“The Lion Is in the Boma”
Making Maasai Landscapes for Safari Trophy Hunting
Typically, the long rainy season arrives in northern Tanzania in mid-March and extends through late May or early June. During this period, the Maasai and their livestock disperse across their village lands, taking advantage of grasses far from permanent water sources. This annual ritual is a critical aspect of seminomadic pastoralism and is one of the primary reasons the Maasai and other pastoralists are able to sustain themselves in low-rainfall areas that are unsuitable for permanent agriculture. Maasai movements are relatively predictable these days, with herds traveling farther from their homesteads the longer the dry season lasts. Every few years, the spring rains do not come as scheduled. With water and grass hard to find, the Maasai and other pastoralists adjust their seasonal movements. They must travel farther to find food and water for their livestock and stay longer when they do. The spring of 2009 was one of northern Tanzania’s worst droughts in a decade. Because of the extended dry conditions, the Maasai from several villages in Loliondo congregated near the Serengeti National Park boundary. The Maasai typically used this area in such conditions. This was village land but not permanently settled because of the high concentration of wildlife, which spread disease to livestock and pose risks as predators. The Maasai who had lived here permanently in the 1960s and 1970s had moved farther east in the 1980s to avoid threats from wildlife and cattle theft by armed groups from western Tanzania. These groups would ambush Maasai, steal their livestock, and then flee through Serengeti National Park, making it difficult for the Maasai to retrieve their cattle. Thus by the 1980s and early 1990s, there were few permanent homesteads in the area, but it was common to find temporary cattle camps, called ronjos, where young men spent weeks or months tending their families’ livestock before returning home with the rain.
During the 2009 drought, the Maasai had little choice but to seek grass and water in what was clearly the most nourishing extent of their territory at the time. The larger-than-usual concentration of Maasai and their livestock raised concerns for district officials, who saw a conflict brewing with the scheduled arrival in July of the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), the Dubai-based company that had held the hunting rights in Loliondo since 1992. The Maasai retained their land rights to the OBC hunting grounds but usually avoided the area when the OBC was using it. For the first ten to fifteen years of their operation, this meant staying away from late September to early November, as the OBC only used the area for a short portion of the July-thru-March designated hunting season. Hunting tourism was largely tolerated in Loliondo. It did not radically alter the land as would a large hotel, farm, or a conservation buffer zone that prohibited livestock use. After the OBC dismantled its elaborate encampment of massive tents and loaded its fleet of vehicles back onto airplanes bound for Dubai, there was little trace of the company’s presence. A few permanent buildings and cement platforms, along with an unknown reduction in the wildlife population, were all that remained. As the Maasai did not eat wild animals and only rarely hunted (for lions), the loss of game was of little concern to most local residents. As long as the Maasai had access to their rangelands they put up with the OBC as the company posed no imminent threat to Maasai land use and rights. That all changed during the drought of 2009.
On July 4, 2009, Maasai pastoralists from villages throughout Loliondo woke to a frantic scene of state police officers shouting through bullhorns from atop their vehicles, telling residents to leave the village areas adjacent to Serengeti National Park immediately. The select group of police known as the Field Force Unit (FFU) arrived in dark green Land Rovers and proceeded to evict hundreds of Maasai and thousands of cattle from traditional village lands.1 Over the next two days, the FFU threatened, harassed, and jailed Maasai for grazing their cattle in the OBC’s hunting area, never mentioning that it was also Maasai village land. The government had sent letters to district councilors and village leaders telling them to remove people from the area prior to the OBC’s arrival, this time close to the beginning of the hunting season in July. Seeing no just cause and no historical precedent, the leaders unanimously refused to leave their land. The police burned between 100 and 150 bomas, or seasonal cattle camps and homesteads, sending people and cattle frantically searching for safety, pasture, and water. The evictions affected close to ten thousand pastoralists. More than thirty thousand head of cattle, sheep, and goats were displaced and forced to seek grasses and water elsewhere during the difficult drought. The evictions led to the widespread death of livestock.2 One Maasai man in his mid-thirties told me that he lost more than one hundred cattle, a significant part of his family’s household wealth.3
Evictions for conservation are not new phenomena. Mark Dowie (2009) has documented the significant impact of conservation on people whom he calls conservation refugees. Pinning down a number of people displaced by conservation is difficult. Dowie cites sociologist Charles Geisler, who believes that such refugees could number as many as fourteen million in Africa alone. “The true figure if it were ever known,” writes Dowie,
would depend on the semantics of words like eviction, displacement, and refugee, over which all parties on all sides of the issue argue endlessly. However, the point at issue is not the exact number of people who have lost their homeland to conservation, it is that conservation refugees, however defined, exist in large numbers on every continent but Antarctica, and by most accounts live far more difficult lives than they once did, banished from lands they thrived on, often for thousands of years, in ways that even some conservationists who looked aside while evictions took place have since admitted were sustainable. (2009, xxi)
Anthropologists Dan Brockington and James Igoe, like Dowie would a few years later, also found conservation to be responsible for large-scale displacement, documenting more than 170 separate incidences around the world. Summarizing the social and cultural effects of such displacement, they write, “Beyond material loss to livelihoods or dwellings, protesters fight their symbolic obliteration from the landscape—their removal from its history, memory, and representation. Other groups protest their loss of power and control over their environments, the interference of conservation regulations into their lives in ways over which they had little control. Else they protest the interference of different value systems into local economies, the commodification of wildlife and nature into things which tourists can purchase, but which locals can then no longer afford” (2006, 425). The authors argue that state institutions and interests, supported by domestic and international elites, play a large role in promoting the importance of protecting African nature, even at the expense of displaced and dispossessed people.4
In the past, states like Tanzania have justified evictions for protecting important wildlife habitat and promoting national security, especially when protected areas were near international borders. The state’s defense of the OBC hunting concession and the Thomson Safaris nature refuge (discussed in chapter 5) relied on no such scientific or nationalistic appeal. With state-led development under attack under neoliberalization, the government’s rationale was more pragmatic and market driven. If national conservation was a matter of economic efficiency, then land and wildlife resources in Loliondo were too valuable to be left under the control of naive villagers. Tourism and natural resources minister Shamsa Mwangunga commented, “We cannot allow villagers to control such important activities [tourism and hunting] because some dishonest businesspeople will utilise that as a loophole to unlawfully exploit our resources.”5 This statement raises important questions about land rights in Loliondo: What is the state’s primary interest in managing wildlife and tourism on village lands? How do competing interests among different state agencies such as the TANAPA, the WD, and district governments influence the meaning of safari tourism on village lands? By what methods can state officials identify unscrupulous business people? Whose job is it to protect Tanzanian citizens from these investors? When are decentralization and participation appropriate? And who decides?
