Silence, Torture, Stupidity, Affidavits, and Soldiers in Loliondo
Posted on Sep 27, 2018
More from 'A View from the Termite Mound'
The bizarre case of mistaken identity and illegal arrests; Thomson Safaris back to violence (if they ever stopped), using soldiers; Reported arrests of OBC rangers, but details are scarce and confused; Attack by soldiers at orpul in Ololosokwan; The government’s affidavits....
Summary of osero and OBC developments of the past decades
Update 25/7: At last some good news! The East African Court of Justice has issued interim orders against both last years illegal operation on village land that led to arson, seizing of cattle, beatings and rape, and against the intimidation campaign launched in May this year to derail the case. The office of the Inspector General of Police is restrained from harassing or intimidating the applicants pending Reference No. 10 of 2017. Better late than never...
In memory of Yohana Saing’eu, many people’s father and legendary chairman of Ololosokwan for 33 years, who sadly passed away on 27th August 2018. In 2011, I saw the defender of the village in a street of Arusha, in the company of a lawyer, and on the way to Dar es Salaam after receiving a letter that demanded that the village certificate be handed in. In 2013, I saw the father sitting on a log in Mairowa with a small girl on his lap. Even if it doesn’t seem so right now, I believe that the legends of the future could be walking around in Loliondo.
This blog post is very delayed, not because there isn’t anything happening, but because multiple bad developments that nobody who hasn’t been silenced has exact information about are taking place.
The threat against the people that depend on 1,500 km2 of grazing land, and village land per Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 – since 1992 used as the core hunting area of Otterlo Business Corporation that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai – has never been worse, and at the same time, those whose duty it is to speak up have never been more silent. After illegal evictions with serious human rights crimes in 2009, OBC funded a draft District Land Use Plan that proposed turning the land into a “protected area”. This plan was strongly rejected by the Ngorongoro district council, but OBC kept lobbying the government, and different ministers of natural resources and tourism made efforts to please them. Fortunately, the Maasai of Loliondo, despite of Loliondo’s character of police state, were organized enough to avert such threats, until increased intimidation in 2016, with illegal arrests and malicious prosecution, started silencing many who used to take action. When in August 2017 an “unexpected” illegal operation erupted with mass arson, beatings, seizing of cattle, and rape, the silence of some leaders was simply shocking, but still others spoke up and four villages sued the government in the East African Court of Justice. Now, the government’s work to derail this court case has silenced apparently everyone who’s in a position to get hold of the exact details about what’s happening. The fear is well-founded, not only for the risk of ruined political (and other) careers, and deregistered organisations, but imprisonment and threats of violence to those active in the struggle, and their families. There will however not be anyone whosoever to vote for in 2020.
The bizarre case of mistaken identity and illegal arrests
I spent the night of Saturday 15th
September writing a blog post
about the strange case of a Belgian national (Ingrid De Graeve) who was illegally arrested, since some people eager to please "investors" in Loliondo thought that she was me. This Belgian woman attended the wedding of a teacher (Clinton) in Kirtalo on Tuesday 11th
September, accompanied by two Tanzanian friends according to some accounts, and reportedly left for Ngaresero the following day where she was arrested and returned to Loliondo.
On Friday 14th, a teacher (Supuk) was called to be questioned by the Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Division of Ngorongoro District. According to his own account (shared in social media on Saturday night 15th), the teacher had received the Belgian wedding guest upon her arrival in Wasso on Tuesday 11th and took her to the Immigration office so that her visit would run smoothly, even if the guest appears (not sure) to have been a Tanzanian resident. On Tuesday evening (11th) when leaving the wedding, the teacher got a text message saying that I would have been sighted in Wasso and the police was looking for me, which he of course had to disregard for its absurdity, but on Wednesday night he got a phone call saying that I would have been arrested at Ngaresero, and the teacher knew that the Belgian wedding guest had left for Ngaresero in the morning.
While waiting to be questioned on Friday 14th, the teacher was told to phone the groom (who also is a teacher) and direct him to come as well. After three hours the teacher was questioned by the Ngorongoro Security Committee, and told them what he knew about the Belgian wedding guest under arrest. The groom arrived and was questioned around 6pm. Thereafter, he was arrested, and on Saturday morning, 15thSeptember, taken to Arusha, together with his wedding guest, and probably the two people accompanying her.
