A similar operation, full of human rights crimes, committed by the Field Force Unit and OBC rangers took place in 2009. After that, OBC tried a more legal way, funding a draft district land use plan that proposed tuning their 1,500 km2 core hunting area, that’s important dry season grazing land belonging to several villages, into a protected area. This land use plan was rejected by Ngorongoro District Council in early 2011. In 2013, then minister Kagasheki tried to alienate the 1,500 km2 via bizarre lies and threats but was after big protests and support for the Maasai from both opposition and ruling party, stopped by Pinda who was PM at the time. Then divide and rule worsened, and the always present efforts to silence everyone speaking up were intensified with more threats, slander, illegal arrests, and malicious prosecution. When most people in Loliondo had been silenced, the current PM Majaliwa set out to “solve the conflict” tasking Arusha RC Gambo with setting up a select non-participatory committee that reached a sad compromise proposal that was presented to the PM who much later decided something even worse, the “special authority”, but while waiting for this decision the “unexpected” massive human rights crimes of 2017 erupted. OBC aren’t alone in working for land alienation, it’s supported by all heads of parastatals under the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, and last year Mwakilema, Serengeti Chief Park Warden, announced that German development funds were subject to the approval of the land use plan proposing the alienation of the 1,500 km2. The Germans haven’t denied this.
Intimidation and violence has continued after the illegal operation of 2017 was stopped. In May 2018, an intimidation campaign, led by OCCID Marwa Mwita, to derail the case against the Tanzanian government that was filed by the villages of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Oloirien, and Arash on 21stSeptember 2017 during the illegal operation.
This intimidation campaign consisted of summons to Loliondo police station, threats, arrests – also for unrelated issues - and it prevented the village chairmen from attending a court hearing. The most frightening aspect of the intimidation campaign was the complete silence. Not only weren’t there any statements or protests, but it was initially not mentioned with one word in social media. Though the villagers’ main counsel Donald Deya wrote an urgent letter, then turned into application, to the East African Court of Justice.
Then entered the Tanzania People's Defense Force – JWTZ – into the abuse against the Maasai of Loliondo. Around 24th March 2018 a military camp was set up in Lopolun, near Wasso “town”. Some people worried that the reason for this was to further intimidate the Maasai, while others said that it was for border issues with Kenya, or “normal soldier activities”. The first case of soldier violence I heard of took place on 29th June when soldiers in the company of district anti-poaching rangers and one OBC ranger attacked and tortured several people in Orkirkai in Ololosokwan, while claiming to be protecting Serengeti National Park that’s far from Orkirkai. Another case that I heard of much later, since it concerned Thomson Safaris that claim ownership of 12,617 acres of Maasai land and have benefitted even more than OBC from the intimidation campaigns to silence everyone, took place on 19th and 20th July when four men from Sukenya, accused of inciting others to graze on the land occupied by Thomson, were tortured. Then on 27th August at Kilamben in Ololosokwan village, six men, among them the former councillor Kundai, were at a meat-eating camp in the bush (orpul) when some fifteen soldiers arrived to torture them and interrogate them about guns, Kenyans, and cattle encroaching on protected areas. The soldiers clearly showed that they had come looking for a man with many cows who was in Mairowa because of the passing of the former long-term chairman of Ololosokwan, Mzee Yohana Saing’eu.
On 25th September the East African Court of Justice delivered a ruling ordering interim measures restraining the Tanzanian government, and any persons or offices acting on its behalf, from evicting the applicant villagers from the disputed 1,500 km2, destroying their homesteads or confiscating their livestock on that land, until the determination of the main case, and restraining the Inspector General of Police from harassing or intimidating the applicants.
The frustration of some young people can partly be explained with the fact that recently all opposition councillors in Ngorongoro have joined the ruling CCM party, after getting offers they couldn’t refuse, whether it was personal safety or personal gain. This doesn’t mean that the opposition was better at protecting the land. The leaders that most vocally used to speak up against the government’s land alienation plan belong to CCM since forever, but 28-0 could have been seen as another defeat, and sign of weakness, by the increasingly repressive central government.
I heard unsettling accounts from people from Ololosokwan who were working or studying elsewhere that rangers would be blocking herders from accessing areas of the 1,500 km2, but they didn’t have any details about how and to whom this was being done, other than mentioning the attacks by soldiers that had seemed more about intimidating individuals than blocking areas, and took place before the court ordered the interim measures. Meanwhile, people on the ground in Ololosokwan denied that any areas were being blocked. They were accused by those in town of being corrupted and in the process of leasing out the land to new investors (a worrying issue that I need to dig deeper into), but also some people from other villages, and not involved in the Ololosokwan dispute said that the only problem was the dry season, and not even that was very bad since cows were in good condition, and there were certainly not any violent rangers around. I didn’t know what to believe, and I still don’t.
On Saturday 10th November, vague reports about herders being beaten in areas around OBC’s camp started coming in. All three sides mentioned above, as well as others, confirmed that serious abuse was indeed being committed, but didn’t provide much detail. I started screaming at some of those who are still able to receive messages from me without passing out with fear that we had to get full information and report to the East African Court of Justice, but they seemed strangely passive, or at least silent, and apparently since-long silent activists didn’t start communicating with the lawyers until several days later.
Massive violation of interim orders in wide areas around OBC’s camp
I had for some time been hearing that OBC were preparing their camp for guests, or the guest, when I on Saturday 10thNovember was contacted by someone whose relative in Kirtalo was telling him that OBC were setting up the camp in Mambarashani and that people were being beaten, not detailing who was beating them. Two days earlier a big plane had landed in Wasso, which usually happens when OBC are bringing supplies, or whatever, while their guest always land on OBC’s own airstrip. Later I was told that the beatings had started already on 8th November. I was contacted by more people, mostly from Kirtalo, several of whom I’d never been in contact with before, while some who should have been speaking out were silent as the tomb. Information came in pieces between long silences, in various varieties of languages, and as usual with Loliondo, those who said they’d be back in fifteen minutes were often never heard from again. What most have observed is that the attackers are JWTZ army soldiers, according to some accompanied by OBC rangers, district natural resources rangers, and others.
I was told that people were being beaten in wide areas around OBC’s camp. That’s areas in Kirtalo village, and also Kilamben, or Mederi, in Ololosokwan. People and cattle were being chased away in serious violation of the interim orders issued by the East African Court of Justice on 25thSeptember. On Tuesday 13th November I was told that Ngari Potot from Mbuken, who has a boma in Kishoshoro, had been beaten so badly that an arm and a leg were broken. The violence escalated on Wednesday 14th November, more people were beaten, and chased away, and bomas were burned. At least one motorcycle was confiscated, and a goat was slaughtered by the soldiers. I wasn’t told how many bomas or exactly where. I got names of more people that had been assaulted,several taken to hospital in Wasso. Someone informed me that in the morning of 14th November, Yohana Toroge, chairman of Kirtalo, and the former councillor, Daniel Ngoitiko, were threatened by the soldiers, so that they wouldn’t have the courage to intervene. The soldiers were telling some people that they are being beaten because they sued the government, and that they must leave because the area is a “corridor”, when it’s most definitely village land per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999.
On Friday 16th November some people finally started to act, which is the only glimmer of hope.
The crimes continue. I’ve been told that bomas have been burned in Kishoshoro and Oloirien (area of Kirtalo, not the village with the same name). Cattle from Ololosokwan were yesterday, Friday 16th seized in Oloirien and driven to Lobo in Serengeti National Park by the soldiers who wanted to hand them over to park authorities, but the wardens refused, and the cows were released at night. It’s not known if all have been found. Last year it was Serengeti rangers who were driving cows into the park to be able to say that they were found there. Now apparently the army is providing the same service to OBC.
About the Shungur boma in Oloirien from someone who was in the area in the evening looking for a lost 9-year-old (who was found): “The soldiers invaded the boma around midday and started beating people. People scattered and fled to the bushes. I saw the burnt boma”.
The MP, or rather deputy minister, went silent already on 13th August 2017, but currently all leaders are silent. I still hope and expect that some will soon come out of their hiding.
One analysis that’s been shared with me by someone from Loliondo is, “I think OBC is purposely doing some things to dishearten and discourage the Maasai and portray a certain picture that “even though ... still you can’t do anything“.
Anyone who can do anything, please help stop this brutal and illegal attack that’s been going on for too long in silence!
Summary of developments of the past decades
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. By 2018 there does no longer seem to be journalists of any kind.
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”, 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 an 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 illegal operation with that people and cattle were entering Serengeti National Park too easily, while Minister 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 2017. When in Arusha on 23rd September, President Magufuli collected protest placards against Maghembe, OBC and abuse, to read them later. On 5th October 2017 the Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, (who had met with people from Loliondo) 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 2017 Maghembe was removed and Hamisi Kigwangalla appointed as new minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Kigwangalla stopped the operation on 26th October 2017, 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 rangers at Klein’s gate that had been colluding with the investor would be transferred. Kigwangalla emphasized that OBC would have left before January. He talked about the corruption syndicate at their service, reaching into his own ministry, and claimed that OBC’s director, Mollel, wanted to bribe him, and would be investigated for corruption. However, OBC never showed any signs of leaving.
Kigwangalla announced in social media that he on 13th 2017 November received a delegation headed by the German ambassador and that the Germans were 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 2017, PM Majaliwa announced a vague, but terrifying decision to form a “special authority” to manage the 1,500 km2 osero. He also said that OBC would stay. Manyerere Jackton celebrated the decision in the Jamhuri newspaper. Further information and implementation of this “special authority” has fortunately been delayed, even if it was mentioned in Kigwangalla’s budget speech on 21st May 2018.
Sheikh Mohammed, his crown prince, and other royal guests visited Loliondo in March 2018, and Kigwangalla welcomed them on Twitter. Earlier, in restricted access social media, Kigwangalla had been saying that OBC weren’t a problem, but only the director, Mollel, and that Loliondo, with the “new structure” needed more investors of the kind.
An ambitious report about Loliondo and NCA, with massive media coverage (and some unnecessary mistakes) was released by the Oakland Institute on 10th May 2018, and Kigwangalla responded by denying that any abuse had ever taken place, and threatening anyone involved with the report. He went as far as denying the existence of people in Loliondo GCA.
In May-June 2018 there was an intimidation campaign against the applicants in the case in the East African Court of Justice, and silence became worse than ever.
From late June to late August 2018 there were several incidents of soldiers from a military camp set up in Olopolun in March the same year attacking and torturing people.
On 25th September 2018 the East African Court of Justice ordered interim measures restraining the government from any evictions, burning of homesteads, or confiscating of cattle, and from harassing or intimidating the applicants.
In November 2018 while OBC were preparing their camp, reports started coming in that soldiers were attacking people in wide areas around the camp, while all leaders stayed silent. Information kept coming in piecemeal, and after a couple of days many people were telling that bomas had been burned in areas of Kirtalo. A terrifying silence and passivity that I hope will soon be broken lies over Loliondo.