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Ndumbaro Makes a Criminally Clueless and Dangerous Statement Urging Hunting Investors to Commit More Crime Against Rural People

On 5th August, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Damas Ndumbaro, made a most inflammatory statement totally ignoring rule of law, human rights, land rights and common sense.

In this blog post:

Ndumbaro’s Criminally Clueless and Dangerous Statement

Summary about OBC and the Osero in Loliondo 

First, please sign this petition by Rainforest Rescue and the Oakland Institute against eviction in Ngorongoro.


At a function in Dar es Salaam, handing a certificate to a company investing in Maswa North, Ndumbaro, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, ordered the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) to within 60 days expel investors that have failed to prevent poaching and to remove livestock from their hunting blocks! Apparently, the minister has failed to notice that many hunting blocks are on village land where, unlike poaching, pastoralism is a most legal and beneficial activity. Further, Ndumbaro ignores the obvious and well-documented dangers of laying law enforcement in the hands of private investors with their private interests, friends, foes, and grudges. He also fails to understand that the hunting firms do not have legal capacity to execute what the minister wishes to be executed, which can only be made reality through illegal means. 

Tanzania has had its share of worst experience with the hunting industry when the government is driven by remote control by the hunting firms. Loliondo is a notable example where human rights crime has been made common, where police force and rangers employed by parastatals work for the investors, against local people, and against anything resembling rule of law. For over a decade this blog has reported about how police, rangers, even soldiers, district security committee and virtually all government employees at the Ngorongoro District Council have been upholding a local police state at the service of the “investors” Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC), whose hunting block is more than the whole of Loliondo division and who lobby the government to turn 1,500 km2 into a “protected area”, and Thomson Safaris that claim 12,617 acres as their private nature refuge. 

The Ndumbaro statement is an attempt to normalize lawlessness in the hunting industry so that the hunting concession can only remain valid if the investor is able to by his own means expel, among others, the pastoral communities. While making reference to Ndumbaro’s call for expulsion of pastoral people out of their ancestral territories and village land Joseph Moses Oleshangay, lawyer from Ngorongoro says, 

"Ndumbaro is perhaps the worst minister in MNRT recent history. Kigwangalla had his ups and downs beside these unnecessary showy games. He lacks the very basic principle of leadership, law (despite allegedly being a lawyer) and worse of all humanity.”

It difficult to grasp the logic behind the current proposal and therefore some questions remain speculative.  Could it be that some company eager to commit crimes against villagers has requested Ndumbaro to issue this ultimatum? Or has the minister been influenced by the endless debate between international pro- and anti-trophy hunting academics, and others, who vociferously, and quite dubiously, claim to have the best interests of rural Africans in mind? In this debate, that I for mental health reasons don’t follow closely, I’ve seen preventing poaching and maintaining “buffer zones” mentioned as some kind of benefit provided by hunting companies. Those with such arguments can’t know anything at all about Tanzania where “buffer zones” don’t exist as any kind of legal land classification, but sadly often as an “excuse” for invasion of village land and serious human rights crimes. 

Instead, Ndumbaro could do something about crime in the hunting industry against rural people (and this also applies to the misleadingly called “non-consumptive” companies) and against hunting regulations. At least in Loliondo there isn’t any monitoring at all to ensure that the “legal” hunters aren’t the biggest poachers, and the Tanzanian hunting industry is generally known for being most corrupt. Though this isn’t made easier when after a brief moment of hope, President Samia, has shown that she is indeed one and the same as Magufuli, under whose rule the whole country was turned into a police state and almost all Loliondo activists were silenced. Samia has even gone further than her predecessor, jailing Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe on bogus “terrorism” charges, together with several other opposition politicians, and more keep being illegally arrested. If this is the time that Tanzanians will finally stand up against tyranny, I hope pastoralist activists will join the fight. Except for our friend Tundu Lissu, I can’t even trust freedom fighters to include rural people whose rights are trampled upon for the benefit of “investors”. 

Let’s hope that Ndumbaro’s crazy irresponsible statement doesn’t lead to anything at all and is soon forgotten, but everyone who’s apparently asleep in Loliondo (I know that many people are still too afraid to do anything, but others do seem uninterested, or worse) should wake up, and everyone who can assist with the case in the East African Court of Justice must put this higher on their long list of priorities. 

 

I expect everyone to react against Ndumbaro’s reckless words! 

