We would like to take this opportunity to give a brief notice to members of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), Ngorongoro residents and the public about the HumanRights Stakeholders Meeting held on 22nd June 2022 in Dar es Salaam.
The participants of the meeting discussed about the human rights situation during the exercise of demarcating Loliondo and Sale divisions as well as the issue of eviction of the residents of Ngorongoro District.
On 22nd June 2022, THRDC alongside with some of its members and representatives from other Civil Society Organizations had the opportunity to participate in a joint session with the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), various Government departments to deeply discuss about human rights violations that stemmed in Ngorongoro District to look at how best to resolve the simmering land dispute.
The Government departments that attended the meeting included the Registrar of NonGovernmental Organizations, the Police Force and the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority, the Tanzania National Parks Authority, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Ministry of Lands, and the Ministry of Home Affairs. The meeting also included the Attorney General, Handeni District Commissioner and Representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Hon. Dr. Damas Ndumbaro.
Although it has been too late for the meeting to be organized since the eruption of the conflict, still THRDC congratulates the Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance and the Registrar of NGOs, for organizing such a tremendous meeting. The meeting aimed at finding out the truth about what is really happening in Loliondo, Sale and Ngorongoro divisions in order to restore peace and tranquillity. The meeting focused more especially on human rights violations so that to harmonize the situation and resolve it amicably.
B. Contentious Issues raised by the Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in the Meeting Human rights defenders from various places including Loliondo and Ngorongoro were accorded with the opportunity to express about the pressing challenges freely and transparently.
HRDs including more than ten (10) THRDC members working in pastoralists’ areas have continued monitoring closely the long-standing land dispute in Ngorongoro, Loliondo and Sale
divisions. Disputes in such areas have existed for a long time leading to serious human rights violations especially to the residents of Loliondo division.
Some of the challenges identified include loss of people’s lives including a Police officer,assault to citizens, loss of livestock resources, luck of basic social services, neglection of citizens, continuous arrest, detention and harassment of the Maasai in Loliondo, obstruction of the media from publishing information to the public, contempt to court orders, harassment of human rights defenders and their organizations, harassment of citizens on the basis of their citizenship, grabbing of the village land including on-going orders to villagers to vacate from1,500 sq km (the recent formed game controlled area named Pololet Game Controlled Area), false accusations while hundreds of citizens are fleeing to neighbouring countries for asylum and some for medical treatment.
Another serious challenge is the unlawful arrest, detention, and institution of murder charge against political leaders from Loliondo (9 Councillors and the CCM Chairperson for Ngorongoro District). Apart from the murder charge, there has been continuous arbitrary arrest of citizens in Loliondo inflicting fear and shock to citizens.
Further, in May 2022 HRDs from Ngorongoro District submitted a detailed report to the Prime Minister with recommendations on resolving the complained land dispute, its delayed implementation was among of the discussed challenges. Delayed implementation of such a report, HRDs feels that peoples’ views have been disregarded instead excessive force is being used to evict the Maasai from their own village land.
About six (6) months ago, HRDs in pastoralists areas in collaboration with other activists have been trying to find a way to resolve the existing land dispute in Loliondo, Sale and Ngorongoro divisions. For instance, more than 20 organizations made a trip to Arusha in March 2022 with the aim of closely monitoring and observing the land dispute in Loliondo and Ngorongoro but were prevented by the Arusha Regional Commissioner on the ground that they lacked a permit from the government.
Human rights defenders who have been defending the rights of pastoralists in Loliondo and Ngorongoro divisions have been facing challenges that hold them back including being perceived as instigators of the land dispute. Some of the challenges have been fueled by government officials and the media without any evidence being presented to the public. Such fueled challenges lead to a declining public confidence in Human Rights Defenders / Civil
Society Organizations, some activists work under fear and others have been fleeing from their workplaces. The effect is that if HRDs are prevented from speaking, it means that outsiders will speak on behalf of the community and perhaps others may say things that suit their interests.
Moreover, another challenge discussed at the meeting was existence of misinformation. The Loliondo and Ngorongoro land dispute is shrouded in a lot of misinformation. To address such a challenge, it is important for both parties to focus on providing accurate information to the public.
After presentation of the challenges in the aforesaid meeting, HRDs were advised to effectively advise the community members and direct them to share their challenges with the concerned institutions concerned like courts of law, the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, CHRAGG, etc. At the meeting, all those who are using the existing land dispute for personal interests were warned because the existing problem is for all citizens, it must be resolved internally and avoid the contrary.
