The Brutal and Illegal Land Demarcation Operation in Contempt of Court Continues in Loliondo.
Posted on Jun 22, 2022
It Must be Stopped and the Beacons Uprooted!
With total lawlessness, massive deployment of security forces, senseless violence and shameless lies, the Tanzanian government continues planting beacons* in contempt of court to demarcate and alienate from the Maasai the 1,500 km2 of vitally important grazing land that it – lobbied by OBC that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai - has attempted to steal so many times. This operation started less than two weeks before the East African Court of Justice is expected to deliver its ruling on 22nd June. Many people have been injured, are missing or arrested, including local leaders who were lured by the DC and arrested the first day, kept incommunicado, and now charged with "murder" (for self defence exercised while they were locked up) together with ten others. This crime must be stopped, and the illegal beacons must be uprooted! The ruling was the day before the scheduled date postponed to September!
NEVER, through decades of land rights struggle and an increasingly threatening government side, has any village council or village assembly agreed to a Game Reserve under any kind of name. Not even the most corrupt and “investor friendly” groupings (not that they’d have any such authority) have ever signed away the land for a Game Reserve. Losing 1,500 km2 of vitally important grazing land would lead to such destruction that it just isn’t anything anyone can contemplate. The community reports handed over to PM Majaliwa on 25th May, though over-ambitious considering the time frame, did certainly not agree to any Game Reserve. The PM was going to “work on the recommendations”, but instead the government went to war against the Maasai. A pattern can be seen in the PM’s behaviour.
What makes this attack worse than any other is that beacons are being planted, and that local leaders, unlike in the past, don’t get any support from the ruling CCM party, which has turned into an anti-Maasai monolith. Opposition parties support the Maasai, but there's a one-party parliament. The whole country has copied the Loliondo Police State, every government supporter has – to some extent – learnt the old narrative about “Kenyans” and NGOs, breeding grounds and water sources. On the other hand, most thinking Tanzanians now understand what’s going on. Some have been very supportive since early this year, with Maria Sarungi Tsehai at the forefront.
Protest statements from international organisations are so many that I can’t keep up and haven’t had the time to analyse the level of support (“form a commission and sit down at the same table”, isn’t that supportive), but the Oakland Institute and Survival International have distinguished themselves for their speed and Survival for going to the roots by rattling Frankfurt Zoological Society. The much-maligned Kenyan Maasai have shown solidarity by treating wounds and feeding those who are fleeing across the border (they are many). They organize protests in different ways, showing love while bickering with each other.
In her budget speech on 3rd June, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Pindi Chana, announced that her ministry expects to “upgrade” Loliondo Game Controlled Areas to a Game Reserve. She never mentioned the 1,500 km2 area (at least not in the written version), and the only Loliondo GCA that has ever existed is the 4,000 km2 - the whole of Loliondo Division and part of Sale Division (Piyaya and Malambo wards) - since Wildlife Conservation Act 2009 defunct, Loliondo GCA that in its totality overlapped with village land and didn’t restrict local people’s land use in any way. It delineated the hunting block, and that’s the only thing it continues to do. Further, Chana didn’t put any stress on Loliondo, but mentioned it in a long list of other (defunct) GCAs to be turned into Game Reserves, which would mean that the whole northern zone from Serengeti to Kilimanjaro, and many other areas. The whole of Longido District would become a Game Reserve. This just couldn’t be taken seriously. Except for the Ngorongoro MP Emmanuel Oleshangai, this blogger, and some people in social media, there wasn’t any reaction at all. The other MPs from areas mentioned in her speech didn’t utter a word*, and nothing was reported in the press.
*Olesendeka from Simanjiro spoke up on 20th June.
As mentioned in my latest blog post written the same day (with updates since then), on 8th June, in the morning (but abnormal activities had been noticed already the previous day) there was an alarm about heavy presence of vehicles from the anti-riot Field Force Unit (FFU) in Wasso town. The FFU went on to set up camp in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan, in Sanjan sub-village of Malambo, Soit Orgoss in Oloipiri, and Olchoroibor in Loosoito (later Arash was added). Another camp was set up at the DC's office. Other forces confirmed as participating are Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), Serengeti and Tanzania National Parks Authority (SENAPA/TANAPA), soldiers from Tanzania People’s Defence Force (JWTZ) that have a camp in Olopolun near Wasso since 2018, OBC’s anti-poaching, and local police. Other on the ground participants in this crime are not yet confirmed.
