Intimidation Continues in Loliondo While Everyone has been Silenced.
Posted on Jul 05, 2018
In this blog post:- Violent assault committed by soldiers; The EACJ case; Probe team, team of attorney general’s lawyers, or whatever; Reuters article everywhere; Visit by RC Gambo.
Violent assault committed by soldiers
The night of 30th June I was informed that on Friday 29thJune some soldiers together with four anti-poaching rangers from the district – villagers say that they recognised one as an OBC ranger - physically assaulted several people – two men, two boys, and one woman - at Orkirkai in Ololosokwan village. One of those who were attacked was Oletipis who works for OBC’s employee William Parmwat, herding his cows. The soldiers told people not to cross the road leading to Klein’s and OBC, while beating them senselessly so that some had to be taken to Wasso hospital with injuries all over their bodies. The attackers claimed to be “protecting the Serengeti” – the park boundary is some 2-3 km away from Orkirkai that’s on registered village land – and said that they would be back. Per other reports, the soldiers were talking about poaching, economic sabotage, and cattle in the park, which is unlikely, since there’s still grass elsewhere.
Since around 24th March the Tanzania People's Defence Force has had a military camp set up in Lopolun, near Wasso “town”. Some people have worried that the reason for this is to further intimidate the local Maasai, while others have said that it’s for border issues with Kenya, or “normal soldier activities”.
I was “lucky” that someone tired of being afraid messaged me about this violent attack, that could then be confirmed by other sources. No leaders from Loliondo have spoken up, and nobody has even dared to mention it openly in social media. Such is the fear.
The EACJ case
The government of Tanzania continue its efforts to derail the case in the East African Court of Justice filed during last year’s illegal invasion of registered village land, by the villages of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Oloirien and Arash.
As mentioned earlier, during the weeks leading up to the court hearing on 7th June, there was a stream of arrests and summons to Loliondo police station, with the aim of intimidating everyone into silence and derail the court case – all led by the acting Ngorongoro Officer Commanding District (OCD). Sadly, this effort had some success since nobody dared to speak up about it, except Don Deya of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), the lead counsel of the applicant villages who wrote a letter to the principal judge seeking interim orders to stop the intimidation campaign, including requesting that the OCD be summoned to court to explain the measures and actions he is taking in regard of the leaders and members of the suing villages. Someone contacted the Oakland Institute that wrote about the harassment.
The chairmen of the villages were summoned to the police station, and questioned on why they sued the government, on who gave them the authority to do so, and on whether they had the unequivocal support of the villagers to sue. When they presented evidence in the form of meeting minutes from the respective villages, they were accused of having forged these. The chairmen of the villages of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Arash were arrested and released on the condition that they present themselves at Loliondo police station every Friday, which effectively prevented them from attending the East African Court of Justice in Arusha on Thursday, 7th June, since, due to road conditions, it’s a 10-hour trip from Loliondo to Arusha (upgrading has commenced on the first stretch of the road). Now they don’t have to report at the police station anymore, but have been told that they will be summoned if needed. They have reportedly 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, which according to the Oakland Institute is an unfounded and false allegation (which I believe, even if being involved in producing a report isn’t a crime in any way, and neither are the other charges).
The chairman of Oloirien (I was earlier recommended the spelling “Olorien”), Nekitio Ledidi, together with another man from Oloirien called Salau Makoi, was arrested for 25 days (in Tanzania someone arrested must be taken to court or granted bail after 24 hours, but as known, Loliondo is lawless) before being taken to court and granted bail on 1stJune. Then the two men were re-arrested, and bail applied for the same day. When summoned to Loliondo police station on Monday 4th June they were taken to Bariadi in Simiyu region by a task force. They were kept illegally arrested in Bariadi, accused of something related to “illegal arms”, which with all probability is a false accusation, and the chairman was being threatened to withdraw the case in the EACJ - while everyone in Loliondo stayed silent. For the past two months, or so, there’s been another stream of arrests in Loliondo, further contributing to the climate of lawlessness and fear. I’ve been told that some individuals have had arms, but handed them in. The accusation of “illegal arms” has turned into a business, making victims pay 2 million to be released, and people with grudges reporting those that they want to hurt. On 20th June a habeas corpus - Misc Criminal Application no 38 of 2018 before Judge Maghimbi - was filed by advocate Jebra Kambole of Law Guards Advocates, and the officer commanding Loliondo police station summoned to the High Court in Arusha on 22nd June. The hearing took place on 22nd June, and orders were to be given on Tuesday 26th June, but fearing this, the government side instead rushed off to Mugumu in Serengeti district where they on 25th June charged Nekitio and Salau with between February 2011 and November 2014 having transported and sold in Kenya six elephant tusks, property of the Government of Tanzania! It’s a little too obvious that accusations of a couple of crimes, committed over the time of three years - four years ago - come conveniently to further derail the case in the East African Court of Justice. Currently the two men are in prison in Mugumu. The case which face them is unbailable at the district court, but bail has been applied for at the High Court of Tanzania.
