So far, missing from the raging international controversy over the resettlement of Maasai families from Loliondo in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro territory is the village of Msomera, some 50 kilometers from the municipality of Handeni in the Tanga region and 600 kilometers from Loliondo.
< p>This vast and sparsely populated rural landscape bordering Kibindi district and Manyara region is the final target of the government’s choice for the Maasai families resettled from Loliondo.
The Tanzanian authorities have has aggressively pushed ahead with resettlement of the Maasai pastoral community from Loliondo over the last two weeks, despite criticism from civil society and anthropologists around the world.
Read:Tanzania removes Maasai from Ngorongoro
The government has sought to dismiss widespread claims by critics at home and abroad that Loliondo, a designated 4,000 square kilometer area, is wildlife-controlled Area in the Ngorongoro district of the Arusha region that is the Maasai ancestral homeland would do this and make their resettlement more of an eviction.
But as of Thursday last week, 40 households in Loliondo, including 237 people, were out The Maasai and Hadzabe communities, with their livestock, have been relocated to Msomera at government expense, according to the Tanga Regional Commissioner.
The relocation is a closely coordinated effort between at least five line ministries that are under direct supervision by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, an indication of how much President Samia Suluhu is doing the administration wants it to happen despite negative international attention.
The first group of 20 households arrived a week ago and the second Group, which also included 20 households, arrived on Thursday evening. Another 60 or more households said to have agreed to the “voluntary” move from Loliondo will come here in phases as the government accelerates construction and infrastructure upgrades in this 162,000-acre area dedicated to the move >< p>The plan is to give each household up to 10 acres of land for grazing their herds, subsistence farming and other needs as conveniently as possible, The EastAfrican government officials said during our visit this week. “The goal of this operation from the start has been to ensure that residents have better welfare benefits from day one,” said a government official, who sought anonymity.
Dubai Trophy Hunter
The current Loliondo land saga dates back to 1992 when a Dubai-based hunting company, Otterlo Business Corporation, acquired an exclusive 4,000 square km hunting license in Loliondo through a permit obtained through a controversial 25-year deal with the government. Critics of the deal say the Dubai firm has since campaigned to clear 1,500 square kilometers of the country from human settlement for non-stop trophy hunting.
This led to a confrontation between the Maasai herdsmen in the countryside and local police, culminating in a court case in the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), in which the court issued an injunction to prevent the “eviction” of Maasai from Loliondo. The injunction is still in effect.
Read:Tanzania Ends Hunting Deals With Dubai Royal Family
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) In a June 19 statement, the Tanzanian authorities called on the Tanzanian authorities to respect the EACJ’s injunction and “ensure that appropriate peaceful measures are taken to recognise, respect and protect the rights of the Maasai communities”. “Intimidation of community members must stop,” said IUCN.
“What is needed is a fair, equitable and equitable consultation process to find long-term solutions and to investigate and address human rights violations related to conservation.” , including the establishment, modification or expansion of conservation or nature reserves.”
It is therefore curious why the government has now decided to ignore this and proceed with the evictions, and in the process billions of shillings for spend on the actual resettlement and “development” of Msomera.
Priority infrastructure listed by the government includes water supplies for homes and animals, health and education facilities, upgraded roads, and communications infrastructure, but more money is being spent on spent the logistics of transporting families in minibuses and trucks for the herds, w probably in the billions. Government sources say an official budget for the exercise has not even been shared internally, indicating how controlled the entire operation is.
Read:ULIMWENGU: Trouble in the Ngorongoro Paradise and MPs see no evil
A quick spot check by The EastAfrican confirmed official government updates on the resettlement operation, such as the ongoing construction of a Tsh1. 99 billion ($8.5 million) dam, 167,000 liter storage tank and pump house, and pipe-laying to cover the first six kilometers of the 20-kilometer distribution network contemplated in the project outline.
Existing pharmacy in Msomera village has been renovated and there are plans to build a larger and more modern health centre; Two newly built schools, one primary and one secondary, are ready to accept students but are awaiting certification from school inspectors.
Road links to Handeni and Korogwe – the closest urban centers – are constantly being upgraded. Government officials say the road component of the project alone will cost Tsh2.53 billion (US$1.1 million).
At least 100 of the 500 planned new homes for the resettled families have already been built, a project , which is being tackled by conscripts from the Tanzanian army. Private contractors – including one Chinese – are working around the clock to fully connect the village to the electricity grid. Currently only a few houses have electricity, including 20 of the newly built houses for the new families.
What comes next?
Back in Loliondo, nobody knows what will happen to the families, who have opposed voluntary relocation.
On Wednesday, the government appeared to be tightening the screw on those opposed to relocation, with Commissioner-General for Immigration Anna Makakala announcing a 10-day special operation to move sort out all. illegal immigrants” in the Loliondo area.
Read:Dar to crack down on illegal Kenyan Maasai
“I warn people who are entering the country illegally have officially received proper documentation to legitimize their stay and operate within the confines of the laws of the country,” she said in Loliondo, where she was inspecting the progress of delineation and beacon placement for the proposed game reserve.
The announcement came on the back of reports of violent clashes between police and Maasai to stop the arcation’s beacon.
According to Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Pindi Chana, The intent is to convert 1,500 square kilometers of the Loliondo Game Controlled Area into a full-fledged Game Reserve to balance conservation with livelihoods and ” protect the area in the best interest of the nation at large.”
The Loliondo Game Controlled Area was established in 1951 as a strategic area to protect the transboundary ecosystems of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Tanzania and Kenya.
The new game reserve will Pololeti, Ms Chana said, saying that 400 beacons have already been set up to demarcate the area for the new reserve.
The government has spearheaded the rapid growth in the region’s human and livestock population since 1959, from 8,000 to 110,000 people and from 260,000 to over a million cattle, too many to justify their removal to prevent human-wildlife conflict.
In Msomera, the move has a silver lining. Longtime Handeni resident Jackson Kagonji says Msomera was a backward place and not even public teachers wanted to be stationed there because there was no electricity or water and the streets were hell. “Now it’s slowly turning into a kind of paradise before our eyes,” he said.
According to Handeni District Administrative Secretary Mashaka Mgeta, before the project Msomera was listed as a state reserve area with a population of no more than 6,000 and was made up of local Zigua pastoralists with some Maasai herders migrating and some settling.
Mr Mgeta spoke of the idea of a Having a Maa community here was therefore not surprising, only that the earlier Maasai settlers here were not from Loliondo but from Maasai countries.
Richard Tobiko, a father of two, was among the first who relocated his young family from Loliondo to Msomera a week ago, says so far the experience has been good and “not only did we receive a generous compensation package, but they arranged transportation for us and our cattle here, plus a real backst detached house and all basic amenities including grazing land, water and electricity. We can hardly believe this kind of generosity from the government,” said Mr. Tobiko.
The family runs a small grocery store from their home. He said: “Back in Loliondo we lived in mud huts with no electricity, no good hospitals and we weren’t allowed to do business. So it’s like a dream come true.” “And although I have relatives in Loliondo who still call us sold out, my advice to any doubters there is that they should come and see what’s on offer for themselves and then to make a decision whether or not to join us.”