Tanzania: Govt. agency harasses human rights activist opposed to eviction of locals to pave way for a commercial tourist conservancy

Author: Khalifa Said, The Citizen (Tanzania), Published on: 10 October 2017

"Is citizenship now used to ‘fix’ critics?"

The issue of citizenship has resurfaced again this time the victim being human rights activist, Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa. He has been questioned by the Immigration Department over the status of his citizenship. Mr Olengurumwa has described the questioning as a “smear campaign to silence me” while the Immigration Department says they were just doing their job...Mr Olengurumwa, who is the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) national coordinator, was first interrogated over his nationality on July 24 by Immigration officers from Kinondoni District who made an impromptu visit to his office and grilled him for an hour. Mr Olengurumwa claims his interrogation has a direct link with his activism, especially as far as Maasai’s land rights in Loliondo, Arusha are concerned. Reports indicate that more than 100 Maasai huts have been burned down, allegedly, by game reserve authorities near the Serengeti National Park.

The government had plans to establish a 1,500sq km wildlife corridor around the national park for a Dubai-based company which offers hunting packages for wealthy tourists from the United Arabs Emirates (UAE). The plan would have displaced about 30,000 people, and caused ecological problems for the Maasai community, which depends on the seasonal grasses there to rear livestock.

When immigration officers first went to interrogate Mr Olengurumwa, the THRDC, the coalition he heads, had just released the statement condemning what it described as “injustice to the Maasai community perpetrated by the government.” In an interview with a local TV Station, the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Professor Jumanne Maghembe said the Loliondo conflict is exacerbated by over 38 Non-Governmental Organizations operating in the district and accused the leaders of these NGO’s of ambiguous nationality.

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