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Intimidation and Illegal Arrests to Derail the Case Filed Against the Tanzanian Government by Four Loliondo Villages

View from the Termite Mound A blog about threats against Maasai land in Loliondo - Thomson Safaris, OBC and ruthless hypocrisy.

In this blog post: “Secret” intimidation and illegal arrest campaign. eNCA piece about Loliondo - husband of interviewed family currently in police custody. The hearing. Another, maybe unrelated, wave of arrests. Kigwangalla’s budget presentation and the timid opposition reaction to Loliondo. Oakland’s response to the Tanzanian government. Manyerere Jackton again. What has happened? (summary that’s very useful for newcomers).

“Secret” intimidation and illegal arrest campaign

The Oakland Institute - that on 10th May released a very unexpected report about Loliondo (Thomson Safaris and OBC/the threat against the 1,500 km2, and also about Ngorongoro Conservation Area), on 6th June released an equally unexpected statement saying that the previous week 24 community members – including three chairmen – had been detained and released on bail in an effort to intensify pressure to derail the case in East African Court of Justice to stop the Tanzanian government’s efforts to alienate 1,500 km2 of important grazing land, filed by the villages of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Olorien and Arash after the illegal operation last year that brought mass arson and other human rights crimes on legally registered village land. The victims of these recent illegal arrests were released on the condition that they appear before the Officer Commanding District every Friday, including 8th June, which prevented them from attending the hearing at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha today. Not many people these days dare to communicate with me, and some of the few brave had, like me, not heard one word about these illegal arrests. It could however soon be established that the information was indeed true, but the plan had been to work through lawyers trying to make the East African Court of Justice order interim measures against the harassment, and Oakland have also attached to their statement the letter from the lead counsel of the Maasai to the court. The excuse for not sharing this serious information is that people I’m in contact with get threatened, and worse, but being in contact with the Oakland Institute is hardly less dangerous after the online threats by Minister Kigwangalla, and on the ground intimidation, and I don’t know why the IWGIA that assisted during the illegal operation last year weren’t approached as well. “Nobody” actually knows who Oakland’s sources are, and it’s apparently not at all those “suspected” of it. Chaotic and uncoordinated action is not new to Loliondo activism, and the increased climate of fear does not help, but most people seem to think that, even if the plan was something else, it’s very helpful that the threats are brought into the open by the Oakland Institute that obviously have the skills to get massive media coverage, as seen from the reaction to their mostly excellent report (that however contained some serious and easily avoidable mistakes about the threat against the 1,500 km2 osero).
The chairmen of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo and Arash have been charged with the following:
  • 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 the Oakland report, which according to the Oakland Institute themselves are unfounded and false allegations.
The chairman of Olorien has also been arrested, but under other charges that I’ve not been able to get information about. None of the chairmen were able to attend the court hearing.
The letter by lead counsel Donald Deya to the Principal Judge, East African Court of Justice, sent already on 31stMay, was seeking the following interim orders:
1. An urgent Interim Order from the Court addressed to the Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania, as the Chief Legal Representative of the Respondent State, to direct the Inspector General of Police and officers subordinate to him to cease and desist from harassing, intimidating or otherwise approaching or engaging the Applicants in this case, pending the hearing of Application No. 15 of 2017, which this Honourable Court has scheduled for Thursday 7thJune 2018.
