On June 10, 2022, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa took pains to debunk a video clip and images that had gone viral on social media depicting a confrontation between the indigenous Maasai pastoralists and the police in the Loliondo area of the Ngorongoro district.
Speaking in parliament after Speaker Tulia Ackson urged the government to deal with people “spreading lies” about issues in the Ngorongoro district, Mr Majaliwa explained that events that led to the gathering of men and women who wielded traditional weapons were a result of a misunderstanding.
Looking vividly emotional, Mr Majaliwa blamed “people with ill intentions who masquerade as activists” for spreading fake news that the protests were people’s reaction to threats of being evicted from their land.
The premier said what had happened was that a group of government officials had gone to place beacons around the Lolilondo wildlife catchment area, not to keep it out of bounds to neighbouring communities, but for the purpose of marking it for wildlife conservation.
As he further outlined the government’s grand plans to build waterholes, bowls and other facilities to make grazing in Loliondo sustainable, Mr Majaliwa said, repeatedly, that no villager would be evicted from Loliondo and that livestock keepers would continue accessing water and pastureland in the catchment area “as it has always been.”
Mr Majaliwa also touched on the planned “voluntary relocation” of those residents who are ready to move from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) by giving updates on preparations for the relocation area.
He painted such a rosy picture of the conditions of the Msomera village in the Handeni district where volunteers would be relocated, cautioning other Tanzanians not to expect the same kind of treatment from the government.
He said, for example, that not only would volunteers be given free, three-roomed houses, each built on a three-acre plot, but they would also be compensated for houses that they would leave behind in the NCA.
Additionally, each household would have free access to farm and grazing lands outside the village. All this comes on top of educational and health facilities that have been built to make living in Msomera amenable.
Compared to life back in the NCA where residents were not allowed to engage in meaningful economic activities, life in Msomera would be paradise, Mr Majaliwa alluded.
Listening to the Prime Minister explaining what government plans are to Loliondo villagers and NCA volunteers one would be forgiven for thinking that it was too good to be true considering that some field reports have shown the opposite to be the case.
Since June 9, 2022, reports of violence against the Maasai, the arrest of community leaders, the burning of Maasai bomas and the eviction of the indigenous people from Loliondo to pave the way for investors have been overwhelming.
Since Mr Majaliwa’s June 10 statement, the situation has deteriorated with the reports of the death of one police officer the same day that he was speaking in Parliament. Reactions from inside and outside the country have come swiftly.
Of course, Mr Majaliwa assured MPs that everything he said was true. And yet he kept complaining about people with bad intentions who want to turn the people against their government by spreading lies about issues in the Ngorongoro district.
Dr Tulia went even further when she spoke ahead of Mr Majaliwa by suggesting that the whole saga was part of an ‘economic war’ against Tanzania by other countries. She didn’t mention the countries that were fighting Tanzania.
Dr Tulia’s theory, however, was picked up quickly by propagandists and spinners on social media and made rounds on social media platforms throughout the weekend.
All this is interesting because if it’s true that the Tanzanian government is a victim of an economic war or of lies by detractors, then why doesn’t it fight back, using the information as the main weapon?
If all that Mr Majaliwa said in parliament is true then the Tanzanian government has a more potent weapon to fight back: the truth about what it is exactly doing to improve the lot of Ngorongoro district’s residents. So winning this ‘war’ is very easy for the government. Just fight information with information. The information about all the goodies that the government has prepared and is preparing for Ngorongoro residents should not be locked in the premier’s office only.
It should be shared as widely as possible. The best way to start is to let journalists from inside and outside the country visit all those areas to see for themselves all the good things and report extensively.
Let all the developments that Mr Majaliwa was referring to bombard people’s TV screens, newspapers, social media platforms, radio sets and so forth. Allow politicians, especially MPs and all those who are interested, to go to the field and see for themselves what the government is doing.
Invite even the detractors to visit all those areas, and access all the information to see for themselves what is being done.
The next step is for the government to ensure as much transparency as it is humanly possible. Let the facts and reality on the ground speak for themselves.
Make high-ranking officials available 24/7 for inquiries, questions or any queries from journalists, activists, wananchi or anyone interested in the Ngorongoro issues.
If the government does all these there is no way detractors can continue with their ‘lies’ or its adversaries win the ‘economic war.’
The last step is to keep journalists close. Journalists who have attempted to visit Ngorongoro to report from the field have repeatedly suffered harassment from the law enforcement organs. Why? In this ‘war’ journalists should neither be victims nor collateral damage.
Targeting journalists is tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot!
Damas Kanyabwoya is a veteran journalist and a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam. He’s available at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter handle is @DKanyabwoya. These are the writer’s own opinions and it does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.