Many Maasai leaders and activists I interviewed believed that government officials initiated the evictions in Loliondo to prevent negotiations between villages and foreign investors fearing that such direct relationships would undermine the state’s assumed monopoly on overseeing direct foreign investment. In order to understand policy decisions concerning safari tourism and wildlife management on village lands in Tanzania, it is necessary to understand how different actors understood foreign investors. Ultimately how different actors imagined the interests of foreign investors helped determine the degree to which those investors could shape the future meanings of conservation in Tanzania. Could state actors use their partnerships with foreign investors to solidify and legitimate national claims to territory? Could local people like the Maasai harness their direct relationships with foreign investors to force the state to recognize their rights to their land? Ultimately, how these relationships interacted with and transformed national myths, geographies, and identities would help determine whose interests were represented through neoliberal conservation.
Codifying State Interests
Three weeks before the July 4, 2009, evictions, the Ngorongoro District commissioner sent legal notice to Maasai residents to leave the hunting area immediately. Upon receiving the letter, the district executive director, the central government employee responsible for administering state policies in the district, sent a letter to locally elected village leaders and district councilors, ordering these representatives to evict their fellow pastoralists from the OBC hunting area.6 The leaders received the letter but chose to ignore the order. They had never before been told to vacate their village land in anticipation of the annual hunting season. Between 1992 and 2009, the OBC—or the police acting on the company’s behalf—had several times forced Loliondo residents to vacate part of their land to make way for OBC hunting parties. But this was the first widespread eviction of all the Maasai from an extensive expanse of their village lands.
Pressed to explain the evictions, government officials initially claimed that they were evicting Maasai who had illegally “invaded” the area from Kenya to take advantage of Tanzanian pasturelands during the prolonged regional drought. The argument that Kenyan Maasai were illegally coming to Tanzania had been used before and seemed a convenient way to save face and drum up national support. But although Kenyan Maasai did and do occasionally make arrangements with their Tanzanian kin to use their land, this was not a widespread occurrence in the 2009 drought. Rather, Kenyan Maasai for the most part relied on their own emergency plans, including transporting grain and water onto group ranches as well as heading north toward Nairobi to sell their livestock. There was no evidence to support the government’s claim. Perhaps that was the point. State officials could assert that the Maasai being evicted were Kenyan, and possibly no one would notice. The Maasai from Tanzania and Kenya did, after all, look alike, speak the same language, and mostly wore the same iconic dress of red and blue cloth. However, when the government started specifying that certain Maasai individuals were Kenyan, its story crumbled. Two of the people accused of being from Kenya were in fact elected representatives of the Ngorongoro District Council, and another was a long-time member of the Soitsambu village government. The claims were further discredited when journalists failed to find a single Kenyan among the thousands of fleeing Maasai.7
Government officials shifted to another commonsense narrative, claiming that the evictions were necessary because the Maasai, regardless of where they were from, were destroying the nation’s natural resources. The evictions, they said, were necessary to protect the important wildlife habitat bordering Serengeti National Park. In an interview conducted by an investigative team led by the NGO FemAct a month after the evictions, the Ngorongoro District commissioner, Wawa Lali, reported that he was obliged to enforce the law and to “protect the natural resources for the country’s best interests.” The Maasai population and its livestock had been increasing, he said, and this posed a danger “not only to the ecosystem” but also to the very existence of the “wild beasts” that inhabited the area. Indeed, it was true that more Maasai and livestock than usual were using the village areas bordering Serengeti National Park due to the drought conditions, but there was nothing unprecedented about this short-term concentration of pastoralists.
Lali assured the media and researchers that the evictions were legal and had been conducted in a manner that “paid attention” to the “human rights” of the evictees. He reiterated that the government had amply warned the communities, and when they did not respond, he had given what he described as “a legitimate command to evict the pastoralist[s] from the respective area.” When asked about the violent tactics, Lali said that the police had ensured that all residents had left the area before the bomas were burned. He then stated, “The bomas were only burnt [to] prevent the communities from resettling . . . after the eviction.”
The government’s motivation to clear the land for the OBC and to assert the company’s right to hunt over Maasai rights to graze was kept somewhat murky. In a videotaped interview, the Arusha regional commissioner, Isidori Shirima, explained the evictions this way: “This exercise was done in order to take people away and show them where to go back to; where they came from. . . . I want to assure you that those people who are removed are only those in the area that the OBC was given the right to hunt in.”8 It was unclear if he was referring to the false claim that the Maasai in the area were from neighboring Kenya, or if he was saying that Tanzanian Maasai did not belong in the hunting area, despite it being within their village lands. A journalist pressed Shirima about the OBC’s involvement in the evictions. He responded, “Listen, the OBC does its activities according to the regulations and procedures of the government of Tanzania, not according to their own laws. They operate according to the way we instruct them. The issue of managing the hunting area under the law is a matter for the government.”
Many of the Loliondo leaders and activists I spoke with saw this as a clear example of how the OBC and central government interests were aligned. Loliondo residents, leaders, and activists explicitly blamed the government for the evictions. In a recorded interview, a young Maasai man in his twenties stated, “Now the government seems to see that the Arabs have more value than those of us born here in Tanzania. We were born here in Tanzania. This foreigner has come from Dubai, invited into our home but now chasing us out of our home. We fail to know what to do. The Arab has given the government corrupt money to chase us from our homes, this place where we were born.”9 The Ololosokwan village chairman accused the government of breaking the law: “My village has a title deed showing it owns the land; it has done its land-use planning. My village has done this planning and the procedures as we have been instructed. But I am shocked that on the fourth of July, my village was burned, while we are using the land lawfully. I am surprised that our government does not follow the law, does not keep the law in mind. I don’t know where we are headed.”10
Community organizations and local leaders quickly planned a direct action response to the evictions. NGONET, a network of NGOs working in Loliondo and Ngorongoro, carried out its own investigation.11 The NGOs’ findings linked the government’s support of the OBC with that for other regional tourism projects, arguing that the government was using investors to recast Loliondo as a “national conservation area” and to reconsolidate state control over Maasai territory. Officials acknowledged that they were enforcing the rights of the OBC to use the Loliondo area for trophy hunting. Lali, the district commissioner, stated explicitly that this land was especially important for its conservation value as a safari hunting area, reminding his audience that the local communities themselves had signed a contract with the OBC allowing the company access to village lands. “The respective contracts were valid and legally entered between the two parties by mutual consent and understanding,” Lali said. “The villages benefitted from the contract and their annual income was duly paid by the company.”12 Villages were thus bound by the terms of the agreement, including abstaining from grazing in the area during the hunting season.