I started suspecting that something wasn’t right when I on Friday morning (14th) got an email from the journalist, Manyerere Jackton, who specializes in defamation and incitement against the Maasai of Loliondo – but nobody I asked had heard anything at all. The “journalist” was greeting me and asking if I was in Loliondo, before getting into the usual one-liner insults. Later the same day I was contacted by people saying that some individuals close to OBC were commenting that I had been arrested after crossing the border in Ngaresero, in the vehicle of an NGO! And I was sitting at home in Sweden… In the evening Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition had just been informed and sent out a news brief saying that the three wedding guests would have been arrested at the ceremony and the groom later in the evening. Even if I sadly hadn’t been invited (which would have been risk-free since I obviously wouldn’t have been able to attend anyway), I knew that the wedding was on Tuesday 11th, and was upset about the delayed action. THRDC said that they were making close follow up to know the truth of the incident, the reasons for the arrest, and the police station in which the guests and the groom were currently detained. I shared THRDC’s news alert looking for more exact information, but nobody knew anything. The only thing I heard was that the grapevine indeed was saying that the arrested Belgian wedding guest was I…
On Saturday 15th some people knew that those illegally arrested had been taken to Arusha, but that nothing would happen until Monday. It seemed like the only reason for the arrests was that the wedding guest was accused of being me, but nobody gave me any direction as to what I could do about that. I took a photo under an apple tree, with my passport, and my laptop showing the date, to prove that I was in Sweden, sent it to some people, and posted it where I was certain that those behind the arrest would see it. On Saturday night a first-hand witness, the teacher who had received the Belgian wedding guest in Wasso, and who was questioned by the security committee, finally wrote a brief report, and I spent the night writing a blog post.
Lawyers sent by THRDC were at the police station on Monday 17th, and in the evening those illegally arrested were released without charges. Reportedly, fingerprints would have proven the wedding guest to be innocent of the “crime” of being me. If the law had been of any consideration, they would instead have been granted bail, or taken to court after 24 hours.
On Tuesday 18th, the Jamhuri newspaper published the usual kind of delirious and defamatory article in which Manyerere Jackton claimed that the Belgian wedding guest had been arrested for “espionage” since she would have collected information for the international press to stir up conflict in Loliondo. She would have been arrested in Ngaresero while fleeing from the police. Though most of the article consisted of the “journalist’s” usual fantasies about me. All I’ve heard about the wedding guest is that she’s a nurse working or volunteering at an orphanage in Arusha. I had hardly heard her name, and we’ve never had any communication, before or after the arrest.
On Thursday 20th
there was a soberer article
in the Guardian (Tanzanian English language newspaper). Arusha regional police commander, Ramadhani Ng'anzi, admitted that it was a case of mistaken identity, but claimed that the police and Immigration when they received a “tip-off” had a duty to act swiftly and decisively. Though they do obviously NOT have a duty to uphold the Loliondo police state for the “investors”. Quite the contrary! And, they know very well that the “investor friends” with their tip-offs don’t have any credibility whatsoever. Ng’anzi also claimed that there was a “striking similarity” between the wedding guest and me, but I’ve googled her and that’s not true, except that we are both white and middle aged. It’s also a fact that the police and Immigration have my phone number, or can easily get hold of it if they’ve lost it, and many of the very unpleasant “investor friends” see me almost daily in social media…
Don’t forget, being me is not a legitimate reason for arrest since, per article 18 of the constitution of Tanzania:
Every person has a freedom of opinion and expression of his ideas; has a right to seek, receive and, or disseminate information regardless of national boundaries; has the freedom to communicate and a freedom with protection from interference from his communication; and 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.
Though it would be vain to think that I’m targeted for speaking truth to power, especially when it doesn’t even seem like my blog is read by those at the service of “investors”. I’m just used as an image of a dangerous foreigner that innocent people can be accused of being in contact with (or now also of just being), when some feel like increasing the terror, even further.
I’m sorry if I’ve been too critical of the slow action. I do know about the terror.
Thomson Safaris back to violence (if they ever stopped)
that occupy 12,617 acres of Maasai grazing land between the villages of Sukenya and Mondorosi as their private “Enashiva Nature Reserve”, while they with ruthless hypocrisy claim to be creating a model for community-based tourism - are reportedly back to using violence against herders. On 19th July – and I wasn’t told until 9th September… - soldiers came to the home of a man in Embaash sub-village Sukenya and tortured him badly. He was handed the required PF3 form (needed by victims of crimes so that they can get hospital treatment) by the police. The police then phoned Thomson local manager, Daniel Yamat. Shortly afterwards, on 20th
July, the soldiers detained and tortured three more men – from Embaash and Sukenya Juu sub-villages. Some needed lengthy hospital treatment.
I’ve got the names and more details about the victims, but due to communication problems I’m not yet sure what I can write. I know some of the names as victims of Thomson Safaris from years back, and they are people that Thomson, according to my sources, accuse of inciting others to graze their animals on the land occupied by this safari company.
All I knew was that Thomson stopped harassing herders when being so requested by their friend the DC in 2014, after Olunjai Timan had been shot by a policeman working for the safari company, which led to big protests. The request was for while the court case was ongoing, and – as far as I know – it’s still in the court of appeal. Though Thomson may well have been emboldened by the current massive silence and terror in Loliondo, and by, after years of resistance, being welcomed with their charitable projects into Mondorosi village by the chairman, Joshua Makko, who himself has been a victim of illegal arrests and other harassment. Though now I’ve been informed by credible sources from Sukenya that Thomson are back to harassing herders already since well over a year, or two… More difficult to understand for some is how the soldiers stationed at Lopolun since March this year now seem to assist in any kind of brutality and abuse in Loliondo. Some people can’t believe it and say that it must be other people dressed up in army uniforms, which seems far-fetched indeed. Thomson would of course hire soldiers if available and it suits them, since they have been hiring the local police to act as their brutal security guards, as admitted by Rick Thomson himself, and known by everyone.
Sources from Sukenya say that Joshua Makko (I do hope that’s correct), and most people from Mondorosi are still firmly opposing Thomson, and so are the two Sukenya sub-villages that are affected by the land grab, Sukenya Juu and Embaash, while Orangai and Oloikoboi (that I used to call Sukenya Chini) are on friendly terms with the safari company, and not much dependent on the grabbed land. Herders have always – through the years and through different levels of harassment – kept entering the “nature refuge”, since they don’t recognise Thomson’s claim to ownership.
I’m very much grateful for any information about Thomson Safaris, since it’s been impossible to obtain for years now. Even the local NGO that used to be of great help to the affected villagers, has been silent as the grave since the illegal arrests and malicious prosecution in 2016 – or before really - after years of threats and defamation.
June I posted a blog post
summarizing the sad story about Thomson Safaris. It needs some updates.
Reported arrests of OBC rangers, but details are scarce and confused…
On 12th August, in a press statement by Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, read by Onesmo Olengurumwa, about increased arrests of journalists and harassment of human rights defenders in Tanzania, there was also some words about positive police work. Surprisingly, the positive story was from Loliondo where the police would have arrested and was investigating some OBC staff that had physically assaulted and humiliated people for no reason. This is sensational and unprecedented news indeed, which was also stressed in the press release, since the police has always been totally at the service of the investors, as I could experience myself when kidnapped (the correct word as I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone) for two nights at Loliondo police station (and one more in Arusha) in 2015, and as so many people, victims of much worse crimes, and longer illegal arrests, committed by the police can tell – but it’s been very difficult to obtain the exact details and the only additional information from THRDC was that it happened in mid-July, and that village leaders – from whom the information seems to have come - know everything. All village leaders have been effectively silenced though, and so has basically everyone else. People are more terrified than ever.
There’s a lot of confusion about what happened, and I’ve heard many versions. Though what most people seem to have heard is that OBC rangers committed armed robbery against some businessmen. The rangers were arrested by the local police, and then their case was transferred to regional level in Arusha, where it reportedly was dismissed. I will have to keep trying to get the exact story. Help is much appreciated.
Attack by soldiers at orpul in Ololosokwan
One attack by soldiers that seems confirmed (I’ve heard from several people who’ve been in contact with the victims) took place on 27th August at Kilamben, near Enalubo in Ololosokwan village, far from Serengeti National Park. Six men, among them the former councillor Kundai, were eating meat in the bush (orpul) when some fifteen soldiers arrived to torture them and interrogate them about guns, Kenyans, and cattle encroaching on protected areas, while their comrades were beaten. Kundai was so badly injured that he had to attend hospital, and so were others. This attack wasn’t a coincidence, but the soldiers reportedly came looking for John Parmwat who lives part time in the USA, is very rich, with many cows, and who would have been at the orpul if it weren’t for the passing of Mzee Saing’eu. As said, it’s not known why the soldiers are so violent, or who is ordering them. The Tanzania People's Defence Force (JWTZ) military camp has been in Olopolun since around 24th March this year, so the soldiers are relative newcomers to abuse in Loliondo.