It surfaced that on 2nd and 6th June, the Arusha Regional and Ngorongoro District Security Committees had held closed-door meetings in Arusha and Karatu. It was in connection with these meetings that Arusha RC Mongella made a video clip explaining what he termed as the 'exercise'. A letter from the DED summoning all ward and village executive officers (WEOs and VEOs) to Karatu on the 7th had already been leaked. They were asked to come with the stamps of the ward and village offices. WEOs and VEOs are government employees working under the DC, and not representing local people in any way.
The video clip featuring RC JohnMongella was uploaded and unquestioningly reported in regular Tanzanian media, and in this clip the RC repeats Kagasheki’s old – since long stopped and disproven - lie that the old 4,000 km2 Loliondo GCA would be a protected area since 1951, but that the government out of love for its people decided to give those who had moved in 2,500 km2, while 1,500 km2 are being “kept” for critical conservation. To make matters worse, he pretends that the exercise is “participatory” through many visits by government officials. He seemed to have forgotten what he was told when he issued his threat in January! This:
Further, in a press release dated 7th June, Pascal Shelutete, Tanzania National Parks Authority´s public relation’s manager, writes that RC Mongella at a meeting in Karatu called on the people of Arusha Region to support the Government's efforts in conserving Loliondo GCA, and anticipating protests called on those spreading false information to stop doing so, since the government's goal is to preserve the area for the benefit of Tanzanians and the economy of the country.
In Ololosokwan, people gathered to pray in protest of the unexpected police invasion. Meetings to deliberate what action to take were reportedly held in several villages.
On 9th June, the Maasai gathered for more protests and were approached by armed FFU that wanted to “explain” the operation to them. The FFU also gate-crashed social gatherings to do the same. The FFU’s explanation – repeating the RC’s words - was that they were there to demarcate 1,500 km2 as a Game Reserve - the vital threat that decades of land rights struggle had managed to avert.
In Kirtalo women with pangas and men with bows and arrows made a video clip as a message to show that they were ready to die for their land.
The councillors of Ololosokwan (worked as OBC’s assistant director for years), Oloipiri (big friend of OBC when he was village chairperson), Oloirien, Maaloni, Arash, Piyaya, Malambo, and two women’s special seats councillors, Kijoolu Kakiya and Taleng’o Leshoko were arrested after being lured to a meeting by the DC. Nothing was known of their whereabouts until the 16th (see below).
Reportedly, Parmwaari Merika, Oloirien village chairman, had been arrested already on 7th June, but there are such differing views on where he is now that I just don’t know.
The night before 10th June, the land grabbing forces started planting illegal beacons on village land in Ololosokwan. They Maasai uprooted the beacons and in the morning the FFU attacked them with teargas and live bullets. People were arrested and the FFU destroyed several motorbikes. The injured were taken across the border to Kenya for treatment, some needing surgery. Pictures of injuries were shared, some may not find it ethical, but they made an impact on Tanzanians online. The latest number of injuries I’ve heard, compiled by Kenyan doctors, was 128, but many people are missing.
The over 70 years old Oriais Oleng'iyo who was last seen with bullet wounds and detained by the FFU is not seen on the list of those charged with murder and not found anywhere else.
One FFU officer was killed by arrowshot (or arrowshot is what RC Mongella said). While human life is always irreplaceable, this is a clear case of self-defence. He was 36, not 18, aware of what his profession entailed, and that when sent with hundreds of colleagues to plant boundary beacons on Maasai land, he knew that he was sent to commit a crime.
In parliament, PM Majaliwa’s “explanation” was expected from someone who when Magufuli was dying or already dead declared that the president was working hard with loads of files on his desk. He claimed that beacons are being placed to protect the environment and that the local Maasai will not be affected. He warned people of ill will who are spreading a video with false information, referring to the clip from Kirtalo, saying that the Maasai weren’t pointing their arrows at any police, while missing the point that it was a message sent to himself. Speaker Tulia Ackson, said that the government has explained the operation, that those spreading false information will be dealt with, and that Tanzania is in an economic war with other countries.
On 11th June, RC Mongella arrived in Loliondo with the regional security committee to repeat Kagasheki’s old lie about the land status in Loliondo, a lie that was put stop to already in 2013, but that the government now is set to keep repeating again and again. He said that the illegal operation was going just fine, while confirming that one police was the previous day killed by arrowshot and putting emphasis on that it happened after PM Majaliwa’s statement. Then he posed in photos planting illegal beacons.
On ITV and Channel 10 doctors from Wasso stood saying that they didn't have any injured people, and Tanzanian media has since continued showing an appalling lack of professionalism, sticking tightly to the government disinformation narrative.
The stream of pictures stopped, and reporting became sporadic.
Violence continued in Ololosokwan and more people were injured.
One elderly man in Malambo died when hit by a FFU vehicle.
In the evening there was teargas and illegal planting of beacons in Oltulelei area of Maaloni. People were arrested and beaten, and the FFU set fire to three motorbikes.
At night the FFU fired shots in all directions in Mairowa in Ololosokwan, not in the 1,500 km2 area that’s being targeted by illegal demarcation. Houses were searched and people were beaten. Many ran away into the bush to hide. More people fled to Kenya.
Albert Selembo, legal officer at the organization IDINGO was arrested and then kept being held at Loliondo police station, on unknown charges, until appearing on the murder charge sheet together with the councillors.
International media started reporting to an extent that was hard to keep up with. Some had problems not mixing up this illegal operation with the speeded spin, deprivations and restrictions taking place in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Some repeated the incorrect information that OBC’s licence would have been cancelled in 2017, and other confusion.
In the WhatsApp group CCM Yetu, and maybe elsewhere, an “article” about me was being shared, in which I was accused of being an international spy, working with a Kenyan senator, and the councillor of Ololosokwan (unlikely) providing young people with smartphones. Further, I had earlier bought arms for the Maasai in the conflict with the Sonjo, created an elephant poaching network, and whatever. Later, I was informed that similar accusations had been entertained in a Clubhouse room with government spokesperson Gerson Msigwa. I haven’t even listened to the recordings.
On 12th June, at the funeral of the FFU officer, Ngorongoro DC, Raymond Mwangwal – who unlike previous DCs seemed to earlier have left much repression work to the DED - told media that those talking online, instigating things that aren't true, will be found wherever they are, in classic Loliondo police state style. Head of police operations, Liberatus Sabas, declared that anyone involved in the killing of the police who died from arrowshot will be hunted down day and night.
On 13th June, Inspector General of Police, Simon Sirro, arrived in to Loliondo to make his contribution to the illegal demarcation, accompanied by RC Mongella. Sirro said that the demarcation operation is going just fine, but there are some people, politicians included, who are stirring things up, using the Maasai for their own benefit. Sirro too posed with illegal beacons, and with some clueless mostly non-Maasai young men at the area with shops in Soitsambu.
The African Commission of Human and People's Rights called for cessation of the eviction.
MP Emmanuel Oleshangai confirmed that at least 31 people (the numbers have since risen) had been seriously injured in the demarcation exercise on village land, and that they are being treated in Kenya after being denied treatment at the Osero clinic in Ololosokwan for lacking the required PF3 form that the police are supposed to provide. He explained that the injured were his voters and not Kenyans. Further, the MP demanded the release of the detained leaders, and made clear that the operation is most definitely not "participatory" since even he had not been informed, despite sitting in the same parliament as the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.
On 14th June, 30 FFU vehicles arrived in Arash and set up camp in the Emoyokwa area.
The Ngorongoro MP was summoned to the police, and so were Olesendeka, MP of Simanjiro and Kitila Mkumbo, MP of Ubungo. The accusations were of incitement and what the three have in common is that they spoke up during the vicious anti-Maasai hatred in parliament in February. The MPs were questioned and released.
On 15th June, Edward Hoseah president of Tanganyika Law Society has made a useless, spineless, and shameless statement advising the Ngorongoro MP to report injuries to the police!
Six UN experts warned about escalating violence amidst plan to forcefully evict Maasai from ancestral lands and urged to immediately halt plans for relocation.
Amnesty International called on the Tanzanian government to halt the brutal security operation in Loliondo.
The FFU opened fire at the market in Oltulelei causing fear and panic. In Malambo as well were they firing shots into the air, and they beat up a motorbike rider whom they thought was following them.
Arrests continued in an apparently aimless way. Freddy Ledidi from Oloirien who's District Natural Resources Officer (which may make some suspect he’s a double dealer) was arrested and so was the elder Koyie, brother of who used to be ward councillor for Orgosorok years ago, which led people to first think that the other brother had been arrested. Ledidi and Koyie were locked up at Loliondo Police Station and nobody has been allowed to see them.
Deputy Permanent Representative to the Tanzania Mission to the UN in Geneva, Hoyce Temu, lied in the most malicious way from start to finish denying any state violence, claiming that a 4,000 km2 reserved area had been encroached and that the government in peaceful talks with local residents had agreed to divide the area and keep 1,500 km2 as a protected area, that a minority against the exercise made recordings while posing threateningly and combined this with unrelated pictures, that the government has called on anyone alleging to have been attacked to come forward for the law to take its course and for treatment, but that nobody has come forward. The ambassador did literally not say one word of truth.
Meanwhile in Endulen - in NCA, not Loliondo - there was a big spectacle with 20 vehicles carrying RC Mongella and other dignitaries, and the useless press, to witness 6 families who have fallen for the Msomera scam and were demolishing their houses. One of the vehicles hit and injured 14-year old Nemburis Oletombo. For some reason, the government figures seem eager for people not to mix this up with Loliondo, but their supporters do this gladly in social media anyway, and all the time. So do many allies of the Maasai.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Hamad Masauni, arrived in Loliondo in helicopter to make a statement – as if from the warfront - directing Immigration to strengthen border security to prevent illegal entry by foreigners and so avoid incitement activities. He also ordered NGOs to be investigated to make sure they operate within the law and don’t engage in breach of peace. As known to anyone familiar with Loliondo or with this blog, threatening “Kenyans” (anyone who could speak up) and NGOs is the most classic rhetoric of the Loliondo police state. A clip of this was widely shared the following day and the Tanzanian press, that by now has lost all credibility, reported uncritically.
On 17th June, a solidarity demonstration in Nairobi by Kenyan Maasai was broken up by the Kenyan police and demonstrators taken to the Central Police Station. After a few hours they were freed unconditionally. Another demonstration, in Namanga, went on without incidence.
Reportedly, after a CCM meeting the DC summoned them to the District Security Committee and there was an agreement that they would keep people calm during the demarcation operation. Then the DC announced that a special task force had arrived and that the councillors were needed for individual interrogations. At midnight they were put in a vehicle and driven to an unknown destination that upon arrival was identified as a smaller police station in Arusha town, Chekereni, where they were interrogated regarding sedition and not murder.
The councillors weren’t allowed to contact family or lawyers, until being joined by ten others and secretly taken to court to be read murder charges. The other group had been arrested in their homes, along the road, or in Wasso town. They had been tortured and accused of reporting about violence in Loliondo, interrogated on suspicion of spreading false information, but later they were told a murder charge had been found and they were re-interrogated for murder. While held at Loliondo police station they weren’t allowed to contact relatives, and not fed for four days, until they were taken to Arusha and charged with murder. Not feeding those detained is common practise at Loliondo police station, as I could see from the writings on the wall when I spent 2 nights there in 2015 (I was fed though). Further problems are very low temperatures, no blankets, and plentiful mosquitoes.
The case will be heard on 30th June.
The ever patient and negotiating Onesmo Olengurumwa of Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, that had the president as guest of honour at their 10th anniversary a month ago, tweeted, “It is now officially, our relatives and our leaders in Loliondo have been maliciously charged with murder case. These include those who were illegally detained one day before the killing of the Police officer. This marks the end of any negotiations. @SuluhuSamia”
Memusi Taki, Njoroi village chairman was arrested on 17th June. (Edit: I may have to correct this, since there are differing views on when he was arrested)
Sadly, since this is Loliondo, even during the most heinous crime, opportunistic traitors will emerge. I wouldn’t mention it without confirmation from sources close to the individual. One Matiko Maoi has been contracted and is driving around on his motorbike looking for women and youths to pay to get involved in a pro-government demonstration.
Immigration Commissioner for Border Control and Administration, Samwel Mahirane came to Loliondo on the 18th to stand next to an illegal beacon (he too), threatening people who are sabotaging the exercise and have fled. He said they are known and will all be dealt with. He also threatened NGOs.
In Arash, and probably elsewhere, the FFU continue using tear gas and planting illegal beacons.
Very brief and simplified background
In Loliondo (and parts of Sale) Division of Ngorongoro District the Tanzanian government has for many years wanted to alienate 1,500 km2 of legally registered village land that’s vitally important grazing land.
The other division of Ngorongoro District is Ngorongoro Division or Ngorongoro Conservation Area where Maasai land rights also are seriously threatened and where they live under restrictions not found in Loliondo. This is a closely related, but separate issue (see many previous blog posts). The government lie about NCA is, “The Maasai are relocating “voluntary” to Handeni” while the government lie about Loliondo is, “The Maasai have been “given” 2,500 km2.”
Otterlo Business Corporation, that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, has had the 4,000 km2 hunting block (permit to hunt on legally registered village land) since 1993 (first contract signed in 1992) and kept lobbying the government to turn their 1,500 km2 of preferred hunting area into a protected area, including funding a draft district land use plan in 2010-2011.
OBC’s lobbying has led to illegal mass arson operations in 2009 and 2017, ordered by the DC, and to a local police state in which anyone who dares to criticize the hunters (and an American ecotourism company called Thomson Safaris) is severely harassed and slandered, illegal arrests included, often accused of not really being Tanzanian, but from the neighbouring country.
|Oloosek 13th August 2017|
It should be noted that OBC licence has never been cancelled (except for the first 10-year contract in the mid-1990s that was replaced with regular 5-year hunting block licenses). After having stopped the illegal operation in 2017, for a few days, Minister Kigwangalla was saying that OBC would have to leave before January 2018, but they never left and on 6th December PM Majaliwa declared that they were staying. In April 2018 OBC again gifted the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism with 15 vehicles. I’ve lost all patience with people who claim otherwise.
The Maasai have celebrated some victories, like in 2011 when the Ngorongoro District Council strongly rejected OBC’s land use plan, and in 2013 when Minister Kagasheki tried to alienate the 1,500 km2 via vociferous lies that the whole 4,000 km2 was a protected area and the Maasai would be gifted with 2,500 km2 (the lie that the government has now picked up again), and he was resoundingly stopped by PM Pinda when both opposition and ruling party supported the protests by the Maasai. On 25th September 2018 there was another victory when the East African Court of Justice issued an injunction restraining the government from evictions, destruction and harassment of the applicants, but that happened at the point of most panicked fear and could not be that much celebrated.
There have been many low points, like in 2016-2017 when a select committee after sharply increased repression reached a sad compromise proposal (a WMA), that had earlier been rejected by the Maasai, to hand over to PM Majaliwa, which was followed by unexpected illegal mass arson (there may be a pattern here). Or in 2018 when nobody dared to speak up against police efforts to derail the case in the East African Court of Justice filed during the illegal 2017 operation, and then the silence continued when soldiers from a military camp set up in Loliondo the same year tortured people and razed bomas in Ololosokwan and Kirtalo, violating the recently issued court orders. At that time all local leaders thought that the attack had been ordered by the president, but when the RC denounced it in a vague way, they changed to thinking that it was OBC’s director contracting the soldiers.
