February 3, 2023

Watetezi Media

Official Website for Watetezi Media

Tanzania Government Plans to Review Multiple Land Use Law in Ngorongoro

By Kizito Makoye
The move will pave way for evicting over 80,000 Maasai herders who have for decades co-existed with wildlife.

The government of Tanzania is planning to review the law governing land management in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) in the country’s northern Arusha region to protect wildlife sanctuaries from alleged increasing human activities.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, is renowned worldwide for its rich biodiversity, wildlife and as a home to indigenous Maasai people who have distended earlobes and wear red shawls.
The government’s move will technically bring to a halt the existing land use system in the area and pave way for the eviction of more than 80,000 Maasai pastoralists who live among wildlife in Ngorongoro.

Critics say, the people from this ancient ethnic group are likely to be subjected to gross violation of their human rights, as the government seems determined to kick them out from their ancestral land under the guise of wildlife conservation.

Damas Ndumbaru, Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources told the parliament on Wednesday that based on recommendations made by a section of legislators, the government is due to review the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Act of 1975.
According to him, the law in question, whose foundation was based on conservation, tourism and community development no longer suit wider interests of all the parties.
“One of the things that is being said in the media is that the ministry of tourism wants to take away Maasai ancestral land, let me state it clearly, nobody owns land in Tanzania, all the land is the property of the state and the President, who is a custodian on behalf of the people, has the sole and unfettered discretion to take it away as she finds it appropriate, your own right it the compensation that will be made” he said.

Damas Ndumbaru, Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources

Ndumbaru, however said the government’s future plans in the sprawling Ngorongoro area will not affect the welfare of the Maasai nor violate their rights.
The minister, however defended what appears to be state orchestrated smear campaign against Maasai people, fueled by some journalists in the local media that some legislators complained about, saying the government would not interfere with freedom of the press.
“Anyone who is genuinely dissatisfied with the news coverage about the situation in Ngorongoro, can present their complaints to relevant authorities,” he stated.
The minister was referring to sheer disregard of journalism ethics demonstrated by some Tanzanian journalists, who have deliberately distorted their reporting to put the Maasai herders in a bad light, by accusing them of destroying wildlife habitats and scare away wild animals.

“Let me insist that the ministry of tourism and natural resources will not violate the rights of the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has instructed the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources to conduct a special seminar to enlighten members of parliament about the real situation in Ngorongoro so that they gain deep understanding of the facts on the ground.Majaliwa admitted that land disputes in Ngorongoro and Loliondo have been raging for a long time without being resolved due to existing legal discrepancies and vested interests of individuals.

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa

“The president has instructed me to work on this issue. As I speak we have already started working.On Sunday I held a meeting with ministry officials in Arusha, I am also intending to go to Ngorongoro and Loliondo to speak with the people,“he said.
However it is not clear why the Prime Minister is insisting on the dialogue with different parties while the government position on the matter, as stated by the minister is to review the law which allowed tourism, wildlife conservation and human settlement.
A two weeks ago thousands of Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo and Ngorongoro divisions openly protested the government’s ploy to demarcate the Loliondo village lands with the aim to take away 1500 square kilometres of land and apportion it to investors for trophy hunting and tourism purposes, as well as the envisaged plan to evict them from Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The semi-nomadic herdsmen whose livelihood solely depend on cattle rearing have repeatedly accused the state of using wildlife conservation as an alibi to take away their grazing land and push them to the edge of survival.

Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo meeting with journalists visited loliondo

The issue has provoked widespread international criticism and a fierce debate in the parliament, with legislators raised their voices to defend the Maasai and others supporting wider national interests of wildlife conservation. Emmanuel Shangai, who represents Ngorongoro constituency urged the government to recognise the legal status of native maasai people, who live among zebras and giraffes in Ngorongoro saying they’re natural conservations.
“The people of Ngorongoro are being victimised unnecessarily, even though they have been living there for 60 years without harming wildlife,” he said.
According to him, there has been growing animosity against the Maasai propagated by a few journalists in the local media.
According to Shangai, Loliondo, which attained the status of Game Controlled Area in 1974 is wrongly perceived as an idle land without human population.
“Madam Speaker, there are 80,000 people living in Loliondo. When 1500 sq.km is taken away the people who are predominantly cattle herders, will be rendered landless and will not have a place for living and grazing cattle” he said.