One source told me that the soldiers wanted John Parmwat and the OBC employee William Parmwat, to come to their camp. William Parmwat was reportedly targeted at the attack on 29th June as well when a herder working for him was beaten. It’s not known why he isn’t protected by working for OBC, even if he apparently got help from the DC last time. Though another source, who also would have been at the orpul if it weren’t for the funeral arrangements, says he hasn’t heard that the soldiers were looking for William Parmwat.
Then surfaced information that leading up to the attack at the orpul, on 24th August two herders, Oloiborr Kiok Shungurr and Oitosi Ngaiserri, were beaten by OBC rangers in the same Kilamben area, and on the 25th the OBC rangers burned grass around the orpul camp. This suggests that OBC and the army soldiers are somehow working together, which makes targeting William Parmwat, if that’s indeed what’s being done, even harder to understand.
The government’s affidavits
More details have emerged about the government´s efforts to derail the case in the East African Court of Justice, filed by the villages of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo, Oloirien and Arash, after the illegal mass arson operation in 2017, to stop the land alienation plans. There are several affidavits (these are public documents available to anyone) sworn by different people on 20th June 2018 to assist the government in this endeavour.
A park warden called Julius Francis Musei, has been used to swear the most obviously misleading affidavit. He says that villagers had repeatedly invaded and lived in the national park, some 20 km inside, which had a devastating impact on flora and fauna. The DC gave them a notice to vacate, which they did not heed. In “September” 2017 an operation was launched to evict them and return them to their respective villages. The government built the Nyabogati Ranger Post and now there are no trespassers or evictions. This means that this person is being used to pretend that he has never heard that the DC’s notice talked about a closely bordering area (village land), that the DC in the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism’s statement from 17th August 2017 mentioned that the illegal operation was taking place up to 5 km inside village land, and that TANAPA’s own map shows that most bomas were burned on village land. Musei’s colleagues, and maybe he himself, participated in the mass arson, beatings, cattle seizing, and he must also know about the rapes. The documentation by the perpetrators themselves couldn’t be clearer. Musei must either be an extremely ignorant or an extremely shameless individual. As far as I know, the Nyabogati area is in the middle if Serengeti National Park, not far from Seronera, and on the way to Ikoma, west of the park, where the German ambassador handed over staff buildings to minister Maghembe last year, while massive human rights crimes were taking place in Loliondo. I’m not sure if that’s what’s called Nyabogati ranger post. Nyabogati is also a river.
The village executive officers (VEO) of Oloirien and Kirtalo (Leni Emil Saingo and Kayamba Burhani Luena) and the acting VEO of Ololosokwan (Godfrey K. Augustino) have also assisted the government side with affidavits. These government employees say that they were in their villages the respective days in August 2017 when there were village assembly meetings authorizing suing the government, but that they didn’t know anything about the meetings, and didn’t assist. They also claim forgery of stamps and signatures. The VEOs say that they were informed about the meetings - which they hadn’t convened or organized – by the District Executive Director (DED) – and that they in November 2017 wrote letters to this DED complaining about forgery. On 22nd May 2018 the VEOs were summoned by the Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Division (OCCID) and handed over the rubber stamps for examination. While some may be more reasonable at a personal level, having a government employee like a VEO at a meeting authorizing suing the government is very problematic indeed. The role played by government employees in the Loliondo police state, since many years back, and not only with the increased repression these past few years, is to pick up the phone to call the DC whenever someone questions the land grabbing “investors”. It was what the Soitsambu WEO Amati did in 2010 when I asked him if what Thomson Safaris were writing on their website was true. He phoned the DC, I was taken to the security committee, my passport confiscated, and I had to leave the country. Anyone who has visited Loliondo and talked about anything more than frivolous issues know about this fact. However, I’ve been informed that the validity of village assembly meetings does not depend on the presence of VEOs, but on quorum.