Summary about OBC and the Osero in Loliondo

A summary reminder of OBC dirty war to control 1,500 km2 of important grazing land, the Osero, in Loliondo is necessary to illustrate the danger of Ndumbaro’s statement. It’s been going on for years, sometimes erupting with massive human rights crime, and the local police state that finally silenced almost all activism continue in force. The current form of the threat is a proposal of annexation to Ngorongoro Conservation Area and converting most of the Osero into a no-go zone for people and livestock. There’s evidence that the new Ngorongoro DC has already visited Thomson Safaris, so with all certainty he has visited OBC as well.  

All land in Loliondo is village land per the 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, that organises hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, has the hunting block. Stan Katabalo – maybe Tanzania’s last investigative journalist – before passing away under suspect circumstances, reported about how this hunting block was acquired in the early 1990s in a corruption scandal remembered as Loliondogate. Sadly, few Tanzanians seem interested in knowing what has happened since then. 

In 2007-2008 the affected villages were threatened by the DC at the time, Jowika Kasunga, into signing a Memorandum of Understanding with OBC.

 In the drought year 2009 the Field Force Unit and OBC extrajudicially - ordered by the DC’s office after a decision at regional level - 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 grass 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 in its totality funded a draft district land use plan that proposed turning the 1,500 km2 Osero (bushland) 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 newspaper – 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 didn’t want the new GCA that would be a protected area, and rely on others, the same people they persecute, to stop it… With Lazaro Nyalandu as minister the focus was on holding closed meetings trying to buy off local leaders, and there was sadly some success in this. 

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 multiple 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, Manyerere 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 then 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, Maghembe, 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 2017 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, notably the formerly serious MP, but not all leaders stayed strangely and disappointingly silent. It was soon revealed that the illegal operation had been officially ordered by the DC. 

The DC and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism 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. 

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 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 2018. 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 November 2017 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” fortunately kept being delayed, even if it was mentioned in Kigwangalla’s budget speech on 21st May 2018. The only additional information that was shared was that the land, per Majaliwa’s plan, was to be put under the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. 

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.

Around 24th March 2018 a military camp was set up in Lopolun, near Wasso town, by the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (JWTZ). Some were from the start worried that the aim was to further intimidate those speaking up against the land alienation plans. 

An ambitious report about Loliondo and NCA, with massive media coverage (and some 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 in social media 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 the military camp set up in Olopolun 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, absolutely all, leaders and organisations stayed silent. Information was piecemeal, and after a couple of days many people were telling that bomas had been burned in areas of Kirtalo and Ololosokwan. 

Beatings and seizing of cattle continued in some areas, and on 21st December the soldiers descended upon Leken in Kirtalo and burned 13 bomas to the ground, while the silence continued. This was the lowest point in the Loliondo land struggle. 

It was later revealed that a visit by Mohammed VI of Morocco had been planned for the days before Christmas 2018, but that it was postponed. 

In January 2019 innocent people were again illegally arrested for the sole sake of intimidation, accused of having met this blogger in Olpusimoru, Kenya, when they were in Tanzania and I in Sweden. 

Then RC Gambo on a Ngorongoro visit spoke up about the burning of bomas, but in a very vague way, without even mentioning the soldiers. After this, leaders that had excused their silence with that the president must had ordered the attacks and the safety of their families would be in danger if speaking up, started saying that OBC’s Mollel had directly contracted the soldiers. 

On 15th January 2019, the president issued a somewhat promising statement against evictions of pastoralists and cultivators, but which was later shown not to have been referring to Loliondo or Ngorongoro in any way. 

In February 2019, OBC’s director Isaack Mollel was surprisingly, on the initiative of the RC, reluctance by the police, and order by Minister Lugola, arrested for employing foreign workers without permits, released on bail, and then caught by the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau, and on 4th March charged with economic crimes. Initially at least someone at PCCB showed some interest in dealing with the massive corruption among government officials in Loliondo working for OBC, since on 29th March, the former District Security Officer Issa Ng’itu was added to the charges accused of having received over ten million shillings and a Landcruiser Prado from Mollel. Preliminary hearings in the criminal cases against Mollel kept being postponed, while Ng’itu was silently released and promoted. In October 2019, Mollel’s lawyers announced that their client had written to the Director of Public Prosecution to confess and pay back the money. Mollel was released on 2nd October 2020, returned to his job, and OBC went back to business as usual. Guesses about the reason for Mollel’s infortune range from that Magufuli wanted to send a message to Kinana (and by extension Membe) who is close to OBC since the early 1990s, to Mollel’s clashes of egos with Kigwangalla and Gambo, or to that MP Olenasha would finally have got something in return for his horrible silence during extreme abuse. 

