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Pastoralists into New Round of Negotiations with those who Want to Wipe them off the Map of Ngorongoro

This blog has been too silent. I’m very sad and tired, and in Loliondo, and Ngorongoro district as a whole, people have been busy discussing Covid-19, or “politics” (possible candidates, and I’m not innocent in this regard, even if my main interest is in who will best defend the land), while the biggest threat ever looms over everyone’s head – the insane Multiple Land Use Model report of last year. This threat has again been spoken about, and there’s a new attempt to, from the inside, stop planned atrocities.

The genocidal report

On 22nd September 2019, what can’t be described in any other way than as a plan to kill pastoralism and Maasai culture and life in the whole of Ngorongoro district was presented at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) headquarters. Attending were the Ngorongoro Chief Conservator, Freddy Manongi, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Hamisi Kigwangalla, the Ngorongoro MP William Olenasha, NCAA staff, the District Chairman, the District Executive Director, the district CCM leadership, and members of the Pastoral Council that represent the indigenous residents in the NCAA. A couple of days later Manongi was boasting about this plan in the press -  where it was also presented as marking the occasion of World Tourism Day and of 60 years of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority – and some leaders, especially in Loliondo, claimed that only then did they hear about it.

The report  - The Multiple Land Use Model of Ngorongoro Conservation Area: Achievements and Lessons Learnt, Challenges and Options for the Future – was finalized after 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) once again visited Ngorongoro in March 2019, and in their report reminded that they wanted the Multiple Land Use Model 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 the UNESCO have in the past repeatedly led to a worsened human rights situation.

The proposal of the MLUM report is to divide Ngorongoro into zones, with an extensive “core conservation zone” that’s to be a no-go zone for livestock and herders, and this includes the Ngorongoro Highland Forest with the three craters Ngorongoro, Olmoti and Empakai where grazing these past few years has already been banned, not through law, but through order - which is what can happen to those living under the yoke of the NCAA, while having weak (or worse) leaders. This has led to a loss of 90% of grazing and water for Nainokanoka, Ngorongoro, Misigiyo wards, and a 100% loss of natural salt licks for livestock in these wards. The proposal is to do the same with Oldupai Gorge, Laitoli footprints, and the Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek basin. Further, the proposal is to annex to the NCAA the 1,500 km2 osero in Loliondo - important dry season grazing, the loss of which would have disastrous knock-on effects, but that for years have been lobbied for by OBC that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, and successfully resisted by the Maasai - and turn most of it into a no-go-zone, but allowing hunting, and to do the same with the Lake Natron area. The reason for including Loliondo and Lake Natron is in the report explained as an estimated 30% loss of tourism revenue when the upgrading of the Mto-wa-Mbu - Loliondo road has been finished and tourists will use that route to Serengeti. Though any move to annex the 1,500 km2 osero would be contempt of court, since there’s an ongoing case in the East African Court of Justice, where the Tanzanian government finds itself sued for its violent attempts at alienating this land.

The proposed resettlement areas are small and already populated, and the areas in Ngoile and Olbalbal are semi-deserts lacking water or grazing. People are to be removed from the wards of Nainokanoka, Nayobi, Ngorongoro, and Misigyo, while the wards with “human settlement zones” will have their grazing and water areas turned into no-go-zones, like Endulen where 80 % of grazing and water is found in Ndutu. 

To the RAI, Manongi further said that he expected a lot of noise from human rights defenders, but that people would be educated about the benefits of conservation for all, and mentioning the supposed destructiveness of the Maasai pastoralist together with climate change as the reason for the plans. I’m still waiting for that much needed noise, but which can’t really be expected if Maasai leaders themselves don’t speak up. As usual, Manongi also boasted about the Ngorongoro success story with its huge revenue from tourism, apparently without seeing any link between climate change and this world order in which some consume both fossil fuel and the lands of those with much smaller carbon footprints.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

When the Maasai were evicted from Serengeti in 1959 by the colonial government, as a compromise deal, they were guaranteed the right to continue occupying 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, while the human rights situation has deteriorated, which was worsened by the designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1975, the Maasai living inside Ngorongoro Crater were violently evicted, and the same year cultivation was prohibited in NCA. This ban was lifted in 1992, but re-introduced in 2009 after threats from the UNESCO. The people of NCA are living under the colonial-style rule of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), 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 are suffering from high levels of child malnutrition. They have regularly through the years been shaken by rumours of eviction.

