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Loliondo and Ngorongoro Attacked from Every Angle, and People Have Spoken Up.

The Tanzanian government must stop threatening and abusing the Maasai of Ngorongoro District, whether it’s for the old “Loliondogate” issue in Loliondo and Sale Division and the hunters’ wish for a “protected area”, or for the even older wish to for the love of tourism money further dispossess and strangle those in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Now the Arusha RC John Mongella must backtrack on his (the government’s) terrible threat described in the previous blog post.


Application for stop order in EACJ after the RC’s threats

On 21st January 2022, the chairmen of Ololosokwan, John Pyando, Kirtalo, Yohana Toroge, Oloirien, Parmaari Merika, and Arash, Mepuki Lemberwa, filed an urgent application in the East African Court of Justice requesting the court to intervene issuing a stop order against the Arusha RC’s contempt of court shown on 11th January when he, alleging the broader interest of the nation, threatened that the government would alienate the contested 1,500 km2 of village land bordering Serengeti National Park. This important event was however overshadowed by worrying reports from Malambo, about which it was hard to get a clear picture.

This application became necessary after, as reported in the previous blog post, Arusha RC John Mongella summoned to the Ngorongoro District Council HQ village and ward leaders from the areas with land in the 1,500 km2 Osero where Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) organise hunting for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and which they for many years now have been lobbying to have turned into a protected area (OBC has had the hunting block, permit to hunt since 1993). The local political leaders refused to accompany the RC for an inspection tour of the 1,500 km2, and they even refused to sign the meeting’s attendance list, since it could otherwise claim that they had agreed to something. 

On 14th January at a protest meeting in Oloirien, a statement, signed by customary leaders, women’s representatives, and village chairs and ward councillors – including OBC’s “friends” - from areas with land in the 1,500 km2, was read. For those who have lived and cried through these years of panicked silence and boundaryless treason that almost destroyed the land struggle, this change is still hard to believe, and there are so many questions.

 

 
 

 “We are not leaving, we are not going, go and tell Samia we are not going, finish us all here.” Sign: "Samia, remove the Arab so that we'll be safe."

The statement is protesting the RC renewing the Loliondo land conflict between the villages and OBC. It clarifies that the disputed land is village land that never has been turned into any protected area and asks the government to abandon any ambition to set aside village land for hunting. It reminds of the ongoing court case, in its final stages, that was filed during the illegal arson operation in 2017, and of the interim orders issued in September 2018, which the RC is violating. Unfortunately, also a sad compromise proposal reached before the illegal operation (and I’d say that the weakness shown by local leaders at that time led authorities to think it was safe to invade village land) is mentioned in the statement. The statement aptly describes the conflict as enacted by conservationists to protect investors without recognising the vital interests of the villagers

On 16th and 17th January there was some media coverage of the protests. The RC would reportedly make a clarifying statement later the same week, which he still hasn’t done. On the 16th he published a description of his Loliondo tour on his Instagram account, including confused talk about Game Controlled Area beacons in Arash, and of visiting OBC’s camp in the “village of Oloipiri”. The camp is in Kirtalo, but OBC have wanted it to be situated in Oloipiri, since they have “good relationships” after they corrupted leaders there, but now even the Oloipiri leaders signed the protest statement. The RC’s ignorance is not appealing, but it is to the advantage of the Maasai.

The case

Ref No.10 of 2017 concerns important Maasai dry season grazing land bordering Serengeti National Park, in villages of Loliondo and Sale divisions of Ngorongoro District. The loss of this land would lead to destruction of lives and livelihoods far beyond the applicant villages, and logically to increased conflict with neighbours, since there isn’t any alternative empty land to go to, except for the National Park. This land belongs to the four applicant villages (and other villages whose leaders were too afraid or too corrupted to join, but they could still join as "interveners"), since they in the 1970s were registered under the Village and Ujamaa Villages Act, then in 1982 under the Local Government (District Authorities) Act, and then got further protection as village land belonging to the village assembly (all adult villagers) managed by the village council under Village Land Act No.5 of 1999. Eviction from this land is in total contravention and violation of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, Village Land Act 1999, Wildlife Conservation Act, 2009, and the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC. 

 

The original villages affected by OBC, before they were split up into more villages.

 

On 9th November 2017, the government side responded to Ref No. 10 of 2017 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. “Interestingly”, the government (Attorney General) in this response pretended that the 1,500 km2 would have been turned into the protected area wanted by the investor and the ministry, calling it the “Wildlife Conservation Area” and the “Game Reserve” – when everyone was still waiting for the PM’s decision, which when delivered in December 2017 was a vague, but very threatening idea about setting up a special authority to manage the land, which was delayed until another threatening proposal was issued in September 2019. 

The last week of May 2018, local police led by the acting Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Division Ngorongoro District initiated a campaign to derail the case through intimidation against leaders and common villagers in the villages that had sued the government. The village chairmen were prevented from attending a court hearing in the East African Court of Justice, since they had to present themselves at Loliondo Police Station. Some people who weren’t silenced in 2016 at the time of multiple illegal arrests have been “hiding” in fear since May 2018 until now, and some are yet to re-appear. 

At the hearings in June 2018, the government’s witnesses introduced a new version of events  – differing sharply from what the Attorney General had claimed in November 2017 – now claiming that the mass arson operation would have only taken place inside Serengeti National Park. 

On 25th September 2018, the court delivered its ruling on Application No.15 of 2017, and issued interim orders restraining the respondent (government side) from any evictions, burning of homesteads, or confiscating of cattle, and from harassing or intimidating the applicants. 

On 8th November 2018, while OBC were preparing their camp, soldiers stationed in Loliondo since March the same year, and who since July had assaulted and tortured groups of people,  started beating people in wide areas around the camp, and after a couple of days these soldiers, assisted by OBC rangers – in flagrant and brutal violation of the interim orders – burned down bomas in some areas of Kirtalo and Ololosokwan. Beatings and seizing of cattle continued in some areas, and on 21st December 2018 the soldiers descended upon Leken in Kirtalo and burned 13 bomas to the ground. The silence by all local leaders during these crimes was among the most terrifying and infuriatingly disappointing moments of my over a decade of following the Loliondo land struggle. 

In December 2018, the witnesses from the government side - DC Rashid Mfaume Taka, DED Raphael Siumbu, park warden Julius Francis Musei, geographical information system officer Alli Kassim Shakha, and even wildlife officer Nganana Mothi  … – swore affidavits claiming that the 2017 mass arson operation would have only taken place in Serengeti National Park. This was quite outrageous perjury when it was the DC himself who on 5th August 2017 issued the order for the illegal invasion of village land, and had been quoted about it both in a statement from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and in the OBC loyal press. A map from TANAPA, used by the attackers during the operation, also clearly shows that most bomas were burned on village land. 

 

In 2020 the witnesses of applicants and respondents were cross-examined, and in 2021 written submissions were filed, while DED Mhina has worked hard to have the case withdrawn. Both sides have been causing delays, but now the case is in its final stages – and RC Mongella, representing the government, has as mentioned interfered with contempt of court, forcing the village chairs to file an application for urgent stop orders.

The crime (very abbreviated version)

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 since the early 1990s, but the core area, where they actually hunt, is in the 1,500 km2. The owner of OBC, from whom nothing is ever heard, is the businessman and Assistant Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence of UAE, Lt. General Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Ali. For years OBC have lobbied to have the 1,500 km2 turned into a “protected area”, which would mean evicting the Maasai. The threat has been delivered under different names, but is the same as a Game Reserve, where local people and livestock are not allowed, while tourism and, unlike in a National Park, hunting is very much encouraged. Around OBC (and the American Thomson Safaris) a local police state has developed, in which basically every government official, and particularly the 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 speaking up. This has led to several illegal invasions of village land with mass arson, multiple human rights crimes, fear, treason, and almost complete silence these past years when repression has worsened in the whole of Tanzania, until local leaders finally woke up in January 2022.

In 2009, under Minister Mwangunga, this lobbying led to an illegal mass-arson operation on village land, ordered by the DC’s office. Then OBC funded a draft District Land Use Plan that proposed turning the 1,500 km2 into a protected area. This plan was rejected by Ngorongoro District Council in 2011.

In 2013, Kagasheki, who by this time was heading the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, made vociferous statements shamelessly lying that alienating the 1,500 km2 meant gifting land to the Maasai. At that time of not-again-seen (until maybe and hopefully now) unity and seriousness in Loliondo, Kagasheki’s threats were finally stopped by PM Pinda. Then, under Nyalandu, divide and rule, and efforts to buy off local leaders worsened, which was followed by increased repression and multiple lengthy illegal arrests and malicious prosecution in 2016. By that time local leaders were much weakened and agreed to a previously unthinkably sad compromise proposal (which they for some reason can’t stop bringing up now, just stop …) while Maghembe showed signs of being as rabidly at the service of OBC as Kagasheki had been.

Unexpectedly, while waiting to hear from PM Majaliwa about his decision after receiving the compromise proposal, an illegal mass arson operation, like the one in 2013, erupted on 13th  August 2017, ordered by DC Rashid Mfaume Taka. This atrocity, with beatings, illegal arrests, rape, and seizing of livestock, wasn’t stopped until Kigwangalla was made new minister in late October the same year, and for a short time was saying that OBC would be chased away. Then he changed his mind. In 2018, OBC, as had been done before, made substantial vehicle gifts to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. 

A military camp was set up in Loliondo in 2018, and fear worsened to where no local leaders dared to speak up against an intimidation drive to derail the case in the East African Court of Justice filed during the 2017 operation. At the lowest point ever, nobody even spoke up when the soldiers from the national army started torturing people and in November and December 2018 razed bomas in Kirtalo and Ololosokwan, without any kind of official order, not even an illegal one. 

There was a small relief when OBC’s director Isaack Mollel was arrested in 2019, but the Loliondo police state wasn’t dealt with and hardly even Mollel’s personal economic crimes. After a prolonged stay in remand prison, he was released with no court ruling. It looks like he had just stepped on the toes of those above the law, or was used to send a message to Membe and Kinana (the latter close to OBC since the start, but fell out with Magufuli). While Mollel was still locked up, in September 2019 a genocidal plan for Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) was presented and it included proposals for surrounding areas, such as fulfilling what OBC had been lobbying for. With the so-called elections in 2020 (a tragic farce in the whole of Tanzania that included the killing of Salula Ngorisiolo in Ngorongoro on election day), OBC ended up with at least three of their employees as councillors. 

In 2021, the new DED Jumaa Mhina has been acting as the worst DC, pressuring the chairmen of the four villages with a case in the East African Court of Justice to withdraw this case, and doing the same to end the case against Thomson Safaris in the court of appeal. 

Then Arusha RC, John Mongella, on 11th January renewed threats that the 1,500 km2 will be turned into the protected area wanted by OBC, and local leaders woke up from their slumber.

Worrying developments, confusion and correct action in Sanjan, Malambo

Meanwhile, in Sanjan, Malambo in the far south of the old Loliondo Game Controlled Area, Sale division, bordering Ngorongoro Conservation Area, there were protests. As the application was to be filed in the EACJ, reports emerged that people were gathering to protest and that boundary beacons were being brought in to Malambo. Some even said that the beacons had been installed. I planned to publish a much shorter than normal blog post, the same day as the application was filed, but instead I frantically and with very little success tried find out what was happening in Malambo. It was as if confusion was created to draw attention from the application. There were also reports that customary leaders had been summoned to the police after a meeting had been held in Endulen in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA).

