On Tuesday afternoon, April 20, 2021, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) issued a statement suspending the implementation of its thirty-day notice it earlier released, requiring the people living in the property to leave as well as demolishing the houses they reportedly built without the permission of the authority. The NCAA said that the decision to halt the implementation of the notice was due to “misunderstanding” the notice raised over its directives.
Released on April 12, 2021, the NCAA notice asked 45 people to leave the NCAA to Jema and Oldoinyosambu( the village in Ngorongoro District but outside the Conservation Area), 112 properties to be demolished at the owners own cost, among them government properties and 174 families allegedly unlawful migrants (some presents in the area since the 1960s and 1970s) to return into their ancestral territories. The NCAA claimed that the notice followed resolutions of a district defence and security committee meeting of March 4, 2021.
The list of ‘illegal properties’ red-listed by the NCAA and which need to be demolished within 30 days include a village office and a village food store in Kakesio village; a village office, a milk project office and a police station in Endulen village; a primary school and a dispensary in Nasipooriong village; a dispensary, village maize grinding machine, a primary school and a village office in Esere village; a village office in Oloirobi village; a village office in Alaitole village; and a village veterinary house in Osinoni village. On the list are also faith-based properties whereby an Anglican Church in Kakesio village, a Catholic Church and a pre-and primary school in Endulen village, a Pentecost Nursery school in Nasipooriong village and a Mosque in Endulen village also need to be demolished. Part of these properties has been there before Independence as for the Catholic Church, 1981 as of the police station and 1990s for some primary schools.
The urgency of interventions
While the decision to put a stop to the implementation of the notice is welcome, very urgent intervention is needed to rescue the looming threat to humanity in Ngorongoro following the government of Tanzania’s several attempts to rid the area of its ancestral owners under the guise of conserving the world heritage site which includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera.
First, the intervention can take the form of forming an independent commission of inquiry on Ngorongoro, which will recommend the best options to balance the founding objectives and resolve the present conflict between the government and the people of Ngorongoro. The Commission should comprise equal representation from community representatives, ecological experts and rights groups and investigate the human rights situation in Ngorongoro.
Strange as it may seem, the NCAA notice aimed to evict the pastoral people of Ngorongoro carries what has been the authority’s modus operandi in dealing with pastoral people of Ngorongoro over the last five decades: a war against needy and desperate people with no regards to observing the rules let alone human rights. The notice itself came hardly a week since President Samia Suluhu Hassan expressed her concern about the threat posed by population growth on the future of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), arguing that Tanzania has only two choices: limit human population and save the Ngorongoro or allow human activities and say goodbye to conservation. In my previous writing in this space, I pointed out President Samia might have acted on misinformation her assistants placed on her table.
As far as I’m concerned, what the NCAA called for in its notice is exactly what terrorism is all about: attack the culture of a particular community, their education, their health services, and their faith. Wiping out services like education is meant to limit education and increase illiteracy as fast as possible. At the same time, dismantling churches and mosques aims to deprive people of their right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. All these efforts aim to create a jungle free of its original inhabitants, probably for the sake of giving room for large-scale wildlife massacre.
As I argued in my previous article, the extinction narrative of biodiversity, wildlife, and nature behind the forceful removal of pastoral people in Ngorongoro is a fake narrative with no basis of rationality. The NCAA has ignored both the people and conservation and concentrated on piping money from the tourists without bothering with the cost to the people and nature. It’s out of this logic that Ngorongoro has shifted its conservation unit to a protection unit with all of the authority staff now having undergone paramilitary training with what ought to have been the conservation department now headed by a military colonel, as environmental researcher Dr Ronald Ndesanjo succinctly explains it in his latest article for The Chanzo.
A call for accountability
The Ngorongoro issue calls for immediate interventions to prevent an unfavourable outcome. While the forms this intervention can take may be a matter of discussion, I think the best starting point will be the recalling of the appointment of the NCAA Conservation Commissioner Dr Freddy Manongi, who was responsible for the issuing of the notice in the first place before he made a u-turn following protests and public discussion against the move. Dr Manongi, among many other weaknesses he has revealed as a Chief Conservator, seems to have no clue of what human rights are and appears to be indifferent as far as the maintenance of the relationship between public properties and human sustainability.
On 16 April 2021, for example, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Dr Damas Ndumbaro scheduled to meet the pastoral people of Ngorongoro, saying he’ll emphasise an inclusive approach to solving the perennial Ngorongoro issue. However, after holding meetings with NCAA officials, authorities’ officials, under the leadership of Dr Manongi, dissuaded Dr Ndumbaro from meeting the pastoral people over ‘security reasons.’ There is no security challenge in Ngorongoro, but this hasn’t stopped the NCAA to use the narrative to push its agenda.
Therefore, the NCAA machinations call for an appointment of people with a fresh mindset to lead the ministry responsible for tourism and the NCAA itself if some permanent, win-win solution for both the government and the pastoral people of Ngorongoro is to be found. This suggestion is based on the common adage that we cannot solve our problems using the same minds that created them. But maybe this will be one of the suggestions that the commission of the inquiry that I suggested be formed to look into the issue and recommend the best way out will come up with. For now, what is at least needed is for NCAA officials to be held accountable for causing unnecessary tension to the pastoral people of Ngorongoro and Tanzanians in general.
Joseph Moses Oleshangay is a lawyer, advocate and human rights activist from Ngorongoro based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He can be reached through his e-mail address which is email@example.com, or via Twitter at @Oleshangay. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editor at firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries.