Tanzanian military continue evicting the Maasai from villages in the Loliondo area.
On 24 June 2022 soldiers arrived in the middle of the night, evicted residents from their home, demolished the homes and drove the Maasai with their cattle into a small distant area. The village is called Malambo which is in Sale division in Ngorongoro district. The total area of land in this land which is marked by beacons for expropriation is 464km². This land is three quarters of the village land which supports livestock for grass and grazing. The villagers are squeezed into the remaining one quarter of the village with almost no pastures for livestock grazing. This is equivalent to a death sentence to the villagers and their livestock. 17 Families were evicted – total of over 150 persons.
The day after the eviction, the Prime Minister of Tanzania visited Loliondo. He was received by the military who assured him of peace in the area and sang and danced to him a “peaceful” song.
In an escalation of brutality, they have now resorted to shooting the cattle of the Maasai. On 27 June the military arrived at Arash – one of the eight villages in the demarcated 1500 square kilometre disputed land. After assaulting residents, they shot their cattle.
The Maasai are being driven off their land to give it to the Otterloo Business Corporation. The President of Otterloo is Major General Mohammed Abdulrahim al Ali – the Deputy Minister of Defence of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). His daughter is married to Faisal – the son of the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.
An article by Associated Press (https://ntz.info/gen/n01526.html) gives a background to the situation:
Loliondo GAME CONTROL AREA, Tanzania – At a dirt airstrip in rural Tanzania, a desert camouflaged cargo plane from the United Arab Emirates air force taxis up to pallets stacked with large coolers full of game meat, the harvest of a successful Hunting season.
As Tanzanian immigration and customs officials fill out documents under a thatched shelter, brand-new, four-wheel-drive trucks and dune buggies drive to and from a nearby luxury campsite, the base for one of Tanzania’s most expensive – and secretive – game Hunting operations, Otterlo Business Corp.
Hundreds of members of Arab royalty and high-flying businessmen spend weeks in the Loliondo Game Control Area each year Hunting antelope, lion, leopard and other wild animals. The area is leased under the Otterlo name by a member of an emirate royal family who is a senior officer in the UAE defense ministry.
While neighboring Kenya outlawed big game Hunting in 1978, the Tanzanian government says Hunting is the best use of the land and wildlife. But villagers and herders say big money has led government officials to break all the Hunting rules, resulting in the destruction of most of the area’s non-migratory animals and putting East Africa’s most famous national parks under threat.
Loliondo is on the main migratory route for wildlife north of Ngorongoro Crater, east of Serengeti National Park and south of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. The summer Hunting season coincides with the migration of wildebeest and zebra through the area, where they eventually cross into the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. Predatory animals follow the migration.
During the colonial era, Loliondo was set aside for European royalty as a Hunting area. Since independence, Loliondo has remained a Hunting reserve, but it is supposed to be managed by area residents for their benefit.
Local leaders, who refuse to speak publicly because they fear retribution, say they have not been consulted about the lease that was granted in 1995 by national officials in Tanzania’s political capital, Dodoma. They say government officials have tried to silence criticism.
“The lease was given by the government and the Maasai landowners were not involved,” said one Maasai leader. “All the resident animals have been killed … (now) they carry out Hunting raids in the Serengeti National Park, but the government closes its eyes.”
Maasai warriors told The Associated Press that hunters give cash to anyone who can lead them to big game, especially leopards. They also said that Otterlo officials have begun pumping water into some areas to attract more animals and that what the warriors call suspicious fires in the Serengeti have caused animals to move into Loliondo.
Freelance journalist Ted Botha ( https://www.tedbotha.com/home/2017/1/2/and-there-you-thought-you-had-a-big-story ) investigated and reported as follows:
The first hunt begins in Tanzania in 1992, when an anomalous-sounding outfit called the Ortello Business Company, based in the United Arab Emirates and owned by its deputy minister of defense, Brigadier Mohamed Abdul Rahim Al Ali, was sold a 20-year concession to Loliondo by the then president, Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
Loliondo is also located on the border of Kenya, which would make it easy for any unauthorized person – or military aircraft, given that the brigadier has constructed a 1.6-mile airstrip on the property – to enter or leave the country. This fact alone, an unnecessary military airstrip in Africa built and owned by a defense minister from the Middle East, should have raised a few eyebrows, especially after the terrorist attacks pre-9/11 in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi and post-9/11 on a Mombasa hotel. But it didn’t.
Tanzania sells hunting blocks to anyone who can afford them, which usually means foreigners, who then bring friends/family/clients to hunt there. (In the case of Loliondo, these visitors have included King Abdullah II of Jordan.) In 1990 there were only 47 blocks in the country, but by 2000 that number had tripled, to 140. At present about twenty percent of the country is designated for hunting.
All across Africa, the same thing is happening – hunting is catching on like wildfire – and it’s not hard to see why. Money. Animals are the crude oil of the savanna. Tourists who point Winchesters, it has been calculated, spend at least ten times as much as tourists who point Nikons. In South Africa, for instance, an ordinary lion costs $10,000 to kill, a black-maned one $25,000, and an extremely rare white one, over $150,000. Besides each animal he kills, a hunter has to pay to camp, to eat, to employ trackers, and so forth, which can work out to more than $1,000 a day. In a country with a robust economy, such as South Africa, those figures are tempting. In countries in the midst of famine and financial ruin (Zimbabwe) or overcoming years of ruinous socialist policies (Zambia and Tanzania), they are just plain irresistible.
Not that the local people who should benefit from that money ever see it. In Botswana, it was estimated by Dereck Joubert, who writes for National Geographic, that locals earned 2 pula (a few cents) per animal shot. The bulk of the money goes to the outfitters, who are based on other continents, in places like Texas, Germany and the Middle East.
To ensure a regular supply of the most desirable animals – the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and even the still-endangered black rhino), lechwe, African wild dog, cheetah – they are not only being bred in captivity, in Africa’s version of puppy mills, but also brought in from neighboring countries, and even stolen from game parks.
Loliondo has always been shrouded in secrecy. From the time it was sold to OBC, there were questions. The price the Arabs paid was never made public; the Maasai, whose cattle have been allowed to roam across boundaries and terrain like Loliondo for centuries, were never consulted; and the way the application was rushed through led to rumors of presidential favors and government corruption. (This is quite possible, seeing Tanzania came 82 nd out of 91 countries covered in Transparency International’s 2001 Corruption Perceptions Index.)
None of the outfitters agreed to talk to me. It was either because I told them I was a journalist or because they knew that there was, in fact, something fishy going on in Loliondo.
If solidarity didn’t keep people quiet, then fear did. In New York, I met a woman who worked for a company that owns a luxury safari camp in the Serengeti, not far from Loliondo. She told me that the manager of the camp knew what the Arabs in Loliondo were up to, and he didn’t like it. Besides being cruel, it was very bad for his business. He would be out on his Landrover with a group of Americans and Brits pointing binoculars when they came across a Jeep-load of Arabs pointing submachine guns. Some of his guests would be so upset by this that they caught the first available flight home.
The manager regularly heard automatic gunfire from camp, and he would find animal carcasses in the veldt, killed by gunfire, and most of the time it was quite pointless. Two wildebeest, for example, were positioned head-to-head, shot while they sparred playfully with each other. The shooters never even bothered to take the skins or the horns as trophies; they simply shot the animals for the sake of shooting. Nor were the hunters sticking to the boundaries of Loliondo, but regularly penetrated into the Serengeti, and across the border into Kenya’s Maasai Mara, which is not only a protected area but is also in a country that banned commercial hunting twenty-five years ago.
Meitamei Dapash works out of a small office in Washington, D.C., the sole representative of the Maasai Envrionmental Resource Coalition, or MERC. In existence since 1999, MERC is supported by, among others, the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Meitamei not only knew about Loliondo and wanted to talk about it, but he had recently returned from a trip to the area. He and six colleagues had interviewed several hundred Maasai villagers and herdsmen, as well as local church personnel, employees of nongovernmental organizations, park officials, tour operators, and former and present OBC employees.
The Arabs were breaking every rule there was to break. According to what MERC heard, they were using semi-automatic weapons, hunting with lights at night, luring animals with artificially created salt-licks and waterholes, shooting animals from vehicles, and shooting or capturing the young and old, the male and female, the lactating and pregnant. The accusations went on. Animals the Arabs captured that were considered unhealthy were shot, and their carcasses were then sold to non-Maasai communities (the Maasai do not eat wild game), further encouraging poaching and an illegal market for bush meat. Mysterious veldt fires would occur exactly when and where they were needed for the hunters to trap animals and stop them from crossing the border to safety, in Kenya or the Serengeti.
As many as 100 animals were flown out of the country each week. So many animals were being killed that workers at Loliondo had started talking about ‘the killing fields of Loliondo.’
The OBC was also destroying the Maasai way of life. It declared “grazing restrictions,” stopping locals from traversing land they had used for centuries, and started arresting and beating people who carried on doing it. Hunters went dangerously close to Maasai homesteads, threatening the security of their children and livestock. Village elders and park rangers were bribed to encourage locals to favor the OBC, and Maasai were being paid 30,000 Tanzanian shillings each (up to $40) to convert to Islam.
“The act of buying people into a faith defies the teachings of any religion and is a deliberate act to destroy the Maasai people,” a local church leader said.
At the 1.6-mile airstrip, meanwhile, military aircraft were landing up to twice a week, loaded with four-wheel-drives, weapons and communication gear – as well as hunters accompanied by young Pakistani and Filipino women – and then flew out with a variety of live animals and bush meat. They were not subject to inspections in either direction.
Security around the property was tight, and it was clear that the agreement between the Tanzanian authorities and the UAE went much further than just a lease allowing the Arabs to hunt. A joint team of the country’s paramilitary wing, the Full Force Unit, and members of the UAE army patrolled the property, and there was always a strong police presence. No one could prove that it was a kind of payment, but it was well known that the UAE royal family had donated passenger aircraft to the Tanzanian army and a number of vehicles to its wildlife division.
Meitamei said, it was obvious that everyone – from Maasai herdsman to park official to businessman – was intimidated by the OBC, and feared some kind of retribution if they talked.
“The Maa word for ‘the Arab,’ Olarrabui, is often used to refer to Brigadier Al Ali, and, by extension, the OBC,” Meitamei said. “The word has become synonymous with power, authority, brutality, fear, and entities larger than life. It’s amazing no one talks about this. Everyone is too scared. The Arabs are a mafia.”
A groundswell of resistance to OBC is starting. More Maasai were growing vocal about cases of intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, even torture by OBC officials and security forces. Thirteen of their elders trekked across the country to the capital, Dar es Salaam, to press the government to take action against the OBC. “We cannot just sit and watch the Arabs take our land,” a spokesman for the elders, Sandet ole Reya, was quoted as saying. “If necessary, we will wipe out all animals in the area to keep the Arabs out of our land.”
A war of words began between the Maasai and the government, with people suggesting that ex-president Mwinyi and other Tanzanian officials were part owners of Loliondo, and that’s why nothing was being done about it.
Botha makes the following points:
One, the battle for Loliondo is also a battle for the future of wildlife in East Africa, pitting the Tanzanian government and hunters (not only the Arabs, but ALL commercial hunters) against the Maasai and eco-tourists.
Two, the Maasai have been conservationists since time immemorial. They do not believe in commercial hunting, for it leads to greed, over-exploitation of wildlife resources, and often irreversible damage to delicate ecosystems. What they do believe is that today’s generation holds all natural resources in trust for future generations. Over the centuries they have developed a very special relationship with wild animals, so that they and their cattle can share water and grass with them.
Three, it is largely thanks to the Maasai way of life – pastoral and pacifist – that the Kenya/Tanzania cross-border region continues to have such an abundance of wild animals, not only helping to maintain one of the most important ecosystems in Africa, but also guaranteeing a future for the region’s strongest industry, tourism.
All this, however, was being jeopardized by commercial hunting. The Arabs were an extreme example of what was happening across the whole of Tanzania, where hunters were being allowed to break the law with impunity. They were bribing wildlife officials to let them enter protected areas, give them blank hunting certificates to shoot as many animals of whatever kind they liked, and turn a blind eye to these actions.
“Here in Tanzania we can kill what we want because money speaks,” a Danish hunter told MERC. “You find the park rangers are now the guides for hunting expeditions both inside and outside the park.”
An elder at a Maasai village, meanwhile, had already given up hope. “The government and, indeed, justice are not on our side. We have been forced to accept things as they are because we have no power to stand up against this Arab.”