Some slow and timid reaction

Soon after the news about the dangerous plan, many meetings were being held in NCA, but leaders showed passivity, discouraging people and telling them to wait, which led some to despair. Fearing state repression, some saw it as preferable that international organizations should speak up, but this was only done by the Oakland Institute. On 5th October 2019, the Pastoral Council, PC, that’s viewed as corrupt and compromised, held a meeting in Karatu for leaders and educated “elites”, but not allowing anyone from Loliondo to attend. Then, on 7th October the PC issued a press statement against evictions, but that otherwise was strangely weak and compromised, and misrepresenting Loliondo. On 29th October district chairman Siloma read a statement by the ward councillors of Ngorongoro district, and it was even weaker. There was nothing more than a request that, to avoid conflict in the district, the MLUM team must consult with the Ngorongoro councillors before making such a proposal.

Already at the presentation of the report on 22nd September 2019, there were complaints that the view of the Ngorongoro residents weren’t represented in any way in the report, and this prompted Kigwangalla – who otherwise was lecturing people in his ignorant manner, defending the report - to order the Multiple Land-Use Model team to within 21 days return to NCA, meet with residents of all wards, and then inform him about their findings. This was done, three “community representatives” were added to the MLUM team, the NCA wards were again toured, and the villagers’ unsurprisingly vehement rejection of any evictions could again be observed. Though the team did not collect the views of people in the areas of Loliondo and Lake Natron that are wanted for annexation. The new version of the report was finished on 30th or 31st October 2019, and was supposed to be shared, which never happened. Apparently the “community representatives” panicked when they were sidelined, and the report, that was sent to Kigwangalla, was said to be just as bad as the old one.

Around 21st November the chairman of the Pastoral Council, Edward Maura, was touring Olbalbal ward together with NCA chief conservator Manongi, the main promoter of the basically genocidal proposal, promising development projects. Thereafter Manongi has been touring development projects funded by NCAA all over the district. Apparently at a regional CCM meeting there were assurances that there was no way that the ruling party would support the proposal for evictions. Some suspected that the intention was to bring people to despair and then present the president and other leaders as saviours when declaring that the plan has been stopped, but there haven’t been any public statements of any kind. Some planned to bypass the compromised PC and visit the president on their own. I don’t know if this was done. 

MOU about the Pastoral Council

Meanwhile, a MOU has been signed between the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council (PC), the District Council, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), after pressure by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and others, for funds to bypass the PC to instead go to the District Council, and for PC employees to be directly employed by the Ngorongoro Conservation Areas Authority. The reason for this is the widespread mismanagement of funds and corruption among the PC representatives, but at the same time it will increase the power of the person who’s corrupting them and others, left, right, and centre – chief conservator Manongi … Nobody knows why the PC members signed this MOU.

Open letter to the president

An open letter has been written by some concerned people of NCA – Thadeus Clamian, Joseph Oleshangay, Tubulu Nebasi, Denis Shangay, and Nengai Peter – to President Magufuli – and strangely published in the misinformation and slander paper, the Tanzanite, on 18th April, after having been sent to another paper. The letter alerts the president about:

1. The mismanagement of the PC funds and protection of the real criminals

2. The Multiple Land Use Model threat based on biased and false evidence, and its possible human rights violations consequences

3. The NCAA pressure on private tourism investors not to employ Maasai residing in Ngorongoro Conservation Area and for existing employees to be relocated outside the NCAA. An act of blatant ethnic discrimination with the constant aim of linking all tourism revenue to depopulation.