What appears to have happened was that someone phoned the chairman of Sanjan village in Malambo ward, saying that beacons were to be erected on village land, according to threats for areas outside NCA in a genocidal Multiple Land Use Model review proposal presented by the notorious NCA chief conservator Manongi in September 2019. At the same time, Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) that manages wildlife outside national parks and NCA had set up camp in Sanjan, which isn’t a common occurrence. So, people gathered to hold protest meetings until TAWA left after three days.

 

 

Now, most informed people say that there never were any beacons. However, chasing away TAWA was a correct and satisfying move whatever they were doing in Sanjan. TAWA is not anything that you would like on your land. They have for years, with their KDU anti-poaching squads, been staying at the same premises as OBC’s rangers, and probably still are ( I have not been  able to have this confirmed). In 2017, in the illegal operation implemented by Serengeti National Park, under chief park warden Mwakilema (now appointed as head of TANAPA by President Samia) KDU rangers participated in the human rights crimes, as did NCA rangers, OBC rangers, district natural resources, and local police.

Maasai eloquence and police stupidity in Endulen

On 17th January, in Endulen in Ngorongoro Conservation Area meetings were being held, prompted by leaked information that the government would have applied for funds and would soon start evictions of those “volunteering” to move out of NCA. This came after eviction notices to supposed immigrants and demolition orders for houses without “proper permits” (including those built by the government) were issued in April 2021 and withdrawn until further notice after protests, following the genocidal Multiple Land Use Model review proposal that was presented in 2019 and keeps being brought up interspaced with promises of doing it afresh in “participatory” manner.

 As mentioned in the previous blog post, the researcher Teklehaymanot G. Weldemichel published an article in December 2021, explaining how people are made relocatable through long processes of marginalisation. “Makingland grabbable: Stealthy dispossessions by conservation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania”

In the drizzling, or more than drizzling, rain participant after participant explained in front of ITV cameras that this is their land and they aren’t going anywhere, the person who should leave is the chief conservator Freddy Manongi, and enough is enough of abuse against the Maasai of Ngorongoro.

 

James Moringe
 

 Godfrey Lelya 

On 20th January two customary leaders and the Endulen village and sub-village chairs were summoned to the police the following day. They were questioned on why they held a meeting on land issues, but they had brought a lawyer and weren’t charged with anything.

ITV didn’t broadcast anything from the meeting in Endulen. It’s assumed that the reason was pressure from the NCAA, but their clips have been shared by other people. 

The Maasai in NCA live under restrictions not found in Loliondo, are not allowed to grow crops or build modern houses, have the past years been losing access to one grazing area after the other, and as a result are suffering from high levels of child malnutrition, while throughout the years they have been shaken by rumours and threats of eviction. The current threat was announced in September 2019, when chief conservator Freddy Manongi made public the Multiple Land Use Model review report’s proposal, which is so destructive that it would lead to the end of Maasai livelihoods and culture in Ngorongoro District. This had followed a joint monitoring mission from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) that once again visited Ngorongoro and in their report repeated that they wanted the MLUM review completed to see the results and offer advice, while again complaining about the visual impact of settlements with “modern” houses, and so on. Recommendations and concerns from UNESCO had in the past repeatedly led to a worsened human rights situation.

When the Maasai were evicted from Serengeti in 1959 by the colonial government, losing access to over 14,000 km2, as a compromise deal, they were guaranteed the right to continue occupying the 8,292 km² Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a multiple land-use area administered by the government, in which natural resources would be conserved primarily for their interest, but with due regard for wildlife. This promise was not kept, and tourism revenue has turned into the paramount interest.