I have earlier written that the Officer Commanding District – whose name nobody could give me, saying that there was only an “acting” OCD - was leading the intimidation campaign to derail the case. This was not correct, since it was the Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Division (OCCID) of Ngorongroro District who was heading the intimidation drive. The name of this individual is Marwa W. Mwita and he has sworn an affidavit saying that he on 22nd May 2018 at 13:00 hrs received complaints from legal officer Charles Marik Maganga about forgery committed in the village assembly meeting minutes nine months earlier, and that he immediately began investigations by opening a file for preliminary inquiry. The same day, 22nd May, he questioned the VEOs of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo and Oloirien, which seems very speedy indeed for a place with the geographic conditions of Loliondo and where serious crime like mass arson, beatings and rape are ignored, or rather the police collaborate in the illegal operations where these crimes are committed.
Mwita adds that he on 25th May 2018 summoned villagers that participated in the “purported” village assembly meetings that in August 2017 authorized suing the government. He says that some “confessed” – which is a very revealing choice of words - and others denied having participated.
On 1st June, he questioned villagers in Arash “in regards to an unlawful meeting held without informing the organs responsible for safety and security” (as described in a letter to the Regional Crimes Officer). The village chairman “admitted” that that he prepared the minutes after the meeting, and signed as chairman in the space of the VEO who wasn’t present.
Mwita suspects forgery, impersonation, and unlawful assembly, and he claims that all suspects were granted bail pending investigation, and that none was detained. He then submitted the file to the Regional Crimes Officer in Arusha, forwarded samples to the forensic bureau, and to the Director of Public Prosecutions for his consent to prosecute.
When writing to the Regional Crimes Officer in Arusha, Mwita describes the illegal operation as carried out to evict some residents in the Game Controlled Area “within” Loliondo Division (elsewhere in the affidavits the pretence is that it was about Serengeti National Park). Further, there isn’t any GCA “within” Loliondo division, since the Loliondo GCA is bigger than the whole of Loliondo division.
Another affidavit is by an agricultural offer called Victor Kaiza who acted as District Executive Director when Raphael Siumbu suffered a mild stroke on the way to attend court in Arusha on 5th May. In this affidavit Kaiza summarizes the other affidavits and claims to be “aware” of everything, which is highly questionable indeed.
Remember that the villagers’ lead council Advocate Donald Deya wrote a letter to the Principal Judge, East African Court of Justice, informing that he, since 18th May 2018, had received numerous complaints from leaders and community members of the four villages, about being severely harassed and intimidated by the “OCD” (OCCID) and several police officers working under him. Their authority to sue the government was questioned, and they were interrogated about who, within and outside Tanzania, was supporting them. The police demanded that the applicants withdraw the case and that signatories to the minutes of village meetings that authorized the litigation withdraw their signatures, or state that they did not sign the said minutes. Several individuals from the applicant villages received multiple formal and informal summons to present themselves to the police. They were detained and interrogated in threatening and intimidating circumstances, some overnight or for multiple days, while some were still detained at the time of writing the letter. Some village people had, out of fear, conceded to the police that they had withdrawn their support and/or authorization for the litigation.
Donald Deya added that in the above circumstances, the measures and actions by the OCCID and police officers working under him were unlawful and violated the rights of the leaders and members of the applicant villages, and that they were overtly calculated to interfere with the court case, and especially the hearing on 7th June, defeating the ends of justice.
On 31st May advocate Donald Deya sought an urgent interim order from the court to direct the Inspector General of Police and officers subordinate to him to cease and desist from harassing, intimidating or otherwise approaching or engaging the applicants in the case, and to summon the officer in charge of the operation to present himself in Court on the hearing of 7th June 2018, to explain the measures and actions that he and his officers had taken.
The chairmen of Ololosokwan, Kirtalo and Arash were effectively prevented from attending the court hearing on 7thJune, since they had to present themselves at Loliondo police station on the 8th. At the same time, many people were arrested accused of various crimes related to possession of illegal firearms and poaching. Reportedly, even the Regional Commissioner on his visit to Loliondo said 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 chairman of Oloirien, Nekitio Ledidi, together with another man called Salau Makoi, were illegally arrested for 25 days, then taken to court and granted bail on 1st June. The two men were re-arrested, and bail applied for the same day. When summoned to Loliondo police station on 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”, and the chairman was being threatened to withdraw the case in the EACJ - while everyone in Loliondo stayed silent! On 20th June a habeas corpus was filed by advocate Jebra Kambole 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 26thJune, 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. I have no way of knowing if the charges are fabricated, or not, but even if they aren’t, they have obviously been “saved” for years to be used when suitable. The case is unbailable at the district court, but bail has been applied for at the High Court of Tanzania. As far as I know, the two men are still imprisoned in Mugumu.
It’s been said that what triggered this intimidation wave that finally silenced practically everyone who has ever dared to speak up against the atrocities committed against the Maasai of Loliondo, was an ambitious report with massive media coverage (and unfortunately some mistakes that aren’t being corrected), by the Oakland Institute, released on 10th May, without anchoring it with Loliondo activists, but that’s appreciated by most people concerned, who should have used the media attention to get out their message...
A ruling on Application No.15 of 2017 (interim measures, including the urgent letter concerning the abuse committed to derail the case) is, at last ..., scheduled for a ruling in the East African Court of Justice on Tuesday 25th September.
While Loliondo activists are silent, international articles about Loliondo keep popping up, based on the Oakland report, and often containing substantial misunderstandings. One such article that’s been widely shared was published by Lifegate on 9th August and it’s absolutely peppered with mistakes that I fear others will copy and paste, like has earlier been done, even by serious organisations. Some think that what’s important is the message that the problem is the investors and the government, and that I shouldn’t correct friendly journalists. They may be right, since whatever I say, and I’ve been in contact this time too, corrections are never made by journalists, or report writers. This article claims that Maasai people have been ordered to leave the “Serengeti Park” for it to be turned into a hunting ground. It does however later mention the “outskirts”. It says that the area has been their homeland for “thousands of years” when the Maasai have been in Loliondo for a couple of centuries. A picture of a burning Sengwer house in Kenya is captioned as a burning Maasai boma, when there are authentic pictures available from last years illegal operation. Another picture of a Maasai man being arrested by Kenyan police is captioned as from Loliondo. More seriously, the article claims that the Tanzanian regime would have completely prohibited farming and herding in the 1,500 km2 – when this land is most definitely still village land. Kigwangalla’s latest words about Loliondo are quoted, without mentioning his spectacular U-turn. Thomson Safaris are presented as a hunting firm, which they aren’t, and the information about them is outdated, but so it was in the Oakland report. The article makes it seem like the Maasai can’t return to their villages, when the illegal operation was stopped on 26thOctober 2017. As far as I know, the Lifegate journalist wasn’t in contact with anyone from Loliondo, and not even with the Oakland Institute. I wish that everyone who wants to write about Loliondo could get in contact with me.
According to the latest Jamhuri article (sad to be considering the “information” from such sources…) a report or article is on its way, and it will dirty the names of the investors in Loliondo, and of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. It’s supposed to have been written by several people in cooperation with NGOs, and is being edited by a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam. It’s also supposed to be sponsored by an NGO that used to be active opposing the Mto wa Mbu-Makutano road, and by me! I don’t know if this is based on any kind of truth, or a lie from start to finish. What I do know is that I don’t sponsor things, and that I haven’t heard one word about such a report. Such an NGO seems improbable as well, but if anything is on the way (it sounds too good to be true, if the silenced former activists would have anything lined up) I really wish that I could be allowed to have a look at it. Years ago, around 2013, PINGOs used to produce very serious and factual press statements and other material, but then things went downhill with the lowest point at a certain resolution by an international organisation that basically didn’t get anything at all right.
let’s hope that the East African Court of Justice on 25thSeptember rules in favour of interim measures to be taken against the intimidation campaign in Loliondo… A ruling on Application No.15 of 2017 is finally scheduled. This application was filed in September 2017 when the illegal operation was still ongoing, but after the government side’s (AG) preliminary objections, the villagers’ advocate argued everything, including the urgent letter filed in court on 1stJune 2018. So, it’s expected that the ruling will cover all these.
The dry season is at its height, but far from the catastrophic version of the horrible drought year 2017. Depending on their location, some people say that there’s still some grass. Now there just must be good rains, the fear washed away, and the Maasai left in peace by government and bad investors.
Summary of developments of the past decades
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”, 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
An ambitious report about Loliondo and NCA, with massive media coverage (and some unnecessary 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 denying the existence of people in Loliondo GCA.
Currently there’s an intimidation campaign against the applicants in the case in the East African Court of Justice, and silence is worse than ever.