In November 2017, Tanzanian news media reported that the government had ended a 25-year-old hunting tourism deal with Otterlo Business Corporation, a United Arab Emirates company.
No new contracts would be awarded to Otterlo Business Corporation, and the Tanzania’s new Minister for Natural Resources, Hamisi Kigwangalla, promised that the company would be gone by January 2018.
This news followed a series of violent evictions of the Maasai who live in and around Otterlo Business Corporation’s hunting concession. Maasai homes were burned and their livestock was confiscated. Rangers from Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with Loliondo police, Tanzania’s Wildlife Division’s anti-poaching unit (KDU), and Otterlo Business Corporation rangers carried out the evictions.
For several years, Otterlo Business Corporation has been lobbying to get 1,500 square kilometres of land classified as a “protected area”. That would mean evicting the Maasai who live there. The land is also an important dry season grazing land for the Maasai’s livestock.
Special authority for Loliondo
On 6 December 2018, Tanzania’s prime minister Kassim Majaliwa announced that he had directed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to create a special authority to manage the “Loliondo area”. In a press statement, Majaliwa says,
“After considering various options, a team of experts suggested using a specific system to create a special authority, since you have a wide range of interests on both sides. and aims at making peace and achieving sustainability in the Loliondo area.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is to prepare a document on the importance of having special legislation for the Loliondo area, to be presented to the Cabinet. The new law should be completed by February-March 2018, so that it can be included in the 2018/2019 budget.
In the press release, Majaliwa mentions the traditions and customs of local people and their relationship with land use, and he talks about engaging stakeholders as soon as the draft law is completed.
Exactly what the “special authority” might mean for the Maasai who live in Loliondo is far from clear.
Susanna Nordlund has been monitoring the situation in Loliondo for almost eight years on her blog, View from the Termite Mound. Nordlund explains that currently the 1,500 square kilometres of dry season grazing land belongs to the Maasai, under Tanzania’s Village Land Act No.5 of 1999.
In a post about the prime minister’s announcement of the “special authority” for Loliondo, Nordlund writes that,
this sounds like an all-out land grab, taking away the land from the villages to give it to a “special authority” prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Natural Resources’ promise that Otterlo Business Corporation would be gone by January 2018 has come to nothing. Nordlund reports that the assistant director of the company told her that the company “wasn’t going anywhere”.
East African Court of Justice
In September 2017, the councils of four villages in Loliondo took a case against the Tanzanian Attorney General to the East African Court of Justice. The four villages, Ololosokwan, Olorien, Kirtalo, and Arash claim that they were illegally evicted from their ancestral land.
The villagers argue that their villages are officially registered. Therefore the torching of their houses, arbitrary arrests, and forced eviction were against the law.
On 25 January 2018, the East African Court of Justice dismissed an objection presented by Tanzania’s government that the villages were part of the government and therefore could not sue the Attorney General.