Most critical observers and media reports believed that the evictions were a direct response to pressure by the OBC to clear the land of the unusually large number of livestock before their upcoming hunting safari. But despite the clear interests of the foreign investors, the Maasai expressly framed the conflict as one between themselves and the government. This response is understandable, for the Maasai were constantly suspicious of a government strategy to take their land by expanding Serengeti National Park. State representatives like the regional and district commissioners cast their duties as protecting the national interest. They seemed to believe that other Tanzanian citizens would see the value in using Maasai lands for hunting tourism rather than subsistence livestock production.
The Agreement to “Bring Development to the Villages”
When the OBC first gained the lease to the Loliondo hunting concessions in 1992, central government officials together with Ngorongoro District officials recommended that the company propose community development initiatives to satisfy local communities and prevent international opposition. Such initiatives were eventually made into a “requirement” before the OBC could “enjoy and benefit from their hunting license.” As part of the initial proposal, the company offered to pay two thousand dollars annually to each village whose land it used for safari hunting. Unlike the joint-venture contracts (described in chapter 6) negotiated between the village governments and private tourism investors, central government officials signed this so-called contract with the OBC “on behalf of the six villages identified in this proposal.”13 Several Maasai leaders I interviewed commented that a “real” contract involved negotiation between two parties. But in the OBC case, they were informed about the agreement and told to embrace “their good fortune.” Many village leaders saw the OBC’s annual payments “as a token fee to appease the villages.”14
The mkataba (contract or agreement) was titled “For the protection and management of wildlife to bring development to the villages within the ‘Loliondo Game Controlled Area’ South & North.”15 The two parties named were Brigadier Mohammed Abdulrahim al-Ali (for the OBC) and the district government of Ngorongoro (for the Maasai villages). On November 20, 1992, an OBC representative on behalf of the brigadier, the Ngorongoro District development officer, the Ngorongoro District MP, and the regional commissioner signed the contract. The regional commissioner signed on behalf of the central government. And underneath the MP’s signature was a handwritten amendment stating that this signature was on behalf of the six villages in Loliondo. These villages, named on page 2 of the contract, were Ololosokwan, Soitsambu, Oloipiri, Olorien/Magaiduru, Loosoito, and Arash.16
Although several hunting companies had incorporated community development projects into their hunting operations, this “agreement” between the OBC and the village governments in Loliondo was the first official contract, with a set of binding obligations for all parties.17 Typically, hunting companies were allocated exclusive rights to a hunting block every five years by the WD, which over-saw hunting activities in Tanzania under the MNRT. These arrangements were exclusively between the central government agency based in Dar es Salaam and the private safari hunting investors, mostly foreign-owned companies. With numerous questions about the legality and ethics of the OBC deal, government officials advised the company to present a development plan to go along with its hunting block lease.
The original OBC agreement includes several statements, assumptions, and proposals. It begins, “Wildlife is a natural resource with great potential to generate foreign currency and to provide employment to citizens raising their quality of life.” It then states that wildlife has not generated the revenue that it could or should for “the economy of the district, its citizens, or the nation in general.” The agreement’s opening section ends with a telling statement that captures the dominant ideology of the early 1990s when the global popularity of free-market capitalism coincided with dwindling state resources and power: “The brigadier and the [Ngorongoro] district are ready to live and work together for the purpose of bringing development to the citizens who live in the above-named villages.” The OBC and the district agree to protect the area close to Serengeti National Park to make sure that the plants and animals are preserved for future generations. The parties also agree to increase opportunities for local citizens to “make money” and to benefit the community through community services such as “clean water” and “education.” Another expressed purpose of the partnership is to “give a new face” to the activities of countries from “Uarabuni” (the Arab world/Middle East) to protect and manage wildlife as a way to bring development to resource-dependent communities.
The proposal stipulates that the OBC agrees to pay 25 percent of the national tax and fees for use of the hunting area to the district government. “The money is to be deposited into the bank annually before each hunting season, on the first day of July each year.” The agreement essentially delegates regulatory authority to the brigadier: “The brigadier will ensure that he himself, his friends, and guests will not destroy the environment . . . while hunting. Whenever they are hunting, they will seek expert advice from government wildlife officials.” Along with the vague responsibility to “protect the environment,” the agreement says that the brigadier will provide “aid” to bring water and build primary schools and health clinics as well as to “purchase medicine” for each of the named villages. To implement this elaborate development agenda, the brigadier is to submit his plans annually along with a budget. The agreement essentially asks the brigadier to finance and implement a variety of endeavors that were historically assumed to be the responsibility of the state. No state official opposed the OBC’s role in the contract as conservator or benevolent administrator. This somewhat absurd idea was self-legitimized by the historical precedent and commonsense understanding of outsiders as better able to appreciate, understand, and conserve African nature.18
In between the promised development assistance and the request for the brigadier to provide salaries, stipends, and vehicles for antipoaching rangers is the statement that “the brigadier will allow the villagers to continue to graze their livestock within the hunting area as long as they do not commit crimes of any sort.” Section 4 states that the contract is good for ten years and can be terminated if the brigadier and the district government determine that it is no longer in their “collective interests” (kwa faida yao wote in Kiswahili). There is no mention of Maasai villages or villagers in this section of the agreement, raising questions about who owns the resources in question and who the accountable parties involved are.
“Wildlife Is Our Oil”: A Brief History of the Politics of Trophy Hunting in Tanzania
Tanzania is one of fourteen African countries that allow tourist hunting, commonly referred to as trophy or safari hunting. Both Kenya and Uganda used to host trophy hunting but have since halted the practice in favor of other forms of nonconsumptive tourism activities. Because of this, Tanzania is the preferred safari-hunting destination within East Africa, offering seventy different species of wildlife that can be hunted.19 In 2008 it cost $3,800 for a tourist license to hunt and kill a lion in Tanzania. This “trophy fee” charged by the WD had risen from $2,500 in 2007, $2,000 in 1993, and $1,400 in 1988. A typical twenty-one-day hunting safari in 2010 cost between $50,000 and $150,000.20 Lion, buffalo, and leopard are the most valuable species for the hunting industry, generating close to 42 percent of the trophy fees for the WD. These trophy fees are but one way that Tanzania benefits from the hunting industry. Estimates suggest that a single visiting hunter brings in anywhere from fifty to one hundred times more revenue than a nonhunting tourist. Hunters and outfitters also pay permit fees, conservation fees, observer fees, trophy-handling fees, an annual rent called a concession or block fee, as well as the license fee of an accompanying professional hunter. Recent estimates claim that revenue earned from the hunting industry is approximately $30 million dollars, with the WD earning about $10 million directly from trophy fees.
Tanzania is well known as a tourist destination. It is worth restating the remarkable statistic that Tanzania has dedicated more than 25 percent of its national territory to some form of conservation; 14 percent of that land is dedicated to national parks and the NCA, and the remaining 11 percent is managed as forest reserves, game reserves, or GCAs. Tanzania has more than 140 hunting blocks, the actual territories allocated to hunting companies, covering 250,000 square kilometers that are leased to approximately sixty hunting companies, the majority of which are owned by investors from the United States, South Africa, and Europe. These hunting concessions are located throughout the country in game reserves, GCAs, or state-designated open areas.
