Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources Pindi Chana said Thursday that the exercise to ‘relocate’ the native people of Ngorongoro to the Msomera village in the Handeni district in Tanga will commence “anytime from now.”
Dr Chana made the remarks when she visited the village to inspect the ongoing construction of human settlements and other essential social services infrastructure. Msomera village is one of the two areas that the government has designated for people who will offer to “voluntarily” relocate from Ngorongoro.
The other area is Kitwai village in the Simanjiro district in Manyara. Dr Chana said Thursday that the government has completed the construction of 103 housing units in Msomera and it will soon launch the construction of 400 more housing units in the village.
“I’m satisfied with the pace of building essential infrastructures here [in the village],” a statement from the ministry quoted Dr Chana as saying. “Anytime from now, Ngorongoro residents who registered to willingly leave [Ngorongoro] will be relocated [in Msomera].”
Dr Chana reiterated the authorities’ motivation to proceed with the exercise, saying that the aim is to pave the way for conservation activities to take place within the Ngorongoro conservation area.
On March 11, 2022, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said that up until that time, the government had received a list of 86 preliminary households with a total population of 453 people who had signed up for the relocation.
While the government has said more than once that the exercise is aimed to be based on prior and informed consent on the part of the natives, the natives’ representatives and activist organisations have pointed out the opposite is what is happening on the ground.
These people point to the transfer of development funding from Ngorongoro to Handeni, a move they consider to be aimed at systematically evicting them from their “ancestral land.” For example, on March 31, 2022, the government transferred a total of 355,500,000 of COVID-19 recovery funds from Ngorongoro to Handeni.
Dr Chana’s remarks on the readiness of Msomera village for the relocation exercise differ from the assessment by the U.S.-based environmental think tank Oakland Institute which revealed a number of issues with the exercise.
These issues include failure to consult communities in Msomera and Kitwai; lack of adequate water and grazing land in selected sites; concerns over promised social services; risk of conflict; and incomplete resettlement plans.
Meanwhile, in Loliondo, a division within the Ngorongoro district, a high number of police vehicles from the anti-riot Field Force Unit were on Thursday morning sighted in Wasso town in the contested land. According to the report, the police were at the village to supervise the erection of beacons to demarcate 1,500 km2 of land that authorities want to turn into a protected area.
Speaking about the exercise the Arusha Regional Commissioner, John Mongella said that the exercise of erecting beacon in the 1500 square kilometers area is for protection of conservation area and that, “communities are involved”.
On the meeting held on May 27,2022 in Arusha, communities representatives from Ngorongoro and Loliondo made a case that government should not proceed with the exercise of erecting beacon until there is dialogue and understanding on both sides.
“We know that the source of all this tension between communities and government is the investor and its the investor who is pushing for the erection of beacon in those areas”, said Joel Lesoni, community representative from Loliondo. “In the areas that are clearly residential areas that is where there is tension on beacon erection, and we believe the [game hunting] investor is pushing for this”, emphasized Mr Lesoni.
Communities representative advise the government that dialogue with local communities is the way forward out of the impasse.”We have nothing to do with game hunting, some of this animals sleep near our homes, so if the investor is important to the government its better to have dialogue and communities to work them [investors] without erecting beacon or evicting any of the resident from Sale division or Loliondo division”, continued Mr Lesoni