Maasai of Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

 Both Minister Ndumbaro and Deputy Minister Masanja are retained by President Samia, and both have shown open anti-pastoralism and concern for “saving Ngorongoro”. 

Why is President Samia this bad? Why is cultural genocide such an acceptable idea to her? I don’t know, but we are dealing with someone who stood at Magufuli’s side during his reign of terror, someone who keeps the chairman of the main opposition party locked up in remand prison on bogus terrorism charges. She has obviously received visits from the NCAA and selling Tanzania as a tourism product seems to be a priority for her, while human rights and land rights are not.

 

 

Despite credible information beforehand the RC was silent about NCA

A detailed plan by the MNRT has surfaced, mostly pushed for by the NCAA, to relocate those who “voluntary” would move out of NCA, before February 2022. For a view on what’s called “voluntary” in this regard, the researcher Teklehaymanot G. Weldemichel published an article, “Makingland grabbable: Stealthy dispossessions by conservation in NgorongoroConservation Area, Tanzania”, in December 2021. This article explains how people are made relocatable through long processes of marginalisation. 

Reportedly, the plan was to ask the Ministry of Finance and Planning for permission to use Covid-19 money for the “voluntary” relocation of Maasai from Ngorongoro to the Simanjiro and Handeni districts, or more exactly, “Kitwai and Handeni Game Controlled Areas”. Several more details were shared, but then the RC didn’t make any announcements about NCA during his meeting. 

The RC could have wanted to first see how his bad intentions for Loliondo would be received – and he won’t get anywhere with that! 

 View from the Termite Mound: The Arusha RC Sends a Message that the Government Must Grab Land in Loliondo to Please Investor for the Broader Interest of the Nation – He can Forget About it! (termitemoundview.blogspot.com)

Susanna Nordlund is a working-class person based in Sweden who since 2010 has been blogging about Loliondo (now increasingly also about NCA) and has her fingerprints thoroughly registered with Immigration so that she will not be able to enter Tanzania through any border crossing, ever again. She has never worked for any NGO or intelligence service and hasn’t earned a shilling from her Loliondo work. She can be reached at sannasus@hotmail.com