Saturday, March 30, 2013

TANZANIAN government has decided to tear the disputed Loliondo Game Controlled Area into two parts--one belonging to villagers and the other in government hands.
The minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Khamis Kagasheki, told reporters this week that the division offers the best prospects for a lasting solution to the 20-year-old conflict.
Local civic leaders are threatening to resign if the government goes ahead with the plan. Ngorongoro MP Saning’o ole Telele said  that they resolved at a meeting on Monday to resign en masse should the government go ahead with the plan to partition the area.
The dispute is complex and involves various interested parties, including some from neighbouring Kenya.
The dispute revolves over the ownership of the Loliondo Game Controlled Area and the rights of villagers to graze their cattle, access water sources and move freely between villages.
The investor in question is the United Arab Emirates-based Ortello Business Corporation, which has operated in the area since 1992.
According to Mr Telele, villagers claim the area rightly belongs to them and they have a right to conduct their business freely. “We are just awaiting the government’s official communication and then we will act,” he said. “We also plan to mobilise the people for a return to the Serengeti plains, where our fathers resided before being relocated to Loliondo by the British.”
The government plans to retain 1,500 square kilometres that borders the Serengeti national park, according to Mr Kagasheki. It is a water catchment area and a drinking place of wild animals--and also part of the migration route for animals moving to and from the Maasai Mara national park in Kenya. Wildebeest also go to the area to give birth.
But Mr Kagasheki is clearly in combat mode. : “If the civic leaders want to resign, they can go ahead. But there is no government in the world that can just let an area so important to conservation to be wasted away by overgrazing.”
Some 2,500 square kilometres will still be in the hands of villagers. They consist of dry plains but the government intends to build dams and boreholes so pastoralists can access water for their animals.
There are also plans to nurture green pasture for the animals and laws will be enacted to officially divide the area. Mr Telele says the villagers will cut ties with the investor.
In the meantime, Mr Kagasheki has warned politicians and neighbouring countries who are supposedly supporting the conflict to declare their interest.
He accused neighbouring countries, particularly Kenya, of inciting the villagers but said Tanzania would not be intimidated by pressure from non-governmental organizations.
Many of the NGOs operating in the area are not local, he claimed, and are only pushing their interests.
“It is amazing for a small area like Loliondo controlled area to have more than 30 non-governmental organisations if they are not after their own benefit,” the minister added. “But now the end has come and the nation cannot be driven by the pressure of individuals or NGOs.”
The government cannot let go of the land, he said, just because of the invaders due to the potential it holds,including water sources and animal hatcheries. Misuse of land is one of the causes of conflicts in the country.
“Poor usage of land has led to disputes sometimes engineered by our own people and politicians but even neighbouring countries have interfered in their own interests,” Mr Kagasheki said. “But seeing the potential Loliondo carries for water sources, animal breeding and migration routes, we need to protect it.”


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