Babati. President John Pombe Magufuli’s directive to stop planned evictions of pastoralists near protected areas was a victory for nomads.
On Tuesday, a middle aged lady, known to many simply as Mama Rose, joined scores of people in a peaceful procession in Babati to congratulate the Head of State for the ‘bold’ move.
“Our battle is over and we hope we will be allowed back to our grazing land (at Vilima Vitatu),” the excited lady said at the climax of the procession, which was received by Manyara regional leaders.
Mama Rose and her fellow Barbaig pastoralists have for years been battling the authorities in Babati District over the disputed land near the highway to Arusha. The authorities, through the village government, invoked the 2010 decree of the High Court Land Division to have the herders evicted on grounds the disputed land was a wildlife management area (WMA).
But in 2008, the 17 villagers led by the lady, successfully lodged an appeal at the Court of Appeal to repeal the High Court decree to evict them.
Although the herders stayed put at the contested Maramboi, a hamlet with a forest cover, they were finally forced out in September last year in a coordinated operation.
As they were contemplating the next move, Ms Bayai said they were relieved by a statement made by President Magufuli on January 15th when he halted the eviction of people in 366 villages across the country.
It could not be established if Vilima Vitatu, a village east of Lake Manyara and named after three cone-shaped volcanic hills, is among them.
The presidential directive, nevertheless, targeted villages which are either close to the protected areas, in the buffer zones or those in dispute with the conservation authorities.
Most of the traditional livestock herders especially in Arusha, Manyara and Kilimanjaro regions, however, felt some local leaders or government organs were simply hostile to them.
“As cattle herders we have been subjected to constant harrassment. We hope the presidential directive will be followed by legal processes to the it binding”, said Nasinyali Marko from Simanjiro district.
He cited areas notorious for conflicts between the herders and conservation agencies as Kimotorok in Simanjiro district,Vilima Vitatu and the entire Loliondo division in Ngorongro district.