In September 2019, the Ngorongoro Chief Conservator Freddy Manongi announced a terrifying Multiple Land Use Model review report with a zoning proposal for Ngorongoro Conservation Area which included the annexation of the Lake Natron basin (including areas of Longido and Monduli districts) and of the 1,500 km2 Osero in Loliondo and Sale Divisions, proposing to designate most of the Osero to be a no-go zone for pastoralists and livestock. This would of course cater almost perfectly to OBC’s wishes. In NCA the zoning proposal is to squeeze people and livestock into small, already populated areas without water or saltlicks. 

There have been multiple protest statements against the basically genocidal MLUM review proposal. Two statements from all councillors of Ngorongoro District, but otherwise all statements, except some from Lake Natron, have been made by different groups from Ngorongoro division, while an ostrich strategy is practised in Loliondo. Different delegations from Ngorongoro have travelled to see Kigwangalla and later Ndumbaro, and the protests have led to promises from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism of doing the review afresh, in a “participatory manner”, but then the ministry has returned the same genocidal proposal. 

Reportedly, on 21st November 2019 a group of MPs (not the Ngorongoro MP) together with people with disabilities had made a “tourism study visit” to the OBC camp. Nobody seemed interested in finding out more about this and nothing more has been found out. 

The first days of March 2020, it was revealed that the military camp in Lopolun was being made permanent with funds from the NCAA. 

PM Majaliwa visited Loliondo during the 2020 election campaign and, assisted by MP Olenasha, said that the Loliondo land conflict had been solved after Majaliwa’s intervention! Instead of declaring the genocidal proposal scrapped, the PM talked about the very “participatory” process. The PM could possibly be genuinely ignorant, even if nobody believes so, but certainly not the MP. 

On election day, Salula Ngorisiolo was killed in Ngorongoro ward when police and rangers opened fire at those reacting against the shameless election theft that was going on all over the country, and specifically where an opposition win was feared. 

Sadly, there are now no less than three ward councillors employed by OBC, the company (or whatever) that befriend all district officials, turning Loliondo into a police state, funded the draft district land use plan proposing turning the 1,500 km2 Osero into a protected area to evict the Maasai landowners, and for whose benefit there have been several mass arson operations and such terrible violence. This includes OBC’s assistant director as the councillor for Ololosokwan that used to be at the forefront of the land rights struggle. 

In December 2020, Kigwangalla was replaced by Ndumbaro who from the start was engaging in anti-pastoralist talk, and then brought back an unethical hunting firm, earlier removed by Kigwangalla, to Lake Natron GCA. Though in April and May 2021 two delegations from Ngorongoro visited Ndumbaro who, like his predecessor, promised that the MLUM review would be done afresh and in a “participatory” manner. Then Manongi and the NCAA held a PR spectacle on parliamentary grounds and later brought parliamentarians to Ngorongoro for “domestic tourism”. 

On 4th June 2021, Ndumbaro held the 2021-2022 financial year budget speech for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, in which he mentioned that the NCAA was to construct three entrance gates (for collecting fees from visitors) to Loliondo Game Controlled Area (LGCA)! This budget speech was brought up with great concern and sadness in a statement by all Ngorongoro councillors on 27th June 2021. The councillors demanded that the ministry should immediately suspend the implementation of the recommendation by the MLUM team of annexing areas of Lake Natron and Loliondo. 

The case in the East African Court of Justice continues and is in its final stages. Despite of officially himself having ordered the illegal invasion of village land in 2017, and despite of being quoted about this in the statement from the ministry and in the OBC friendly press, in December 2018 now former DC Rashid Mfaume Taka swore an affidavit for the respondent (government side) in the case in the East African Court of Justice claiming that the 2017 operation would only have taken place inside Serengeti National Park! This wasn’t the respondent’s first lie. The initial response by the state attorney was more in line with the lies by Minister Maghembe during the illegal invasion talking about some “Wildlife Conservation Area” or “Game Reserve” that just doesn’t exist. The outrageous perjury is thoroughly proven as such by the respondents’ own documents, so there’s no way that this case can be lost, other than through pure carelessness, that I hope won’t be allowed by anyone. 

And, as mentioned above, on 5th August, Ndumbaro made a most irresponsible statement urging hunting companies to engage in more violent crimes or be removed from their hunting blocks. We can only hope it was loose talk that will be forgotten. Anyway, Ndumbaro must be stopped! 

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: Ndumbaro Makes a Criminally Clueless and Dangerous Statement Urging Hunting Investors to Commit More Crime Against Rural People (termitemoundview.blogspot.com)


9th August, 2021