Emmanuel Shangai

Shangai accused the Regional Commissioner of Arusha John Mongela, of causing unnecessary panic when he made controversial remarks hinting that the state’s plans to take away the disputed land.
“I would like to ask to government to find a way to diffuse these tensions fuelled by the media and some people with a bad intention,” he said.
Hassan Mtenga, a legislator from Mtwara accused Maasai herders in Ngorongoro of overgrazing and scaring away wildlife.
“Today when tourists arrive in Ngorongoro, they don’t see wild animals instead they see herds of cattle, and goat, the area is being destroyed by those herders,” he said.
According to him the human population in Ngorongoro has sharply increased in the past six decades from merely 8000 people in 1954 when the park was established to 11000 presently.
Mtenga said increasing human activities in the Ngorongoro has helped slashing government’s tourism revenues from Tanzanian shillings 143 billion in 2018 to merely 31 billion in 2020. However, investigations conducted by this reporter proved the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic was the reason behind tumbling revenues, but presently the figures have gone up to 160 billion per year.
Mtenga also accused Maasai families of covering up deaths of loved ones who, he said are mauled by lions and bury them under the cover of darkness to avoid criticism.
“Families losing loved ones, who are eaten by lions secretly bury the deceased under the cover of darkness to avoid criticism,” he alleged.
Mtenga accused powerful business interests from the neighbouring country of instigating the conflict in Ngorongoro to win tourism dollars.
However, human rights campaigners asserted that victimisation of the minority Maasai group has gone beyond media rhetoric, with MP’s seemingly joining the brandwaggon by openly inciting the government to deploy tanks to Ngorongoro in total oblivion of the Speaker who should have swiftly intervened.
The MP’s remarks, observers say are probably part of a systemic ploy to kick out the Maasai from their native land.

Christopher Emmanuel Ole Sendeka, MP from from Simanjiro

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Ole Sendeka an MP from from Simanjiro condemned victimization and a smear campaign against Maasai people in the media.
Sendeka quoted former Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete, who once said in 2014, there has never been nor will there ever be a plan by the government of Tanzania to evict the Maasai from their ancestral land.
Sendeka said the root cause of the conflict in Ngorongoro and Loliondo is poor land management.
He urged the government and the parliament to form two independent commissions to help fomenting a lasting solution.
Onesmo Ole Ngurumwa, the National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) has expressed his sadness about deliberate victimisation of the Maasai community in Ngorongoro.

Onesmo Ole Ngurumwa, National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)

“I have personally listened to the parliamentary debate yesterday. What saddens me is that some MPs have decided to victimise Maasai people in Ngorongoro,” he said.
Ngurumwa is shocked by a spate of verbal attacks against Maasai people who have for decades sacrificed their lives for conservation and ecology of the area. “What surprises me is that even the parliament is turning a blind eye on those who openly taunting Maasai people and threaten them by asking the government to deploy military tanks” he said.
In an interview with Watetezi TV William Oleseki the founder of Kopelion—a non-governmental organisation working to foster humans and lions co-existence in Ngorongoro said Maasai people are already affected by the systemic smear campaign against their welfare and livelihoods.
“One thing certain is that the government is determined to throw us out of Ngorongoro,” he said.
Oleseki said everything that is happening simultaneously imply that the whole of Ngorongoro is going to be taken away.
“When the president came to Ngorongoro, she refused to meet our leaders, I am seriously worried we are being attacked as a people” he said.

Edward Porokwa, the director of Pastoralists Indigenous Non Governmental Organization’s Forum(PINGO)

Speaking with Watetezi TV, Edward Porokwa, the director of Pastoralists Indigenous Non Governmental Organization’s Forum(PINGO) said he feels that the government has already made up its decision and it doesn’t want to give a room for the people to be involved in its decisions
“ I heard that the Prime minister has asked to ministry to hold a seminar to enlighten members of the parliament about this issue, The participation of the people will not be there and the MPs are the ones supporting the government narrative” he said.
According to Porokwa the narrative that is being peddled by the government, through TANAPA and the Ministry of Tourism and Natural resources has set a dangerous precedent.
According to Porokwa the people who have been spreading fake news about Ngorongoro have successfully managed to influence government decision on Ngorongoro which makes the future of the Maasai bleak.
“ When you take away the land, the future of the Maasai is uncertain” he said

Kizito Makoye
Watetezi TV
11/02/2022 Dar Es Salaam