Our Land, Our Response: Maasai Press Statement

We have received this press statement from partners in Tanzania concerning the Loliondo Land Dispute

Loliondo is a Game Controlled Area of land of around 4,000 km2 which spans much of Ngorongoro District. This land is divided between a number of villages established upon legally enshrined ancestral lands, and the communities  depend on the land for their livelihoods.

In 2009, the Wildlife Conservation Act gave the government the power to grant game hunting permits for within this area. However, the Act did not give the government any legal mandate regarding the ownership of land by the villages in Loliondo, which since 1982 has been recognized and protected by Tanzanian law.

In 1992 the Government granted a hunting permit to a company called Otterlo Business Corporation to hunt in the Loliondo Game Controlled Area. However, this permit explicitly does not infringe upon the rights of the people to own, farm, and live in their ancestral land within legally established villages.

However, in recent weeks the government of Tanzania has been deliberately misleading both the Tanzanian and international public about the ownership and usage of land in Loliondo. The government had repeatedly used force and violence to evict Maasai pastoralists from the area.  They have attempted to justify these actions by making various false allegations against the communities in the Area, including the suggestion that Loliondo is being infiltrated by illegal immigrants from Kenya, and that land is being degraded and overpopulated.

These claims are baseless, and are being used by the government to distract the public from the truth: that the only group the government is really interested in protecting is Otterlo Business Corporation.

On the basis of these claims, on 21st March 2013 the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism issued a public statement. The statement said that the government had decided to reduce the size of the Loliondo Game Controlled Area from 4,000 km2 to just 1,500 km2 in order to protect wildlife and water, for both the national interest and the interest of residents of the Area. The minister also mentioned in the statement that residents of villages in the Area may establish a Wildlife Management Area in the 2,500 km2 of land which would be left over.

In response to this statement, we, as civil society organizations working to defend both land rights and human rights, would like to inform the public as follows:

  • The 4,000 km2 that makes up Loliondo Game Controlled Area is currently owned by the villages in Loliondo: therefore, the Government is trying to grab 1,500 km2 from land that falls within legally recognized village boundaries.
  • Otterlo Business Corporation has never been allocated any land of its own to hunt on – it has previously only been granted hunting permits.
  • The government has said that grabbing 1,500 km2 of land will help to resolve conflict in the area – but this move is actually likely to trigger further conflict.
  • The minister’s suggestion that this land grab will protect wildlife ecology is also a lie. In fact it is has been reported that wild animals, which Otterlo Business Corporation is subjecting to indiscriminate hunting, are taking refuge nearer to Maasai communities to escape hunters.
  • Another claim made by the minister is that this land grab will protect water sources in the area. If that were true, the government would not have turned a blind eye while Otterlo Business Corporation constructed its base camp within ten meters of Olosae water source, which is the primary source of water for both wildlife and residents of several villages.
  • The minister’s press statement also entirely contravenes Tanzanian law. The Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 clearly states that “for the purposes of subsection (4), the Minister shall ensure that no land faIling under the village land is included in the game controlled areas” (Section 16(5)).

Based on these key points, we urge the Government of Tanzania to:

  • Immediately cease its plan to grab land belonging to villages to hand over to investors under a pretense of public interest.
  • Acknowledge and affirm that the Loliondo Game Controlled Area is within legal village boundaries.
  • Desist from spreading its deliberately misleading propaganda that the 1,500 km2 land it is grabbing is not within the boundaries of legal villages.
  • Allow the villages in the Area to continue to manage their land according to the Village Land Act No.5 of 1999 and Local Government (District Authority) Act No.7 of 1982.
  • Stop intimidating the village communities and their representatives, as well as human rights activists, civil society organizations and journalists who are attempting to inform the public about this issue
  • Stop the misuse of peace and security forces such as the police to forcefully evict people from their home and lands and damage their property.

THE FOLLOWING ORGANISATIONS ISSUED THIS PRESS STATEMENT

Pastoralists Indigenous NGOs Forum -PINGOs Forum

Tanzania Land Alliance- (TALA)

Haki Ardhi

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC)

Tanzania Human Rights Defenders

Tanzania Gender Network Program (TGNP)

Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF)

Community Research and Development Services (CORDS)

Ujamaa Community Resource Team (CRT)

Pastoralists Women Council (PWC)

Ngorongoro NGOs Network (NGONET)

Tanzania Pastoralists Community Forum (TPCF)

OSEREMI

Map showing proposed Wildlife Corridor