TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Action in Maasai land dispute
Newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Hamis Kigwangalla, has terminated a 25-year-old hunting concession with a company owned by the United Arab Emirates royal family and launched investigations into the dealings of the company and former tourism ministers.

The Minister ordered the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to arrest and investigate Isaac Mollel, executive director of the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), for trying to bribe him and his predecessors. Dr Kigwangalla also called for the investigation of former ministers. This includes Lazaro Nyalandu, who was recently lambasted by the Minister after having defected from CCM to Chadema citing concerns at the government’s direction under President Magufuli.

Dr Kigwangalla said OBC will never be awarded another hunting licence, and suspended director of wildlife Alexander Songorwa for allegedly creating a syndicate of government officials in the ministry who have been compromised.

Prior to Kigwangalla’s appointed, long-running tensions between the Maasai community and government authorities in Loliondo and the Serengeti flared up in August 2017. An estimated 185 homes were burned in an act of forced eviction, according to a Danish NGO, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

“We must speak out about the land issue,” said Lilian Looloitai of Cords Limited, an Arusha-based rights group. “The government has not taken the proper measures to educate and communicate what their intentions are for the land. They are told, ‘You can’t cross this land, it belongs to the government, you can’t cross this land it belongs to investors’. We are not certain, we are not stable – as a community, as a society – and it is affecting our future.”

In 2012, there were claims that the government wanted to force Maasai pastoralists off their land to allow hunting activities on land bordering the Serengeti National Park. In response, the government shelved plans to create a “wildlife corridor” of 579 square miles. President Kikwete promised in 2014 that evictions would not take place.

Shortly after his appointment, the new Minister gave an interview to The Citizen newspaper that offered rights and conservation activists hope. “I heard about the violation of human rights that occurred in that area including houses of residents being torched and women being raped,” he said. “So, I have said as the minister I will not promote the dispute further as it only serves to entrench hatred of the people we seek to serve against their government.”

“Some livestock were seized on the villages’ land during an operation of establishing the buffer zone,” he added. “I said you seized these livestock in the game controlled area of Loliondo and you have not seized them according to the law. So, get them (livestock) back to the residents and I suspended that operation. The animals seized within the Serengeti National Park would be fined according to the law.”

Just days later, the OBC concession was terminated, Songorwa suspended and PCCB called in.

Bids invited for Steigler’s Gorge hydropower dam project
The Ministry of Energy and Minerals has invited bids for the construction of a hydropower project at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve, despite opposition from conservationists.

The government considers the project on the Rufiji river in the UNESCO-designated reserve as vital in its bid to diversify its energy mix and end chronic electricity shortages.

The project would more than double the country’s power generation capacity. With an installed capacity of at least 2,100MW, the new dam will dwarf other hydropower dams in Tanzania, including Kidatu (204MW), Kihansi (180MW), Mtera (80MW) and Pangani (68MW).

The conservation group, WWF, called on potential investors, banks and
construction companies not to participate in the project, at least until a full Strategic Environmental Assessment has been carried out. “WWF wants the true impacts of the dam to first be assessed and the World Heritage Committee to give its approval. The proposed dam would endanger the livelihoods of 200,000 local people and the reserve’s rare wildlife, such as elephants and black rhinos, would be placed under even greater threat.” “Companies who become involved in the project run the risk of significant reputational damage,” said WWF campaign manager. “We are asking investors, banks and those in the construction industry that work on dams to add Stiegler’s Gorge to their risk register.”

President Magufuli’s office said in July that the long-delayed hydroelectric plant would be built “to speed up the development of the country”.

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