Several common villagers, many illiterate, have also been summoned to the police, and some of them have out of fear, conceded to the police that they had withdrawn their support and/or authorization for the litigation. Rondi Sereti whose family had their home burned and suffered terrible livestock losses during last year’s illegal operation, and who has appeared in media, including South African television, together with his wives, was arrested for several days, accused of being in possession of an illegal firearm, but was released after preliminary investigation couldn't implicate him to be prosecuted.
Everyone is a pastoralist and would be adversely affected by a massive loss of grazing land leading to the destruction of livelihoods, environmental degradation, and increased conflict with neighbours. Too many do however seem intent at keeping a low profile, out of harms way, while others must fight for the land. And then we have the unpresentables that benefit as “friends” of the “investor” while expecting others to save the land. Nobody will however find more than one single Loliondo pastoralist that will say, “welcome, take away the 1,500 km2 osero”.
The 1,500 km2 of grazing land under threat is land that also serves as the core hunting area of Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai in Loliondo, since 1992. In the 2009 drought year OBC’s rangers assisted the Field Force Unit in illegal evictions from the land in question. After that, OBC tried a more legal approach funding a draft district land use plan that proposed turning the 1,500 km2 into a “protected area”, which was strongly rejected by Ngorongoro District Council. Then, in 2013, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism at the time, Kagasheki, tried to reach the same end, but via bizarre lies that the Maasai were “landless” and would be “gifted” with the land outside the 1,500 km2. After many mass meetings and protest delegations, then PM Pinda revoked Kagasheki’s threats and told the Maasai to continue their lives as before. Now 2013 seems like the good old days…
In 2016 a massive intimidation campaign, including illegal arrests and malicious prosecution, partially succeeded in silencing everyone. After that, 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, and 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, and this was 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 hundreds 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, notably 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, in the same meeting as he announced that his decision was a vague and threatening “special authority” to manage the land. Then Kigwangalla made a complete U-turn, going to the extreme of on Twitter denying the existence of people in Loliondo!
Before the current intimidation campaign, the government side tried to stop the court case via a preliminary objection that the villages couldn’t sue the government, since they were part of the same government. This objection was dismissed by the court on 25th January 2018.
On 7th June, I was told that at the hearing the lawyers for the government side (attorney general) had started objecting that nobody is, or was evicted from the village land, but the operation was done in Serengeti National Park, even though all documents by the perpetrators themselves clearly show that the illegal operation took place on legally registered village land. In public documents from the lawyers, it says that government side’s counsel sought to give new arguments (not in the pleadings filed in court), and also sought to give testimony “from the bar” (without having filed affidavits or brought persons able to give this testimony). The court pointed this out and gave the respondent till 21stJune to file documents to prove its assertions that the villagers did not legitimately meet, but such documents have to date not been filed. Meanwhile, the court said that it would deliver its ruling on the application for interim orders “on notice”, meaning that the villagers’ counsel will be notified when the ruling is ready. Nothing more has been heard about this.
