ATTENTION TO THE PUBLIC AND MEDIA: ONGOING CRISIS IN LOLIONDO.
ATTENTION TO THE PUBLIC AND MEDIA: ONGOING CRISIS IN LOLIONDO.
JUNE 12, 2022
On 10 June 2022, we issued an initial public statement through our sector spokesperson for Tourism and Natural Resources – Ms. Juliana Mwakang’wali. We condemned the ongoing crisis in the districts of Loliondo and Sare whereby images and videos were circulated last week on social media showing injured citizens, videos of shootings and gas tear bombings. Following our initial statement, our party has continued to investigate the situation in Loliondo and have gathered accurate information on the extent and reality of the crisis.
ACT Wazalendo is hugely disappointed after confirming the happenings of a violent battle between the Security and Police Force Units versus civilians residing in 14 villages. Our investigations noted that, on June 7th, 2022 there was an arrival of a group that seemed like the task force, containing the police forces unit and other individuals dressed in military uniforms of the JWTZ who began carrying out a land mapping exercise within an area that has been in long time conflicts of being extended to become a part of forest reserves.
This exercise aggravated citizens in nearby villages who have historically been heard in the media expressing worries of their land being ambushed by the government authorities from time to time. On the night of 10. June 2022, the task force was seen making land marks in Ololosokwan village as an indicator of the village land becoming a part of the reserve forest as per government plan.
In the morning of 10. June, the villagers gathered and tried to intervene the ongoing process of land marking in an effort to defend it. The police force and other security units accompanied made efforts to disperse the gathering by using tear gas bombings which led to the villagers fighting back. The grievance between the police forces and the villagers amounted to the injure of 14 citizens amongst them being 8 women and 2 elderly people whereby it has also been reported, one police was found dead.
Despite of this going on in the ground, ACT Wazalendo condemns the followed statements made by government officials through the Prime Minister Kasim Majaliwa Majaliwa and the Speaker of Parliament Dr. Tulia Ackson Mwasasu who have diverted the parliament form the truth of the ongoing crisis in Loliondo. On the other hand, Speaker – Dr. Ackson was noted advising the government to issue arrest warrants towards individuals who circulated information about the crisis in Loliondo as she claimed they were false images and videos. This is a disappointing remark to be issued by the Speaker of the Parliament who seems to be diverting from the duties of the parliament which should be defending civilians and advising the government accordingly.
Historic evolution of the situation in Loliondo:
For over many years, Loliondo and a part of Sare Districts were identified as forest reserves of Loliondo.
In 2013, the Ministry for Natural Resource and Tourism announced its plan to increase the size of the forest reserve area of Loliondo from 4,000 kilometres to an addition of 1,500 kilometres and moving its status from a forest reserve to a complete reserve area. This automatically included fourteen villages habited by citizens who were within the added 1,500 kilometres and were then required to relocate. Following the government announcing this plan, four villages of Loliondo (Ololosokwa, Oloirien, Kitalo and Arash) opened a trial at the East African Court to defend what is believed to be their rightfully owned land as indigenousness.
The Ministerial budget presented on 3.June 2022, by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Dr. Pindi Chana, it was noted that government will be proceeding with its plan to change the status of Loliondo to becoming a complete forest reserve area. This is ongoing despite the government awareness that citizens from four villages have filed a trial at the East African Court.
It should be noted that, on 25. May 2022, farmer and livestock representatives from 14 villages of Loliondo handed Prime Minister Majaliwa an informative report prepared by villagers on the threats their community experienced of being raided off their land and constantly living in fear. The report also consisted of community propositions on how the grievance could have been resolved since 1993 when the conflict began. After receiving the report, the Prime Minister guaranteed amongst other measures to meet the Loliondo community.
Until then, the government has not met the community to resolve the issues and in response, they have been continued threats, ambush by various security force units and witnessed tear gas bombings in the villagers residential areas.
The government does not respect the court proceedings:
The government is fully aware that, on 22 June 2022, the East African Court in Arusha will issue its judgement on the trial that was opened by civilians from the four villages.
Throughout the grievance involving Loliondo and Sare Districts, civilians have made efforts to seek resolve through dialogue with official authorities and seeking for court interventions. In September 2017, four villages amongst fourteen opened a trial (noted No. 10 of 2017) against the government of United Republic of Tanzania to seek an end of coercion used towards farmers in relocating their community, setting houses into fires, killing livestock, torturing villagers in the villages. Villages that opened the trial were Ololosokwa, Oloirien, Kitalo and Arash.
The same villages also filed in a trial (No. 15 of 2017) seeking the court to stop the government from making any landmarking proceedings in Loliondo District until when the case had been ruled in court. In September 25, 2018 the court issued an order for the government to stop and wait for the final ruling of the case.
The observed crisis involving the security and police forces over the past few days in Loliondo, is a clear violation of court order by the government towards the East African Court that is within the provisions of the East African Cooperation (EAC). Violation of the court order is a criminal offense and a reflection of poor governance practices of the government of United Republic of Tanzania.
ACT Wazalendo Propositions:
The following propositions made by ACT Wazalendo are ways to end the grievance from continuous escalation and permanently stop the violation of human rights in Loliondo:
1. We first want the government to immediately stop all proceedings of landmarking the area around the forest reserve of Loliondo and Sare Districts until the final ruling of the East African court is made.
2. We want the government to create an independent enquiry with representation of the Maasai community to investigate the crisis that occurred on 10. June. 2022. It is important to include the community so as the find out ground reasons for the deaths of civilians, the police, the injured and the continued violation of human rights that has been reported over the past few days. The commission should come up with recommendations of what needs to be done to prevent the reoccurrence of a similar grievance.
3. We want the government to hold the police and security forces tasked individuals into account and taken to disciplinary actions for the coercion used towards civilians that is against the codes of conduct.
4. We ask the government to use dialogue and encourage the farmers and livestock community to participate in resolving challenges that have been observed in Loliondo.
5. We ask the President of United Republic of Tanzania to prioritise civilian interest and cease the ministerial plan of converting residential areas, villages to forest reserves. The same principle should be applied in all land grievances around the country. As per the Wildlife Conservation Act, No. 5 of 2009 Section 16, which requires the Ministry to exempt villages in becoming a part of forest reserves.
It is clear that the Loliondo grievance has been ongoing for many years and the government’s approach of excluding farmers and livestock keeper’s community in seeking resolve is proving failure. In the recent years, there has been an increase of grievances between the government versus farmers and livestock keepers on their land being converted from residential land to government forest reserve areas. It is important for the government to observe the rights of indigenous citizens over other strategic plans.
Ms Dorothy Manka Jonas Semu
Shadow Prime Minister – ACT Wazalendo