In 2019, a most terrible zoning proposal for Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) included turning the 1,500 km2 into the protected area preferred by OBC and annexing it to NCA, was presented by NCA chief conservator Manongi. There have been many protests from every group in NCA against this proposal, but not so many protests from Loliondo, where people had been intimidated into silence.
On 17th February, PM Majaliwa, known as a psychopathic liar by virtually all Tanzanians, when in NCA, not Loliondo, ordered beacons to be erected “so that we may know the boundaries” of the 1,500 km2, which nobody needs to know unless there are bad intentions. The PM repeated the same in parliament on 11th March. He kept talking about water – and then a spectacle was made about water projects outside the 1,500 km2 - when the area’s importance for grazing had been explained to him in Loliondo on 14th February. Protests followed. At a huge protest meeting in Arash on 19th March, several leaders spoke up in defence of the land, among them the Arash ward councillor Methew Siloma spoke up very clearly and strongly. The message from this meeting was:
-PM Majaliwa is a liar.
-The Maasai are not renouncing one square inch of land.
-They request to meet with the president, since Majaliwa can’t be trusted.
Several local leaders in Loliondo were arrested. The councillors of Arash and Malambo were taken to Arusha and interrogated.
On 31st March Abdulrahman Kinana was brought in from the cold, after having fallen out with Magufuli, and is now Vice-Chairman of CCM mainland. Kinana is one of OBC’s and Sheikh Mohammed’s best and oldest friends since at least 1993.
Then a committee agreed to hand over community recommendations to the PM, which was done on 25th May, and Majaliwa said that he’d work on the recommendations.
On 3rd June, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Pindi Chana in her budget speech announced that her ministry expected to upgrade Loliondo to a Game Reserve, but she did this while listing huge area of Tanzania for the same expectation, which didn’t make it sound believable or realistic in any way, and there was hardly any reaction, except for an intervention by Ngorongoro MP Emmanuel Shangai.
On 9th June the heavily armed Field Force Unit set up camps in Loliondo, after closed-door meetings by the regional and district security committees and no information at all to local leaders, not even the MP, many of whom were arrested the same day, and have now been charged with murder.
The demarcation started on 10th June. Protesting Maasai were teargassed and shot at with live bullets by the FFU, many were injured, arrested, fled to Kenya, or are missing. One FFU was killed by arrowshot. RC Mongella and PM Majaliwa say that the operation is going on just fine, that instigators will be seriously dealt with, and their explanation is a repetition of Kagasheki’s old and disproven lies. The Tanzanian press almost exclusively keep to the government narrative. Ministers and police authorities appear in Loliondo to make statements as from the warfront, threaten “Kenyans” and NGOs, and take photos with the illegal beacons.
There has been substantial, sometimes confused, international media coverage, and a stream of protest statements by international organisations.
The ruling in the East African Court of Justice is expected on 22nd June.
The constant attacks, the government’s insatiable appetite to - for the conservation-tourism industrial complex - deprive the people who already lost vast areas with the creation of Serengeti National Park, require a new approach. Is it time to reclaim Serengeti?
The illegal beacons planted in blood, and contempt of court, must be immediately uprooted!
Olesendeka, MP for Simanjiro, spoke up in parliament against the illegal operation in Loliondo and against Chana's talk about GCAs and game reserves. He was viciously bullied by the speaker, Tulia Ackson. Deputy Minister Masanja lied that there aren't any people living in those areas.
Tanzanian press continued quoting Rector for College of African Wildlife Management Mweka, Prof. Jafari Kideghesho’s lies about the “downsizing” of a protected area in Loliondo. This liar also participated in making the genocidal MLUM review proposal for NCA.
Just one day before the expected ruling in the East African Court of Justice it was postponed to December!
Deputy Minister Masanja, Minister of Constitution and Legal Affairs Ndumbaro, Director of Wildlife, Msuha, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mulamula stood in front of spineless diplomats telling their blood soaked lies about Loliondo, and about Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
*Not sure if the word “beacon” is used this way everywhere, but they are concrete boundary posts.