Dar es Salaam. Tanzania has taken the Loliondo land demarcation saga to the international community, distancing itself from rumours of evictions and violation of human rights.
Speaking at the third diplomatic briefing yesterday, Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation minister Liberata Mulamula said the country was simply undertaking measures aimed at conserving and protecting the Serengeti ecosystems.
Ambassador Mulamula was in the company of her Constitutional and Legal Affairs counterpart Damas Ndumbaro, Natural Resources and Tourism deputy minister Mary Masanja and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation’s deputy permanent secretary Fatma Mohammed Rajab.
“I want to assure you,” said Ms Mulamula, “that, Tanzania abides not only by its laws and those related to human rights, but also international human rights treaties to which the country is a signatory.”
She said there were two things that should not be mixed up. The issue of voluntary relocation programme in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), whereby no one was being forced to leave and the demarcation programme in the Loliondo Game Reserve.
For her party, Ms Masanja noted that: “NCA was established in 1959 by the law with three objectives, namely, conservation of natural and cultural resources, development and promotion of tourism; and developing interests of the indigenous herders in the NCA.
According to her, before its establishment, NCA was part of the Serengeti Game Reserve (currently Serengeti National Park), and when Serengeti National Park was established, about 4,000 people who were living in the Serengeti, were moved to NCA. There were three ethnic groups: the Datoga, Hadzabe and Maasai.
Moreover, Ms Masanja said: “Due to population increase and yet the area is home to least 143 invasive species which have resulted to human-wildlife conflicts, the disappearance of some species (gerenuk, topi, Oryx), and increased livestock population made the government to see the need to preserve the area.”
“Therefore,” she explained further, “President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s directive was to reach out to communities in the Ngorongoro. We held constructive dialogues on how to conserve the area, and the government and some people agreed to the said voluntary relocation programme.”
But with the Loliondo game reserve, Ms Masanja said: “The total area is 4,000 square kilometres in size and increasing human activities has led to the deterioration of rangelands due to increasing number of livestock both from within Tanzania and outside leading to overgrazing and spread of invasive plant species that are not palatable to livestock.”
According to her, there is also destruction of water catchment areas which are the main sources of water for people, livestock, and wildlife particularly in the Serengeti National Park and that the area crucial for wildebeest reproduction and migration into the Serengeti.
And in addition, the deputy minister noted that conflicting land use practices were observed in the area, livestock and crop cultivation, with the later reducing available pastureland, thus a devised land use management plan whereby the communities were being given 2,500sq km and the rest (1,500 sq km) was preserved.
The deputy minister distanced the country from propaganda that the government purportedly planned to create a game reserve to be controlled by the Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) saying: “OBC have been there for about 30 years, they are just like any other investor and have helped the community massively.”
Commenting, Dr Ndumbaro said: “In fact, the government is not evicting people, in Ngorongoro, there is a voluntary relocation programme, the government has constructed modern houses, and all social amenities. Those willing to leave, have been compensated, and the government is incurring all the costs related to the programme.”
He added: “But when it comes to Loliondo, there are no evictions, and no one will be evicted, the government is improving the area by dividing it into two, one consisting of 1,500sq km to be conserved and the rest is for the people, but the government will provide all social services in the area. It is unfortunate there was a killing of a police officer during the demarcation process.”
According to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs minister, there was neither land grabbing nor ancestral/Maasai land in Tanzania, adding: “According to our constitution, we have a public land, people are given the right to occupy under a long term lease of either 33 years, 66 years or 99 years which is granted by the President.”