2. A Summons from the Court to the Officer Commanding Police District of Loliondo (OCD Loliondo) [District of Ngorongoro, note by the blogger] to present himself in Court on the above-mentioned Hearing of Thursday 7th June 2018, for purposes of explaining to the Court the measures and actions that he and his Officers have taken, with regard to matters at issue in the abovementioned Reference No. 10 of 2017 and Application No. 15 of 2017.
The interim orders were obviously not put in place, since the chairmen couldn't attend court.
Advocate Donald Deya wrote that he, since 18th May, had received numerous complaints from leaders and community members of the four villages, about being severely harassed and intimidated by the OCD 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. By 31st May, at least seven individuals from the applicant villages had received multiple formal and informal summons to present themselves to the police. They had been detained and interrogated in threatening and intimidating circumstances, some overnight or for multiple days, while some were still detained at the time of writing the letter. Reportedly, some ordinary village people had, out of fear, conceded to the police that they had withdrawn their support and/or authorization for the litigation.
Donald Deya added that in the above circumstances, the measures and actions by the OCD and police officers working under him are unlawful and violative the rights of the leaders and members of the applicant villages, and that they are overtly calculated to interfere with the court case, and especially the hearing on 7th June, defeating the ends of justice.
I just don’t understand why this abuse and intimidation was kept a secret from everyone, except the Oakland Institute. Though sadly, it is business as usual in Loliondo.
This abuse came after the Maasai in 2011 managed to stop a draft district land use plan, funded by OBC, that organise hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Duabi, and would have alienated the 1,500 km2, and a vicious threat by the lying Minister Kagasheki in 2013. In 2016 a massive intimidation campaign, including illegal arrests and malicious prosecution, partially succeeded in silencing everyone. Then OBC sent out a report asking the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to assist them with the destructive Maasai, and PM Majaliwa set out to “solve the conflict” tasking the Arusha RC with setting up a select, non-participatory committee that finally came up with a sad compromise proposal, while then Minister Maghembe kept issuing horrible threats and lies. While waiting to hear the PM’s decision, an illegal operation invaded legally registered village land, ordered by the DC, officially funded by TANAPA, and implemented by Serengeti rangers, assisted by local police, NCA, KDU and OBC rangers. There was mass arson of hundres of bomas, documented by the perpetrators themselves, beatings, arrests of the victims, illegal seizing of cows, and blocking of water sources. Women were raped by the rangers, and some leaders, notable the formerly much trusted MP stayed inexplicably silent. The new minister – Kigwangalla – finally stopped the operation after over two months, becoming an instant hero in Loliondo when he made strong statements that he would clean up his house, stop the corruption syndicate at the service of OBC, and assuring that the hunters would have left before January 2018, never to be given another hunting block. Though OBC never showed any signs of leaving, and on 6th December 2017 the PM declared that they were staying, and in the same meeting he announced that his decision was a vague and threatening “special authority” to manage the land. When the Oakland report was out, Kigwangalla’s U-turn reached the extreme of claiming that nobody was living in Loliondo GCA…
This is Kigwangalla’s response to the news presented by the Oakland Institute about intimidation and arrests of the applicants in the East African case:
Dr. Kigwangalla, H. 

"Tanzanians are United as one. Peace and tranquility is our tradition. Efforts to tarnish the image of our country are a rat race. Many people know us, know the truth and certainly can’t fall for your utter lies driven by your selfish ulterior motives and hatred for this country " …

eNCA news piece

Yesterday 6th June, a short piece about Loliondo was aired on the current affairs show, Checkpoint, of the South African tv channel eNCA. It must however have been filmed before 6th December 2017. There was a brief, but good and relevant interview with the Sereti family from Ololowokwan who were, and are, victims of last years illegal operation. I do however wish that Tanzanian land laws would have been properly explained, and Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai properly identified since he’s the Ruler of Dubai, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and an international celebrity that has been closely linked to OBC since the start in 1992. The reporters met DC Rashid Mfaume Taka who said that he’d been stopped from talking about the issue, and that there would be a government statement the following week – and this shows that it must have been filmed before 6th December. The DC also say, “Of course we know that, I mean so many people have lost their property”, and isn’t prepared to talk about OBC’s license. The reporters didn’t identify him as the person who signed the illegal order to invade village land. 

This evening (7th June) I’ve been informed that the husband and father – Rondi Sereti (called Musa Sereti elsewhere for some reason) is in police custody facing unknown charges for the 3rd or 4th day now! Nobody knows if it’s because of the media appearances. There are just too many issues to keep up with…
Another, maybe unrelated, wave of arrests
There have lately been other kinds of illegal arrests in Loliondo, apparently not related to the land issues, and these are the only arrests that people had discussed with me. On 25th May, I was told that several Loita Maasai had been arrested for being in possession of illegal arms, among them a nurse at Wasso hospital and graduate of Dodoma University who was arrested at the hospital and taken to Kirunya to “assist the FFU to find firearms and to assist in geographical maneuverers”. The nurse was reportedly innocent, and the fact that he got his primary and secondary education in Kenya would also be used against him. I was told that some individuals have had arms, but handed them in. Now there is a business making victims pay 2 million to be released, and people with grudges reporting those that they want to hurt. This only adds to the general lawlessness, fear and confusion. The nurse was reportedly charged with harbouring criminals and released, and I can’t get more details.
On 28th May an old man from Olorien was brought to Wasso hospital with a broken leg after having been badly beaten by the police, also accused of being in possession of “illegal arms”. He got out on bail in order to be treated, but it was unclear if he’d been able to get police form number 3 that’s needed for this.
In 2007 the police extrajudicially killed the Laitayok traditional leader and Soitsambu sub-village chairman Shangai Putaa claiming that he had tried to run away when he was to show them some “hidden arms”. That case is believed to have been related to the land issues, since Shangai had spoken out against both Thomson Safaris and OBC, while being from the community that the “investors” were working hard to keep as their “friends”.
Kigwangalla’s budget presentation and the timid opposition reaction to Loliondo
On 21st May, Minister Kigwangalla tabled in parliament the budget for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism for the 2018/2019 financial year. In his budget speech, he mentioned that his ministry, per the decision by PM Majaliwa on 6th December 2017, had prepared a draft for a “Mkakati wa Usimamizi wa Pori Tengefu Loliondo/Management Strategy for Loliondo Game Controlled Area” (for the vague, disappointing and hugely threatening “special authority” announced by the PM) presented it to the concerned ministers in a meeting, and the PM was to be presented with what was said in that meeting. Absolutely nobody in Loliondo has seen this draft, unless it’s another secret that’s being kept by some. The German funds that were rejected by the District Council in March 2017, since the Serengeti Chief Game Warden had announced that they were to be released under the condition of the alienation of the 1,500 km2. but then secretly accepted by the district chairman, can be seen in the print version of the speech, in the most ominous way…
The inaction by the opposition about Loliondo was a disappointment. The MP for Iringa Urban, Peter Msigwa, wanted Kigwangalla to explain what conclusion had been reached by the corruption investigation against him and former minister Nyalandu, the one that Kigwangalla talked about last year, and he also wanted to know how much Kigwangalla himself had been given by the investor. I don’t think there was a reply, but to BBC Swahili, Kigwangalla said that he didn’t know if anyone was conducting such an investigation. James ole Milya of Simanjiro made an impassioned intervention in defence of pastoralists, but only mentioned Loliondo in passing. Kigwangalla’s U-turn about OBC (detailed in the past two blog posts, here and here) was so spectacular that I lack the adequate adjectives for it, and his meltdown on Twitter (detailed in the latest blog post) lying, insulting and threatening people when the Oakland report was released, so insane that if I were anything like the minister himself I could amateur diagnose him. They just let him get away with it…
Oakland’s response to the Tanzanian government
Also yesterday, 6th June, the Oakland Institute finally officially responded to the Tanzanian government reaction to the report, via an excellent open letter to President Magufuli, focusing on a few of Kigwangalla’s many crazy tweets. His claims that the report is “fake” and “untrue”, the government’s denial of indigenous people in Tanzania, the threats to local communities and the climate of fear, the smear article falsely accusing several local individuals and organizations as being involved in the production of the report, and backtracking on the promise to end (more exactly not to renew) OBC’s license.
The Oakland Institute ask the Tanzanian government to:
Make public all information concerning the special agency, consultation process, and strategy for the aforementioned 150,000 ha;
Make public the outcomes of the investigation of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau regarding the OBC and its executive director; and,
(It seems like Kigwangalla doesn’t know if such investigations are being made, or maybe he just meant the investigation of his predecessors.)
Explain whether and why the Ministry backtracked on the cancellation of the OBC’s license in November 2017.
(This was made more than clear by PM Majaliwa on 6thDecember 2017, and later also admitted by Kigwangalla in social media. OBC are staying. The why is more unclear though. Kigwangalla has said that it’s been revealed that the hunters aren’t a problem, only some of the staff (the director, Isaack Mollel, who Kigwangalla in November accused of wanting to bribe him cheaply and which anyone can watch on Youtube), but Mollel is staying as well.)
Oakland call on the Tanzanian government to immediately cease threatening its citizens regarding their work, which is entirely independent, and they likewise call on the government to immediately cease the intimidation and harassment of all Maasai, especially the villagers and village councils of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Oloirien, and Arash, since it’s essential to improve the independence and efficiency of Tanzania’s justice system, which has failed the Maasai on numerous occasions.
Oakland support the creation of an independent commission of inquiry, including local villagers, to investigate land-related human rights violations in Loliondo.
They call upon the Tanzanian government to immediately allow the cultivation of subsistence garden plots and the grazing of cattle in Game Controlled Areas. in order to ensure the food security and survival of the Maasai. (This isn’t necessary though since not a single such Game Controlled Area - the Wildlife Conservation Act 2009 variety - has been established in Tanzania.)
They urge the Tanzanian government to take measures to protect all indigenous groups in the country.
Oakland remind of Tanzania’s important international obligations as a signatory of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, as well as national obligations including the right to life, as enshrined in the country’s Constitution. And, say that when a government fails to uphold such national and international obligations, international scrutiny and action is necessary.
Manyerere Jackton again
The journalist Manyerere Jackton, who in the Jamhuri newspaper has by now published well over 50 articles viciously inciting against the Loliondo Maasai, defaming anyone rightly or wrongly “suspected” of being able to speak up, defending OBC, and boasting of his direct involvement in illegal arrests for the sake of intimidation , on 22nd May in the article “Uchocheziwa Oakland Institute na wenzake Loliondo”, shared his theories about who was involved in making the Oakland report, of course presenting it as “the truth”, and unsurprisingly “identifying” some NGOs that are lying and stirring up conflict to collect money from donors. Some probable and improbable candidates are named, but the facts is that Oakland have strongly denied the involvement of those people, and reportedly, the institute has even been asked by those named to provide a letter stating this fact.
Everyone should be defamed in the Jamhuri at least once in a lifetime to really understand the level of lying. Though I’ve had the dubious “honour” too many times. In this article, that some may think could have some kernel of truth, Manyerere Jackton even names me as having helped producing the Oakland report! Amazingly, this time the “journalist” gets the name of my blog, and even my surname (at least once) right. Though he must trust, or rather he doesn’t care, that nobody will have a look at what I wrote about the Oakland report on 13th May. Besides telling how surprised I was by this unexpected report, I actually straighten out some mistakes found in it. It may seem like a strange priority when an international organisation is showing an unprecedented willingness to help, but early in the report it’s stated that that “community resistance” has led the government to reduce OBC’s hunting block from 400,000 ha (4,000 km2) to 150,000 ha (1,500 km2), when this has not happened, and it’s OBC - not the community - that want it to happen. This was a huge issue in 2013 when Minister Kagasheki was lying that the Maasai were “landless” and would be gifted with the land outside the 1,500 km2 that he wanted to alienate for the benefit of OBC. Most frustrating is that I know from experience that researchers will keep copying this statement, without double checking, and without reading the whole article where it’s later made clear that it’s OBC that’s campaigning for the 1,500 km2 “protected area”, and they will keep doing this for many years. It’s like the, less serious, misspelling using “Ortello” instead of the correct Otterlo. It’s just unstoppable, since it’s used in reports. You can go on about it, share pictures of Otterlo Business Corporation’s own material, and now they even have some limited presence in social media, but the misspelling continues. More serious confusion is created by mixing up the names of the villages of Ololosokwan and Oloipiri.
 Manyerere also claims that I first came to Tanzanian as a volunteer for PWC when I have never worked for any NGO, in any capacity, anywhere in the world. At least he did not in this article write that I’m an international spy, getting billions of money to destabilize the Serengeti ecosystem…
What has happened?
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’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 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.
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, (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 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 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 Mollel wanted to bribe him, and would be investigated for corruption.
Kigwangalla announced in social media that he on 13thNovember 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, 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.
A report about Loliondo and NCA 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.
Currently there’s an intimidation campaign against the applicants in the case in the East African Court of Justice.
Susanna Nordlund