The MLUM review report proposes to divide Ngorongoro into four zones, with an extensive “core conservation zone” that is to be a no-go zone for livestock and herders. In NCA this includes the Ngorongoro Highland Forest, with the three craters Ngorongoro, Olmoti and Empakaai where grazing these past few years has been banned through order. This has led to losing 90% of grazing and water for Nainokanoka, Ngorongoro, Misigiyo wards, and a 100% loss of natural saltlicks for livestock in these wards. The proposal is to do the same with Oldupai Gorge, Laitoli footprints, and the Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek basins. In the rest of Ngorongoro District, the proposal is for NCAA to annex the Lake Natron basin (including areas of Longido and Monduli districts, like Selela forest and Engaruka historical site) and the 1,500 km2 in Loliondo and Sale Divisions and designate most of these areas to be no-go zones for pastoralists and livestock. These huge areas include many villages and are important grazing areas, the loss of which would have disastrous knock-on effects on lives and livelihoods elsewhere. The annexation of the Osero in Loliondo caters almost perfectly to the wishes of OBC.

The anti-Maasai press

Yesterday, 26th January there was an article in the Jamvi la Habari by one Ibrahim Malinda instigating panic through unprofessional claims, in the usual panic about numbers of people and livestock in NCA, claiming that rich Maasai are building luxury mansions and that millions of shillings from the “neighbouring country” are being used to destroy Ngorongoro, adding some pictures not from Ngorongoro. I wonder what the wildlife situation is like at Malinda’s place. I suppose he’s lucky if he has a lizard. Then there are of course those who rile each other up in social media with pictures of livestock and houses. I wish they could mind their own business and stop inciting against those who have already been evicted for “conservation” and compare with their own population densities and wildlife, instead of with some kind of national park. Particularly vile was a former sports journalist, turned ignorant newspaper frontpage reviewer, Maulid Kitenge, seen in a clip that looks like it’s been made to incite pre-school children against the Maasai. I’ve been advised to keep calm and educate people, but this is what it looked and sounded like: 


Fortunately, OBC’s own journalist, Manyerere Jackton, who for years in the Jamhuri newspaper not only exaggerated, but totally fabricated stories about Loliondo, including some crazy slander of any person he suspected of being able to speak up, has been silent since OBC’s Tanzanian director spent some time in remand prison with economic sabotage charges that later were mysteriously dropped. The Jamhuri has however more recently engaged in the campaign against the Maasai of NCA.

Support from national and international organisations

On 25th January, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) issued a statement urging President Samia to listen to Loliondo villagers, and to those in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. 

And on 26th January, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) issued an urgent alert about Loliondo. 

The 70,000 Maasai mentioned is an estimate of those who would be seriously affected by losing the 1,500 km2 (everyone in Loliondo Division, plus Malambo ward in Sale Division), not of those who reside there. 

Today, 27th January the Oakland Institute issued a press release in support of the Maasai of Loliondo and NCA. 

Ndumbaro in Las Vegas

Meanwhile, Damas Ndumbaro, the anti-pastoralist Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism has visited the 50th annual convention of Safari Club International, to attract investors to Tanzania’s hunting blocks, accompanied by the Director of Wildlife, Maurus Msuha, chairman of TAWA, Hamis Semfuko and the acting Commissioner for Conservation of TAWA, Mabula Misungwi. 

Ndumbaro used to occasion to invite Donald Trump Jr. to Tanzania.

 

 Still I can’t stop thinking about the tomblike silence when soldiers from the Tanzania People’s Defence Force invaded village land with extreme brutality, violating interim orders in 2018 and apart from this blog it was only briefly mentioned by the Oakland Institute, or the silence about a disappointing visit by cabinet secretaries in February 2019, and the very timid reactions to the inclusion of Loliondo in the genocidal NCA Multiple Land Use Model review proposal in 2019 (there were reactions from Ngorongoro Division). Then I can’t stop thinking that the illegal mass arson operation in 2017 could have been averted if leaders, already with the increased repression in 2016, had organized mass action instead of bending over backwards to assuage the enemy. Though I have been told that it wasn’t possible due to the activities of traitors, and, above all, to who was president at the time.

But now the terrifying drought has ended. It has rained.

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

View from the Termite Mound: Loliondo and Ngorongoro Attacked from Every Angle, and People Have Spoken Up (termitemoundview.blogspot.com)