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Friday, August 14, 2009

The Isle of Peace, Home of the Homeless

It is ironical in our ears when the world praises Tanzania to be the isle of peace. What is the benefit of outward peace when there is NO peace within? Tanzanian Government must try the best to maintain peace among her peoples. You cannot be proud as a country and claim to be sovereign when all we see is slavery at high places. The narrative below comes from a group fighting for justice among the Maasai community in Serengeti. Read and advise what can be done...

The Maasai community living adjacent to the Serengeti National Park have been sent parking forcefully to pave way for Hunting Company from the United Arabs Emirates.
Following the eviction of the Maasai community members from Loliondo villages women were raped; children disappeared into Serengeti and killed by the wildlife, while houses and property were set ablaze by armed soldiers to protect the company.

Traditionally the Maasais they depends on livestock for their survival, this minority group have been protecting wildlife and the greater Serengeti and Maasai Mara ecosystem for many centuries and enormous species of wildlife are found near their homes.

Endangered by own conservatory work

The price of their work of conservation is putting them under Government force
to get out of their land to give a land for Arabs Hunting Company (OBC). Traditionally the livestock and wildlife are co-existing; but the Government of Tanzania decided to evict these people to make land free for hunting.

Since 1992, the Tanzania Government allocated Loliondo villages as a hunting block to Arabs Company from UAE. It’s almost 17 years when the hunting process started. In the beginning of last year 2008, there was a serious discussion between the investor from, Government of Tanzania and Local Maasai people.

The discussion was to create an exclusive hunting area for Arabs Company, in the course of this discussion the Arabs with Government backing; manipulated local leaders from the Maasai community to enter into the shoddy business contract between the Hunting Company and villages.

On 4th July, 2009, the Government at Regional and District levels commissioned the armed Filed Force Unit (Anti riot police) to undertake operation that and remove the Maasai people out of their land.

The eviction operation saw more than 400 house burnt, young livestock killed, and 600 people homeless and without food and 40,000 heads of cattle in the bushes.
In the operation women were raped, other had miscarriages, children disappeared into Serengeti National park and killed by wild animal while the young men were serious beaten and the FFU men used live ammunitions to disperse livestock into the forest and many families lost their livestock and properties.

Testimony of the raped woman

“I was running out of my house, which was set ablaze following my child who was running to the bush; two armed men chased me and force me to lie down. Six men followed them and all raped me! There many other girls and women who were raped inside their houses during the operation. The armed soldiers told us to remove our belongings from the houses at the same time followed us inside and rape us”

State of Emergency

Today people don’t have food and water, shelter and security. Before the operation the Government and the International food relief agencies provided food relief to these people to address a serious food shortage due to drought that hitting Africa.

The evicted local Maasai people are trying to respond for the eviction but it’s difficult for them to sustain armed Government soldiers. The local people are forced by the situation to sell their cattle to get food but the prices for their livestock are low due to drought and lack of pastures. Hundreds of people and livestock will perish out if immediate international action is not put in place.

State Fa├žade

In 15 July, 2009 the deputy Minister for Natural Resource and Tourism with the Member of Parliament of Ngorongoro District visited to Loliondo to assess the impact of ongoing social injustice.
The Minister told the public meeting that she “does not know who commissioned the armed soldiers to do the operation” and ordered “the operation to stop.”
The following days the evictees went back to their original areas; but the armed soldiers burnt again the Maasai houses, beaten and chased the people out of the area. Young people were forced to pull heavy logs while being physically assaulted.

The local Maasai and other lobbying groups failed to understand the force behind the eviction. But it’s obvious clear that UAE Company is financing the process of the eviction. Local informants and investigators said the UAE Company is paying armed soldier and Local Government officials at the District and Regional levels cash amounting to US Dollars 400 per day to evict the Maasai people.

The local journalists were also on the pay roll of the hunting company from UAE Company and were neither now publishing nor providing the information to the public. The Maasai who complain for the effect of operation were threatened by the police not talk. However; the local Maasai with lobbying groups managed to give out the information to the public as well to the international levels.

Silenced not to speak

After a strong publicity done by the community; CSOs and the media practitioners at the national level; the Regional Commissioner (RC) of Arusha Mr Isodori Shirima, was ordered by the Government officials at the National level to silence the people and try to stop the public outcry.
The RC flew to UAE camp and stayed there for the whole day afraid to meeting the local Maasai people but he ordered the District Commission Mr Elias Wawalali to meet with local leaders.

Arrogant Government

In the meeting the local Maasai leaders raised their concerns for the eviction and operation. The DC told them that, “what was done by the Government was not an intended operation. The Government may undertake another serious operation if you are not giving out the land to UAE Company. The Government will start wildlife park area that will restrict pastoralism.”

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