Monday, April 22, 2013

Bye Bye Loliondo.....

“Dear Guest, Welcome to the UAE. Enjoy the best network coverage and other unmatched services only with Etisalat. Please use<+> or <00>before the country code for international calls. For directory services call 181, for availability of GPRS, MMS 3G roaming services call Etisalat Travellers help line 8002300 & for inquiries on Tourism, entertainment, shopping, etc call 7000-1-7000(Roaming rates apply) Have a pleasant stay in the UAE.”

The above network text message leaves allot to be desired. One wonders whether Ortello Business Corporation is a private company or is a sovereign state within Tanzania. The question of the relationship between the Corporation and the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) did not stop lingering in the heads of members of the investigation team.

 In 1992 Otterlo Business Corporation Ltd - that’s not a “corporation” but an organization managing hunting trips for royalty from the United Arab Emirates – was given the Loliondo Game Controlled Area - the whole of Loliondo Division - as a hunting block and since then their lease keeps being renewed by the Government – not the Maasai landowners.

The core hunting area of OBC is the corridor of land bordering the National Park, but in theory they could hunt rats around the District Commissioners office. OBC do not have any land, but only what’s basically a hunting license. Nevertheless, OBC seem to think that they operate in some half protected area where they control the land while having to put up with customary landowners that they shower in charitable projects.

When conflict flare up they get the support of the government. For the 2009 hunting season OBC together with Tanzanian authorities evicted people from the corridor that’s almost half the size of the Emirate of Dubai. In this operation at least 150 bomas were burnt to the ground, including grain stores and even some young livestock that were burnt to death. Some 60,000 heads of cattle were pushed into an extreme drought area and calves were left behind in the stampede. This significantly worsened the alarming rates of cattle deaths of the severe drought at the time. Many cases of beatings, humiliations and sexual assault have been reported. Several children were lost in the chaos and terror and one of them – 7-year-old Nashipai Gume from Arash – has not been found. The evicted people eventually moved back and many leaders “reconciled” with OBC.

In November 2012 a crisis broke out when people in Ololosokwan found that Tanzania National Parks were planning to erect Serengeti NP border beacons on the land of the village. There were major demonstrations and the beacons were dropped back inside the National Park.
On 27th January 2013 the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism held “stakeholders’” meetings in Loliondo. He did not seem to grasp the issues and his only concrete idea was for “investors” to work together forming an association.
Currently there are many players in the tourism industry in Loliondo and none of them can be trusted, though occasionally some of them play by the rules entering proper contracts with the villages. The most destructive force among them is the Boston-based Thomson Safaris claiming 12,617 acres of grazing land as their own “Enashiva Nature Refuge” and harassing the pastoralists as “trespassers” while involved in an aggressive propaganda campaign for their “community-based project”. 
The last weekend of February the Minister returned to Loliondo with the message that the Game Controlled Area as per Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 was the best “solution” for Loliondo.
To media the Minister was saying that the Maasai are “landless” and being “given” the land that they already have – except the corridor – under the condition that they form a Wildlife Management Area that’s presented as a way for communities to “benefit from wildlife” while in reality it’s a recipe to increase central government control. The move was described as “addressing historical injustices”. A historical injustice is actually what the Government seems determined to commit.


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