4. Non-participatory policy and laws promulgation.

Press statement

In March I started hearing about a letter “from the government” announcing that the genocidal MLUM proposal is to be implemented, but I haven’t heard from anyone who has actually seen this letter. Some say only the MP, PC chairman, and the councillor of Endulen are in possession of it, while others say that it’s been seen by many people. I can however not get in contact with any of those people. I’m not sure if there was such a letter. 

Then the Pastoral Council, traditional leaders, and village and ward leaders from Ngorongoro Conservation Area went to Arusha to hold a press conference on 14th April. They called upon the president and the prime minister to intervene against the abuse committed by the MLUM team, or committee, or commission, together with chief conservator Manongi, that have proposed measures to remove over 15 villages and turn the Maasai into refugees in their own country. Their recommendations were:

-To dissolve the MLUM team as soon as possible, and if further evaluation is needed, form a participatory committee, including the local residents from start to finish.

-The committee should be funded by the central government and not by the chief conservator who uses money to impose his views.

-Information from six ministers who have visited Ngorongoro should be taken into account, together with recommendations submitted to Minister Kigwangalla by Ngorongoro residents, as well as recommendations presented to CCM secretary-general Bashiru Ally by traditional leaders late last year.

-To throw away views and recommendations by the MNRT’s select committee, since they went way too far catering to the wishes of conservationists, even including areas that weren’t in the terms of reference, like Loliondo and Lake Natron.

To ITV the chairman of the NCAA board, Kaswamila, said that the report has been sent to the Ministry and is to be further discussed, and that no decisions have been taken, while chief conservator Manongi said that every process was carried out in a participatory way, that there isn’t anything new, and if they have inquiries, they should direct them to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Visit to Kigwangalla and feedback meeting

On 23rd April Kigwangalla – maybe after having been frightened by the open letter to the president - summoned a collection of leaders from Ngorongoro to Dodoma, ranging from the dangerous, like the DC, DED, and Manongi, to the MP, some councilllors and the more or less questionable “community representatives” in the MLUM commission. The minister was informed that the commission was extremely biased against the indigenous pastoralists. Could he really have missed that? There were complaints of lack of transparency and that the “community representatives” had been sidelined.  Kigwangalla’s decision was to give the pastoralists a chance to appoint four new representatives, and that the Ngorongoro residents should compose their own ideal proposal, submit it to the committee, and send him a copy. It wasn’t clear if the report work will start afresh, or be amended.

On 26th April, a feedback meeting was held in Mokilal in Ngorongoro, attended by various leaders from the 11 wards in NCA. At this meeting MP Olenasha was booed, while former MP Telele – who used to speak up before he was corrupted in 2013 …  - was cheered, and so was the more or less confirmed MP candidate Nagol, who unfortunately was too afraid to continue as an expert witness against the government in the Loliondo case in the East African Court of Justice … Many attendants wanted to cut all engagement with the MLUM commission but finally the MP side managed to impose their view that the offer of appointing four community representatives should be taken, but that it this time should be accompanied by public pressure. Though there was strong disagreement on who should be appointed and how. Sadly, some may have switched loyalties after having received government letters of appointment.

Other demands by the community – represented by three spokespersons from each ward – if the MLUM talks are to continue, was that Manongi must be dismissed as Ngorongoro chief conservator, Kigwangalla must appoint other commission members from the government side, not those from Runyoro’s team, and that there can’t be annexation of areas outside NCA. Then the only thing that’s been heard is that the not yet official appointment of MLUM representatives is very “political” and that the MP and PC chairman have presented the MP’s own choice directly to the NCAA and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

So apparently there will be another round of negotiation with those who very literally want to wipe the Maasai - and the Barabaig - off the map of Ngorongoro, and off extensive neighbouring areas.

Susanna Nordlund -  10th May 2020