Probe team, team of government lawyers, or whatever
On 17th June I was told that the government had formed a “probe team” to investigate on the sources of the Oaklandreport, and mine too. After years of experiencing how things are done in Loliondo, I’m convinced that nobody will “investigate” anything at all. Those someone want to target will be targeted, and accused of anything, whether it makes sense, or not. The Oakland report had mostly old information that everyone already knew about but hadn’t put together in such a clear way, some previously unseen, but old, documents (about the Thomson case, not the 1,500 km2 osero) obtained by an American organisation assisting with that court case, and Oakland had independent researchers visiting Loliondo (the report also had some important mistakes that I wrote about on 13th May). They got massive media coverage without anchoring it with Loliondo activists (if anyone can still be called that), which most people (me included) think was a good thing to do, even if doing it earlier and involving more people would have been even better, only some of those baselessly accused of having worked with Oakland reacted somewhat negatively. I’ve had hundreds of sources through the years, not least some of the most horrible “friends” of “investors” (I could volunteer those names to the “probe team”…), and now I have basically none. Most important is to remember that article 18 of the constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania states that:
“Every person – (a) Has a freedom of opinion and expression of his ideas; (b) Has a right to seek, receive and/or disseminate information regardless of national boundaries; (c) Has the freedom to communicate and a freedom with protection from interference from his communication; and (d) has a right to be informed at all times of various important events of life and activities of the people and also of issues of importance to the society”
The attorney general’s team lawyers also came to Loliondo. I don’t know if they are the same as the “probe team”. Apparently, this team didn’t harass villagers but kept to sitting in offices with the Village Executive Secretaries. The fear is that the attorney general’s lawyers want to allege that the village chairpersons weren’t legitimately elected, and that the meetings held in August 2017 and that authorised the EACJ litigation did not actually take place. I haven’t been able to obtain any further information about a “probe team”, but whether it was or was not, it silenced even more people.
Reuters article everywhere
An earlier mentioned Reuters article about the Tanzanian government’s effort to intimidate the villagers to withdraw the case in the East African court is having its own life. It has kept being published just everywhere. This is very frustrating since, besides some relevant comments by advocate Don Deya, the article, that’s described as having been edited, almost doesn’t get one point about the background right. It says that the land has been turned into a “park” when it stays as village land and nobody is currently stopping those illegally evicted from returning, except maybe for the violent soldiers that appeared in Ololosokwan on 29thJune. This could be explained by confusion, but the article also incorrectly says that the evictions took place in 2014, when such illegal operations were committed in 2009 and 2017. The headline is very misleading as well, saying “Maasai community clash with Tanzania in court over eviction fromSerengeti”... One publication, Business Daily, has even added a photo of the charlatan faith healer, Babu of Samunge with a caption saying that it’s, “Members of the Maasai community complaining about eviction at a past meeting”. What can be done about this kind of Loliondo reporting? It’s unfortunately far from the first time. When pointing it out after publication I’m invariably ignored, and what’s worse, such factual errors keep being copied by other media, and even important organizations (of which there was an extreme example in 2015), long after publication. I keep posting a summary with the basics for journalists or anyone in a hurry who would like to write about Loliondo. I’d proofread any well-intentioned writing about Loliondo for free, and would love to have anyone offering the same to me, instead of having to chase and beg people.
Visit by RC Gambo
The Arusha RC Mrisho Gambo, who a year ago was called the “only ally” of the Loliondo pastoralists, but then didn’t say one word when they were the victims of massive human rights abuse, toured Ngorongoro district 21-24 June, visiting different projects. Most media attention was dedicated to some confused news that people in Oloipiri would be delaying the road work upgrading the Mto wa Mbu–Loliondo road to tarmac, putting up buildings and requesting compensation, and that all such people would be arrested. This is geographically impossible, since Oloipiri is not along that road stretch, and the village is not even along the continuation of the main road. It’s unclear if there was a mix-up with some other village, or if it was all a lie. Some people say it’s a combination. Anyway, the upgrading is presented as some kind of divine gift from the president, instead of normal use of tax money.
In Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Gambo announced that the 17% of funds that’s supposedly for development, due to corruption and mismanagement, would be diverted form the Pastoralist Council (PC) to be managed at the District Council in collaboration with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. It’s feared that the District Council is even more unsuitable than the PC, and that those funds will be used to impose the “special authority” to manage the 1,500 km2 that OBC have spent years lobbying to have alienated in Loliondo. The Maasai in NCA keep losing access to grazing area after grazing area, and are not even allowed to engage in subsistence agriculture. The aim seems to be to drive them out of NCA, and to make the Loliondo Maasai just as miserable and malnourished as those in NCA.
Later appeared some positive reports about Gambo. The RC would have made it clear that the military camp in Lopolun doesn’t have anything to do with the land issue, and he would also have cautioned the police about the disarmament exercise, saying that it should not be used to harass or intimate activists on the land dispute. The attack by soldiers in Orkirkai happened after the RC’s visit.
As it looks now, there aren’t any people to vote for in 2020, since nobody is speaking up against the abuse. Should Ngorongoro just be added to some other district?
Summary of the threat against the 1,500 km2 osero
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.