THRDC believes that the best way to resolve the land dispute in Loliondo, Sale and Ngorongoro divisions is to have candid and positive discussions from both sides (villagers and the government). We thank the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, and all Government Departments who participated in such an important meeting as the beginning of discussions to find a lasting solution in Ngorongoro constituency without violating human rights.
The participants of the meeting resolved to put aside any differences as a nation and to propose a joint strategy that would address the challenges posed and also to put in place participatory strategies to protect the disputed land with all human rights and the interests of the Nation as the whole.
• HRDs called upon the government to examine and investigate the murder case against community leaders and other citizens who might not have been involved in the murder of the Police officer. They should be set free including the fact that one amongst them is a student.
• Defenders also called upon the government to form a joint team, which will involve community leaders, human rights defenders, and government organs to travel to Kenya to make follow up of the citizens who fled there and to prepare the arrangement for their return without any conditions for the purpose of restoring peace and solidarity between the people and the government.
• It should be noted that, half of the arrested local leaders, detained and charged for murder in Arusha are councilors of Loliondo Division and three from Sale Division as well as the CCM Chairperson for Ngorongoro District. These are all part of the Community Committee that has been working with the Prime Minister on how to resolve this dispute amicably. Any approach to reconciliation and final agreement will succeed if community leaders are set free unconditionally.
• HRDs also advised the government to continue providing all the basic services to the people of Ngorongoro Divisions especially those remaining in that area since basic services are human rights
• HRDs also advised the government to have a written plan which would oversee the voluntary relocation exercise from Ngorongoro to Handeni and other areas. HRDs have no problem if people are willingly relocated since relocating from one area to another voluntarily is the right of whoever is moving. The main argument is availability of participatory strategy in this exercise to get rid of any grievances.
THRDC believes that citizens will be more convinced if a participatory plan is prepared by all community leaders including the Member of Parliament to be part of this initiative and some human rights defenders.
• HRDs called upon the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs as well as the office of the Registrar of NGOs to enlighten public officials who point an accusing finger on civil society organisations. Such an enlightenment will help them to draw a line between sedition and other HRDs activities or the work of promoting and defending community rights. Civil Society Organisations are there to defend human rights whenever they are violated, thus this work cannot be wrongly interpreted as if it is sedition. If there is anyone breaking the law, such complaints and evidence must be sent to the respective ministry.
• Negotiations and reconciliation should continue between the people and thegovernment to eliminate the current crisis. We thank the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs for opening the negotiation table through the meeting held on 22nd June 2022.
• THRDC recommends a comprehensive involvement of citizens with their traditional and political leaders in all ongoing initiatives in those areas.
• Leaders and citizens should refrain from making discriminatory statements and instead continue to build unity and trust in finding solutions to land disputes in Ngorongoro District.
• Human Rights Defenders should continue being accorded with better environment for their work so that they can contribute effectively to the land dispute resolution.
• THRDC advises the Government under the leadership of H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan to withdraw forces from Loliondo and suspend the ongoing operationsand engage in community negotiations table on how to conserve Loliondo areas. In community negotiations, human rights and broader participation of
citizens who are native to these areas should be of paramount.
• THRDC advises the current phase government to review the steps taken by previous government phases regarding the disputed land.
• The Parliament should oversee the discussions on the land dispute in Sale, Ngorongoro and Loliondo issues without any bias.
• Despite the ongoing security challenges to HRDs, THRDC still inspires and calls all HRDs/NGOs working for the rights of the Masasai in Ngorongoro and Loliondo to remain vigilant, resilient and security conscious at this time when their roles and services to the this distressed, unhappy, neglected, disturbed and desperate communist is highest needed.
• The media outlets must conduct an impartial coverage on the Loliondo and Ngorongoro land dispute to help senior officials to get adequate information.
• THRDC also, reminds the international community based in Tanzania to break the silence and use their diplomatic channels to properly advise the government on the best ways to protect those areas without violating the rights of the indigenous communities that protected nature for centuries.
• Since the process of setting up collective measures to resolve the land dispute, THRDC urges all sympathizers of the people of Sale, Ngorongoro and Loliondo divisions to join efforts in resolving the land dispute.
Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania