By Hilder Ngatunga
The National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC),Onesmo Olengurumwa has called upon the government termination of its plan of evacuating Ngorongoro ward residents, who are currently residing at Ngorongoro Conservation area (NCAA), seeking for an independent arbitrator to end the land dispute.
The call was made earlier this week during a Press statement at THRDC offices in Dar es salaam few days after Arusha Regional Commissioner,John Mongela articulated the government interest of taking 1500sq.km from the villagers for exclusive conservation and interests which in turn have resulted to chaos among Ngorongoro people stating the decision was not participatory.
“The Ngorongoro land dispute has been dragging for quite too long.Before Tanzania got its independence, pastoral communities lost their land in the Serengeti area and had been resettled in Ngorongoro and Loliondo wards and were promised that they would no longer be evicted from their respective areas. Ngorongoro district has a total of 14, 000 sq.km.”he stated.
According to him more than 75% of the Ngorongoro land area is currently being used for conservation and tourism activities and the remaing 4000 sq.km are the only used for human settlement and community activities.
Speaking to reporters he said in order to put an end to the land dispute,the evacuation process should be in a participatory manner between the people and government and must adhere to laws and other formalities. Similary,urging the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance to conduct an investigation about people’s grievances and take actions in order to avoid the violation of human rights in Ngorongoro.
“We would like to see a lasting solution to this dispute between the people of Ngorongoro and conservationists. We would like to see an independent mediator or President Samia herself because she has vested interests in both parts (To the people who are her voters and the fact that conservation institutions are under her watch).”He added, mentioning that THRDC and other human rights defenders has been monitoring the on-going situation in Ngorongoro.
He went into detail that Ngorongoro people have the right to assembly and Freedom of expression granted by the constitution and they should not be detained by security forces,adding all citizens who have been interrogated by the police officers should be given their freedom.
“International partners and development partners are requested to continue supporting Human Rights Defenders and the Government to find a lasting solution of the conflict, taking into consideration the interests of both sides”he added.
On her Part, THRDC Advocacy Officer,Nuru Maro said that they are disappointed with the ongoing situation in Ngorongoro as Human rights defenders,partners, media and top government leaders are silent over the issue.
“THRDC is deeply disappointed by low participation of human rights organisations in this dispute as compared to the years before. In general, the Human Hights Defenders situation in Ngorongoro is currently lagging behind to the detriment of the rights of the citizens which risk being trampled on,”she said
Moreover,she congratulated Political parties leaders in Ngorongoro including CCM for working closely with the people during this time, noting that they have been a link between people and the government, she also applauded THRDC members who are working closely with Ngorongoro people and attending to their grievances to the right government personnel.