One of the far-reaching policies of German and British colonialism was limiting Africans’ traditional hunting rights while promoting recreational safari hunting for Europeans. From the first years of German occupation and rule in the 1890s up until the 1920s, European hunters could shoot game without a license almost anywhere they pleased. Licenses were introduced in the early 1920s, when the government granted sport hunters a large quota per license and allowed them to hunt anywhere in the country except in game reserves; this lasted until the 1950s.21 Big-game hunting has long been a controversial practice around the world, with strong feelings both in support and against. The influential German conservationist and Frankfurt Zoo director Bernhard Grzimek cast aspersions on hunting in his 1956 documentary No Room for Wild Animals when he stated, “All one has to do is go into Nairobi and hire oneself a ‘safari’ from one of the agencies. Everything is then laid on—a hot bath every evening in the city of tents in the middle of the bush, ice-cold drinks, an excellent cuisine—and the wild animals brought to just the right distance from the gun to ensure that they can be shot dead without any danger.”22
In an unpublished 1983 essay, Maasai leader Lazaro Parkipuny described hunting more graphically and bluntly:
Indeed the excitement of the whites, colonial civil servants, missionaries and settlers alike was not climaxed in watching, photographing and describing the scenery and wealth of wildlife they found here. Their pleasure was only recorded and hearts fulfilled at sights such as the heaviest ivory from the biggest horn of a ferocious rhino that took a bullet in his brain, the display of the biggest horns of a sable antelope shot; the distance at which an eland was killed with a small caliber rifle, etc. . . .
The main attraction of the Serengeti to Europeans at the time, up until the 1930s, was shooting lions [that were] helpless in the extended [plains].23
Hunting remains an emotional and contested issue in conservation circles. Many conservation and animal welfare groups passionately advocate against hunting. Others argue that well-managed big-game trophy hunting is an effective conservation tool for regulating species that might otherwise destroy their habitats. Proponents also claim that hunting is one of the most lucrative forms of safari tourism to generate revenue for conservation.24
In the early 1950s, the Tanganyika Game Department began to regulate hunting more tightly, attaching specific fees to each animal and demarcating ninety GCAs to protect important wildlife areas. After independence, the Game Department increased its revenue by using game reserves and GCAs for hunting. In an effort to reorganize control over the hunting industry, the socialist government banned all sport hunting from 1970 to 1978. Then in 1978 the Tanzanian government created a parastatal company, TAWICO, to oversee and manage hunting throughout the country. Although the intent was to nationalize hunting, as the socialist government was doing with most sectors of the economy, TAWICO regularly subleased many of the hunting blocks to private companies, mainly from Europe.
Accusations of corruption and mismanagement burdened TAWICO, and by 1988 the government had placed control of the hunting industry under the WD of the MNRT. The WD significantly expanded hunting areas, almost doubling the number of available hunting blocks to 130, covering approximately 180,000 square kilometers, or 25 percent of Tanzania’s land surface. The hunting areas were almost evenly distributed between unoccupied game reserves and GCAs and open areas, which were both occupied by both people and wildlife. In the late 1980s, the WD established the current fee structure and model of leasing individual hunting blocks to private hunting outfitters.
Situating the OBC in Loliondo
Relations between Loliondo communities and the OBC have become increasingly tense and hostile over the past two decades. This does not mean, however, that communities are necessarily against hunting or even against the OBC’s use of the area. The OBC’s strange and sensational arrival onto the hunting scene in Tanzania introduced a number of new norms and practices. Not only was the OBC the first company to build its own international airstrip in a remote region of the country, but the company also used the area exclusively as a private reserve for its guests rather than as a profit-generating hunting enterprise. Because of this, the OBC often used the area less intensively than other companies and in the early years only set up hunting camps for approximately two months, in September and October. Over time, OBC parties stayed longer, leading to more conflict with Maasai residents and ecotourism companies who also used the area for their own safari activities. The OBC was also different in the way it engaged with local communities. OBC officials hired a local manager who was responsible for representing the company’s interests. The manager dealt primarily with district officials but initially hired area youth to work in the hunting camps. Many of these jobs were low-paying temporary positions, clearing grass and setting up tents. However, the OBC did employ a number of Loliondo youth who had attended secondary-school and spoke English as drivers and higher-level camp staff. In the first decade the OBC made a concerted effort to hire local people and build strong ties to local leaders. This changed after the OBC hired a new manager in 2002 and began hiring the majority of its staff from other parts of Tanzania and from Kenya.
The OBC’s exclusive rights to both of Loliondo’s hunting blocks was not a foregone conclusion. When the OBC first applied for both of the Loliondo hunting blocks in 1991, another influential group from the United Arab Emirates was also applying to use the area. The head of that group, a man known as Malala, had formed close relationships with several Maasai leaders including Parkipuny. At the same time that the OBC was solidifying its position with the central government by, for example, donating vehicles to the WD, Malala was working with Maasai leaders to gain their support. Malala donated four two-way radios, a large generator, and approximately five thousand dollars to support the Emanyatta secondary school, a community school established for students from the region. Not only were Maasai leaders contrasting the OBC with the ecotourism safari companies operating in the area; they were also comparing the OBC to this different United Arab Emirates–based hunting company that seemed to work more closely and openly with local representatives. In 1995 the OBC was granted exclusive hunting rights to the area. Local leaders believe that they used their influence to have Malala deported.25
Despite their skepticism about the OBC, Maasai leaders in Loliondo did not strongly resist the OBC lease for several reasons. First, there was a history of insecurity near the border of Serengeti National Park; Kuria and Sukuma people crossed the park to steal Maasai cattle. Many Maasai thought that the OBC’s presence, with its many vehicles and police presence, would secure the area from cattle rustling. They believed that the OBC’s presence might actually enable Maasai to reestablish territorial control of their village land near the Serengeti. Second, the OBC initially employed several local Maasai as camp managers, construction foremen, camp guards, and porters, as well as seasonally employing a number of young Maasai men. Finally, the OBC promises of development assistance, including the drilling of several boreholes for water and the construction of a new secondary school, were seen as benefits in contrast with previous hunting companies that had simply used the area and left the villagers with nothing to show for it.26 As one Loliondo leader told me, describing his early support of the OBC agreement, “I encouraged people to re-sign the contract with the OBC. We didn’t have a problem with the investor, but he must fulfill his promises to employ youth until the projects are finished. At least we could hold him accountable to the contract.”27
By 2000, however, local impressions had changed. A series of droughts had made the seasonal grazing available near the park boundary more essential to the pastoral land-use patterns of most residents. Being excluded from the area when the OBC was hunting began to pose a serious threat to Maasai livelihoods. A young Maasai man from Soitsambu village told me, “The OBC has started to change. In the past the OBC didn’t stop livestock. Now they stop livestock. They try to build a positive relationship but now tell people to get rid of livestock.”28 A new camp manager hired in 2002 was hostile to many local Maasai and began employing young men from other regions instead of local youth. By the early twenty-first century, only a handful of Maasai remained employed by the OBC, and they were mostly performing menial jobs as guards or grass cutters, which paid very low day wages. After almost a decade, very few of the development projects initially promised by the OBC had been realized. Finally, the government began to aggressively defend the OBC’s exclusive rights to use the Loliondo hunting area outlined in the contract. As one male elder told me in 2004, “To have them [the OBC] here is like a thorn in your leg that you can’t take out.”29
An elder Maasai man living near the OBC hunting area told me, “He [the OBC] is a giant [and] we failed to move him. Without this wildlife and this good land, he will move without even saying good-bye.”30 The man was referring to a widely discussed plan to poison water sources in the hunting area. Residents reasoned that if the OBC wouldn’t leave their land, they would take away what the company found valuable by killing the wildlife. I asked if this strategy would harm other tourists using the area. He said, “We love all other tourist companies except [the OBC].” When I asked if the OBC harassed Maasai for being in the company’s hunting area, he replied, “No! They can’t. They sometimes come to ronjos [temporary cattle camps] near their camp and say, please give us space to hunt. One day we put trees on the [airstrip] to stop their plane. They are afraid of us. They are afraid of us because this land is not theirs.” Whether or not this show of confidence and bravery was put on for my behalf, the people I interviewed in this one particular homestead and across Loliondo seemed emboldened by the idea that they were defending what was rightfully theirs. The belief that the land was theirs and that it must be recognized as such was a powerful narrative, capable of mobilizing the Maasai throughout Loliondo. As I will discuss at the end of this chapter, this discourse of Maasai land rights was critical in helping leaders organize Maasai interests across villages and different Maasai ethnic groups.
In 2001 several Maasai families reestablished permanent homesteads near the Serengeti National Park border and close to the area used by the OBC. Their move was widely supported by traditional leaders who saw the OBC’s presence as a means of permanently dispossessing the Maasai of their land. Many of the Maasai I interviewed expressed a desire not only to remove the OBC but also to regain the land they had lost to the national park. The idea of regaining land was not so far-fetched: in 2005 the Kenyan government degazetted Amboseli National Park. The Kenyan government took management of the area away from the Kenya Wildlife Service and turned it over to the Olkejuado County Council and the local Maasai people. Although few Maasai believed they would repossess Serengeti National Park, most Maasai in Loliondo were determined not to lose any more land to conservation.
The OBC and State Revenue
When Brigadier Mohammed Abdulrahim al-Ali began high-level talks with government officials in late 1991, Tanzania had just recently deregulated tourist hunting, shifting oversight and management from the state-owned TAWICO to the WD. Beginning in 1988, the WD began to allocate hunting blocks to private outfitters for five-year periods. Hunting advocates pushed for longer lease terms to encourage sustainable management of wildlife by private companies and outfitters. Many companies saw the five-year allocations as a step in the right direction, even if they preferred even longer leases. At the time, two private local outfitters were using the two Loliondo hunting blocks (Loliondo was divided into a southern block A and a northern block B) through a sublease from TAWICO. The two local outfitters had been preparing to bid for the hunting concession when they came up for lease in 1994. But instead, the government transferred the hunting rights directly from TAWICO to the OBC in 1992.
From early on, the OBC was an important source of revenue for the state. The OBC paid game fees, observer fees, conservation fees, permit fees, and trophy-handling fees. And to maintain good relations with the government, it paid fees based on 100 percent of its hunting quota, regardless of what OBC guests actually killed.31 For example, in 2009 the OBC paid $560,000 to the central government and $109,000 to the Ngorongoro District council; in 2008 it paid $150,000 to the six Maasai villages stipulated in its contract.32 The amount paid to the central and district governments was a fivefold increase over revenues earned from the hunting blocks prior to the OBC’s arrival in 1992.33
Beyond direct payments, the OBC donated at least thirty new vehicles, sophisticated radio equipment, and other unspecified “field gear” to the WD.34 The company also paid the state police to escort its guests and funded the construction of a government secondary school in Loliondo. The OBC also helped to repair and maintain the road network in Loliondo, using road crews and equipment that the company had brought in to build a private landing strip and develop a network of roads in its hunting blocks.35
In 1992 the WD changed its process for allocating hunting revenues: 75 percent of profits went into the state treasury, and 25 percent went toward the Tanzania Wildlife Protection Fund (TWPF). This fund was established to provide “rural people with revenue from tourist hunting.”36 Although the TWPF is intended to channel revenue directly to rural people living in proximity to hunting activities, the funds are in practice dispersed to district governments. There is little evidence to show that this money has been given directly to rural people or villages or that it has been used for local development activities.37 There are no public records pertaining to the TWPF, which is internally audited by the government. In 2010 an anonymous report was circulated to private tour operators and journalists. The exposé, titled simply “Inside the WD (Wildlife Division),” was written by someone with intimate knowledge of the agency’s inner workings. The report alleges that the Tanzanian Hunting Operators Association (TAHOA) uses the funds generated from the TWPF to influence the director of the WD, who in turn uses the money to influence elected officials and government officers. While this is one perspective on corruption within the WD, there is widespread belief that the WD benefits disproportionately from hunting activities.
Renewing the OBC Contract
In sharp contrast to the state’s policy declaring ecotourism investors and the village-based tourism contracts illegal (see chapter 6), in 2002 government officials encouraged the OBC to renew its contract with the villages and to substantially increase its direct payments. The district commissioner strongly encouraged the village governments to enter into a new “development cooperation contract” with the OBC. Although skeptical, some village leaders hoped this renewal would provide a genuine opportunity to negotiate the terms of an agreement and to seek recognition for their village land rights. What they found, however, was an agreement that lacked basic information, such as a timeframe or mechanisms for increasing fees. The new contract also stipulated that the OBC would coordinate grazing patterns in collaboration with the villages. It proposed establishing a joint management committee that would include village and company representatives, to ensure that hunting and grazing activities did not “collide.”
Unsatisfied, Maasai leaders drafted their own alternative contract to present to the OBC. This contract shared core elements with the OBC proposal but reinforced village land rights. The Maasai version also included a stipulation to allow other nonhunting tourism, which provided 80 percent of village income, on village lands. The district commissioner rejected this alternative proposal and presented village leaders with a “take it or leave it” proposition.
Despite complaints by village leaders and the refusal of elected officials from two villages to sign, the OBC contract was renewed in 2007, with the OBC increasing its annual payment to each village from two thousand to twenty-five thousand dollars. One of the new stipulations was that the Maasai not bring their livestock into the OBC’s hunting area when the OBC was present. This language was similar to the village-based joint-venture contracts, which included similar stipulations to avoid bringing livestock into the core tourism areas during the tourist season, but in these cases there were exceptions for granting access when necessary. There were no such provisions with the OBC contract.
Loliondo leaders were unhappy with the policy changes and the lack of village representation in determining the new contract with the OBC. In a meeting on December 18, 2007, village leaders from all six villages that overlapped with the OBC hunting area expressed their objections.38 They stated that the OBC had not fulfilled its promises to provide social services; that OBC employees had harassed community members; that the OBC had illegally built permanent structures, including two cement houses and an airstrip, which interfered with regional grazing patterns; and that the OBC’s presence was “disturbing the tour operators who provide reasonable money for villages’ development projects.” Finally, the village leaders expressed their fear that the OBC’s ongoing presence would lead to “changing Loliondo grazing land into [a] game reserve to serve the interest of the Hunting Arab Company [sic].”39 These fears were reinforced in a meeting between village representatives and the Ngorongoro District commissioner in which he “ordered” village leaders to set aside areas for hunting within their village lands. He told them not to farm or build any grazing camps in the hunting areas. Maasai leaders’ fears that the new contract was a tool to turn village land into a game reserve were coming to pass.
Despite these new restrictions, only one village, Arash, refused to accept the OBC payment. The other village leaders signed the contract. One village leader who signed the contract but opposed the OBC told me that “communities decided to accept the money but not the contract. The communities and NGOs proposed their own alternative contract [to the OBC], but the OBC refused.”40 Not one Maasai leader I interviewed saw the arrangement with the OBC as a legally binding contract. Maasai leaders consistently described the contract as an agreement that was open for some negotiation. One village leader told me that since he never had any say in drafting the OBC arrangement, it was not really an agreement. When I asked him what it was, he told me it was a way to get something from the hunting company. Without it they would get nothing. He explained that if the OBC wanted a real agreement, the company would have to invite the Maasai to negotiate. Until then, the arrangement was all on the government’s terms, he told me. In taking the money for the OBC contract and hoping to renegotiate the terms later, many Maasai leaders apparently did not anticipate the possibility of strict enforcement. To their surprise, state officials chose to enforce the new contract, with its stronger language about restricting grazing during hunting season. And the method of enforcement was the eviction of the Maasai from their land.
The evictions of 2009 were an unprecedented event in Loliondo. Yet many Maasai leaders I spoke with saw them as simply the latest government effort to dominate Maasai people by controlling their land. For all the wealth and power of the OBC, and with a national critique of foreign ownership of Tanzania, many Maasai I interviewed saw the OBC primarily as the state’s partner and not the driving force of their dispossession. They believed that the OBC deal was the best way for the state to reassert its control over Maasailand. Though companies like the OBC are often seen as the primary protagonists in the global land grab, the Maasai see them as the latest pawn in the state’s plans to take their land. Many Maasai I spoke with expressed their belief that the OBC may gain short-term benefits but the state ultimately gains control over their land and natural resources.
Loliondogate: State Making in Neoliberal Times
The WD’s granting of the Loliondo hunting blocks to the OBC in 1992 sparked a national scandal. The public representation of the OBC deal was as one in which the government had rewritten the rules to allocate land to wealthy investors from Dubai, an example of the government selling out its people to the highest bidder. Journalists dubbed the land allocation Loliondogate, and the story was invoked over and over in articles and reports to describe the status and role of foreign investors in the “new Tanzania.”41 Critics linked this apparent abuse of power by central authorities to the emerging neoliberal investment climate, portraying the government as desperate to attract capital and the OBC as being able to do whatever it pleased without oversight.42 The OBC’s presence coincided with an increasing number of land conflicts throughout the 1990s between rural Tanzanians and foreign investors in different economic sectors including agriculture, industry, and tourism. The highly publicized Tanzanian Land Commission inquiry headed by University of Dar es Salaam law professor Issa Shivji highlighted these struggles.43
Since the 1990s, Tanzanian civil society has used the OBC controversy to question the relationship between the state, foreign investors, and citizens and to raise a central question about neoliberal development: Who is it for? One 2009 newspaper editorial highlighted the contradictions of neoliberal development in the context of the OBC agreement:
There is now a widespread feeling that investor rights in [Loliondo], which has been under the spotlight since 1993 [sic] when the government leased it to a senior UAE [United Arab Emirates] military officer, have been overblown and overprotected while compromising the interests of local people. It is time to call for a review of the [OBC] contract, in which the economic interests of having the investor in place are weighed against those of the local population, which should be given the first priority.44
There are several ways to interpret the OBC’s presence and influence in Loliondo. One is through the lens of Maasai communities, which view the company as promoting the state’s agenda of national development in spite of the desires and needs of local people. Another is from the vantage of critics of neoliberal development and, more specifically, critics of big-game safari hunting. These activists, journalists, and scholars see the OBC as buying access and rights and wielding their immense wealth and power to do whatever they please, to turn Loliondo into their private hunting reserve. From the perspective of state employees, bureaucrats, and administrators, however, the OBC was a tactical partner. For the Ngorongoro District government, the OBC, with its seemingly infinite wealth, could provide the resources for development that the district was charged with delivering. For these state actors, the OBC appeared to have the funds and expertise to finally “mine” the natural resources of the region, even if these resources were aboveground wildlife and not subterranean minerals and oil.45
Tanzania remains one of the world’s poorest countries. The SAPs and other political and economic reforms of the mid-1980s have not created widespread employment or significantly increased the average annual earnings for the majority of citizens. In the throes of adapting to a free-market political and economic system in the early and mid-1990s, Tanzanian state agencies came to depend on partnerships with companies like the OBC; such arrangements became necessary for the state to adequately govern. In his book On the Postcolony (2001), political scientist and philosopher Achille Mbembe describes the social formations arising from these emerging articulations among capital, civil society, and the state. He portrays such arrangements as “private indirect government.” He says that a prominent feature of postcolonial states in Africa and other former colonies in Asia, Latin American, and the Caribbean is “the privatisation of sovereignty.” He argues that historically weak African states, made even more vulnerable through SAPs, became dependent on outside support to carry out their everyday functions and maintain their legitimacy.
Neoliberal reforms opened up opportunities for state actors to work closely with private capital. Investors offered money and other external resources necessary to reproduce the basic functions of local government, creating a way to fund governance in such resource-poor contexts. In return, state actors offered private investors protections and assurances that they had the authority to defend investors’ rights to resources. That is, state officials leveraged their authority in the form of national sovereignty to promote foreign investment and recruit investors as collaborators. Along with international NGOs and development agencies, foreign investors played a central role in supporting state functions. Government bureaucracies could largely manage the ways that NGO assistance and development aid were dispersed and implemented. Foreign investors were different: although dependent on state approval and support, they often wielded considerably more power than other development partners. State officials had to work hard to channel foreign investment in ways that explicitly helped the state. One way to understand government interests and actions in Loliondo is through the prism of a struggle over the privatization of sovereignty. Tanzania is a relatively weak state, competing with other weak states for private capital, and national sovereignty is one of the most valuable resources that state actors there have to offer investors.
In their article “Spatializing States: Toward an Ethnography of Neoliberal Governmentality,” anthropologists James Ferguson and Akhil Gupta (2002) elaborate on this idea. They claim that a commonsense understanding of the state as a unified entity reinforces the appearance of encompassment, whereby the national interests are seen to incorporate and dominate all local interests. But, they say, such spatial metaphors obscure the fragility of such an image of the state: “The extent to which states are successful in establishing their claims to encompass the local is therefore not preordained, but is a contingent outcome of specific sociopolitical processes. And, as the precarious situation of many states in Africa today makes especially clear, the state has no automatic right to success in claiming the vertical heights of sovereignty.”46
The village-based joint-venture contracts that the Maasai entered into in the 1990s (described in chapter 1 and discussed further in chapter 6) presented a direct challenge to the state’s claims to encompassment and national sovereignty. Many Maasai believed that if they could negotiate directly with foreign investors, they would be able to channel the associated representational and material power to support their own claims over land and resources. Thus we can begin to comprehend why state actors ordered the evictions of its citizens in Loliondo in 2009 in the name of protecting the contractual rights of the OBC. Mbembe argues that new modes of governing such as the OBC agreement are not simply a matter of the state surrendering sovereignty to capital but rather an alliance between the state and capital based on mutual dependence. But as a close look at the initial agreement between the OBC and the Ngorongoro District government illustrates, it is unclear how much agency the state has when dealing with foreign investors. Rather than a strategic partnership based on mutual interests, these relationships often remake the interests and values of state institutions, aligning them closely to those of the investors.
Within the context of neoliberal development, where the reach of wealthy investors seems endless and peripheral landscapes like those in Loliondo appear all too ripe for the picking, companies like the OBC are often presented as the primary protagonists of the “global land grab.” From this macro view, nation-states like Tanzania as well as marginalized cultural groups like the Maasai both appear as victims of neoliberalization. But this is not necessarily how state actors or Maasai people understand the politics of neoliberalism. For both of these groups, the current political and economic system offers opportunities as well as obstacles to redefining the state, its territorial authority, and the meaning of citizenship.
Demarcating lands for conservation has helped to secure the foundations of modern nation-states across the globe, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Summarizing the link between conservation and state making, geographer Rod Neumann explains, “States come into being by asserting control over mosaics of commons, dispossessing local, non-state entities of pre-existing claims and rights in the process. States assert control through scientific and technical acts of surveying, inventorying, zoning and mapping the living resources of its territory. . . . These actions in effect enclose local commons and transfer ownership to the state, which then controls the allocation of benefits from the land and its biological resources” (2005, 121). In Tanzania almost 25 percent of the land base is under state protection and control as either a national park, a game reserve, a forest reserve, or a hunting concession.
When I first visited Loliondo in 1992, I heard stories of the government wanting to expand Serengeti National Park into Loliondo. On return visits over the past twenty years, I have heard references to the imminent creation of a new conservation area, be it a buffer zone, a corridor, a game reserve, or a WMA. On August 15, 2009, just weeks after the evictions and in the midst of a chaotic scene in Loliondo, the district commissioner used a very public ceremony to distribute checks from the OBC to nine villages in Loliondo.47 Since then there have not been any further evictions, but the Loliondo Maasai have lived with much uncertainty as well as considerable fear of permanent dispossession.
Responding to the Loliondo leaders, state officials used the example of the violence of the 2009 evictions to justify a policy that would once and for all separate people and wildlife in Loliondo. They argued that such a separation was necessary to prevent future conflicts. The government proposed to turn the current village land that had supported thriving wildlife populations for several decades into a new protected area. In July 2010, the minister of natural resources and tourism, Shamsa Mwanguga, announced that the government had resolved the “Loliondo stand-off” by clearly defining the boundaries used by pastoralists and those used for conservation.48 She stated, “That’s why the government decided to demarcate the areas by putting boundaries between the areas used by pastoralists and the reserved areas.”49 This radical proposal to essentially dispossess the Maasai of a significant portion of their land was being justified in the name of national and regional security, and ultimately as protecting the interests of wildlife and local communities. Even before this action, government officials had been promoting a plan to demarcate the OBC hunting concession as a new conservation area for hunting. Many people I interviewed believe that the evictions were intended to create the appearance of instability and give the government an excuse to finally create a new protected area, which would effectively exclude all Maasai activity. The Maasai continue to aggressively oppose this effort. In 2013 the government backed down from its plans to create the wildlife corridor only to put it back in place in November 2014.
The Bureaucratic Spaces of Maasai Activism
On August 11, 2010, Maasai leaders from Loliondo and central government representatives participated in a meeting in Karatu to discuss land issues in Loliondo. The official premise was to discuss why villages in Loliondo were not participating in the new district land-use planning exercise. Loliondo villages had up until then resisted the new planning process because they feared that the government would use it to take their land for hunting.
The meeting was organized by regional NGOs and had taken more than a year to plan. It cost approximately 17 million Tanzanian shillings, or $17,000, for approximately one hundred people to meet for two days.50 Given the high profile of the Loliondo evictions and land conflicts, the meeting was framed as a chance for regional and national leaders to discuss land-use planning in Loliondo to resolve conflicts. As a representative from one of the organizing NGOs said, “The point of this meeting is to plan land use in Loliondo that will bear good trust for the area.”51 The Ngorongoro District commissioner welcomed everyone and thanked the sponsoring organizations. He referred to these organizations as “our development partners” and said, “We can’t bring development anywhere without these private-public partnerships.” He stated that “better use of our land” was necessary to uplift the Tanzanian economy and community. Despite the efforts of a “small group of people who are trying to prevent us from developing,” he contended, private groups like NGOs and investors “needed to work together with the government to bring development to our Jamii [society/family/community].”
He then summarized how he hoped the meeting would help resolve the conflicts in Loliondo: “It looks to others outside that we don’t understand land issues like other districts. Let’s use this seminar to join others who are benefiting from their land. . . . Let’s use the policies and laws of this country to plan the best use of our land.” Without naming names or being too specific, the district commissioner returned to the question of Loliondo residents resisting the government’s attempts to create a new conservation area. He cast the resistance to district planning as the work of a few misguided individuals who were looking out for their own personal interests. He presented the government as looking out for the common good and those Maasai leaders opposing the planning effort as serving their own interests. “Let’s put this individualism aside and work together as a community,” he said, “as a village, as a ward, as a district, as a Jamii [community].”
While officially the meeting was organized to help villages demarcate their boundaries and create land-use plans, the village leaders and NGO organizers saw it as an opportunity to confront the government and openly discuss the OBC contract and evictions. The moderator asked participants to describe what they thought was the purpose of the meeting. There were several comments indicating that participants wanted to learn more about the planning process and implementing the new land laws. After about fifteen minutes, an older Maasai man rose and said, “I thought it would be a chance to discuss the conflict between the citizens of Ngorongoro [Loliondo] and the OBC. Given that everyone is here and the DC [district commissioner] is here, we would find out where the conflict with the OBC is.” For most of the Loliondo residents in attendance, the two issues of land-use planning and conflict with the OBC were inextricably linked. The Maasai feared that the OBC’s influence with district and regional authorities would unduly influence the district planning process. Two decades of the OBC’s hunting in Loliondo had given the Maasai little confidence that any planning process would promote their interest. The meeting continued for several hours, methodically working through the technical aspects of village land-use planning. Having observed several similar meetings in the past, I felt that I was witnessing a game of cat and mouse with both sides staying just far enough away from the core issues to preclude any meaningful debate. Nonetheless, both sides made it clear that they were not backing down from their positions.
Later in the afternoon, one of the elected council members revealed that the government had already visited Loliondo to survey the land and demarcate a new conservation area for hunting. After heated comments, the Ngorongoro District lawyer, Clarence Kipobota, declared that the officials were only carrying out the minister’s plan to divide village land and to create an usharoba (wildlife corridor): “1,500 square kilometers for the wildlife corridor and 2,500 square kilometers for village land.” He followed this by saying, “The area was not very big.” At this point the meeting erupted, with most of the men in the audience standing up and protesting. Once the meeting facilitators got everyone to calm down and take their seats, the lawyer continued explaining why this new district land-use plan made sense. He argued that creating the corridor—which would effectively dispossess the Maasai living in Loliondo of more than 37 percent of their land—was actually a way to protect residents from unscrupulous investors. “When there is a valuable resource, there is a conflict,” he said. “Local people want to benefit, but now around the world investors are also looking for these valuable resources. Investors often have sauti sana [a lot of power] to be heard.” He maintained that creating a pori tengefu (protected area) would limit the ability of investors to take advantage of innocent villagers: “This land-use plan is being proposed as a solution to the conflict that happened in July 2009.” The cruel irony of taking Maasai land to resolve a conflict that had been instigated by the government on behalf of a foreign investor was not lost on the audience. Loliondo leaders convincingly insist that government plans for a new protected area illustrate how tourism investment that is solely accountable to central authorities legitimates a state territorial strategy to rule Maasailand. Such legal justifications proved to Maasai leaders that their fears were well founded.
To support his case further, the lawyer cited the Wildlife Act of 2009, which stated that hunting blocks needed to be separated from village areas. The village chairman from Arash contested the argument, telling the lawyer that this was still an unsettled clause in the law, as it conflicted with the country’s Land Law of 1999: “If there are any conflicts between laws, then the land law is the mother law” and takes precedent. Village leaders and national officials utilized the ambiguities in new policies and laws written in support of neoliberal reforms to assert their claims to authority over their lands and resources and their rights. The village chairman asked the district lawyer if village land titles were still valid. They were, he replied. “Then why is the district trying to go around the villages to create this plan?” he asked. The lawyer had no direct answer. Instead, he invoked a classic trope that framed the Maasai as ignorant and backward: “Refusing development is no way to protect your land and have development.” But as far as the Maasai in the room were concerned, development in this context meant state accumulation and not increased opportunity or prosperity for Maasai people. Resisting this kind of development in favor of another sort was precisely how the Maasai planned to protect their land.
The meeting laid bare the strong opposition to creating a new protected-area wildlife corridor in the heart of Loliondo rangelands. And because a new district land-use plan requires the approval of local representatives, the meeting achieved a temporary suspension of the planned protected area. During a tea break, one of the Maasai village representatives told me, “Simba ameshaingia boma,” the lion is already in the boma. This was the same as saying that the wolves were at the door. The Maasai have continued to use meetings like this, as well as legal action, national and international media coverage, demonstrations and protests, and working through the district political system to resist national efforts to create this new protected area in Loliondo. By preventing the government from implementing its plan for over five years, Loliondo leaders rank as some of the most successful activists in the country in protecting their land rights. Yet despite their efforts, the government appears committed to establishing the wildlife corridor. As of November 2014, the Tanzanian government had informed the Maasai community of its intent to enclose the 1,500-square-kilometer area.
In April 2002, the MNRT publicly defended the hunting practices of the OBC and the government’s role in allocating the concession and overseeing the activities of the company.52 Among the points raised were that the OBC adhered to all laws and regulations governing the tourist hunting industry, which included paying all appropriate fees and hunting only those animals allowed. The ministry also cited the OBC’s contribution to district development, including building a primary and secondary school, drilling boreholes, procuring generators and water pumps, constructing cattle dips, and purchasing buses to enhance local transportation. The ministry pointed out that the company contributed revenue directly to six villages and paid school fees for twenty-one area children. After rebutting accusations of illegal hunting practices and the transport of live animals from Loliondo to the United Arab Emirates, the ministry made it perfectly clear to Kenyan organizations opposing hunting in Tanzania, and to anyone else who was listening, what wildlife meant to Tanzania:
The wildlife found in Tanzania is the property of the Government of Tanzania. The notion that these animals belong to Kenya is not correct. The wild animals in Loliondo Game Controlled Area do not have dual citizenship. Since some animal species move back and forth between Tanzania and Kenya it is better understood that these animals would be recognised to belong to either party during the time they are in that particular country. Animals in Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Loliondo and Ngorongoro belong to one ecosystem namely, Serengeti ecosystem. However, Tanzania being a sovereign State with her own policies has the right by law to implement them.53
If we replace the word “Kenya” with the phrase “the villages of Loliondo,” the ministry’s explanation reveals more than an international dispute over resources: maintaining the government’s rights over wildlife within national boundaries is critical to maintaining state sovereignty and authority. Claiming that Tanzanian villages had no more rights over Tanzanian wildlife than Kenyan citizens illuminates the importance of how the idea of private property is developing in Tanzania today. Proponents of neoliberal policies argue that tourism investment should strengthen private-property rights and minimize the central power of the nation state. Tanzania’s efforts to turn Loliondo into a national hunting corridor indicate otherwise. Much like the Maasai themselves, Tanzanian government officials are translating the meanings and implications of neoliberal development to a number of audiences. Rather than submit to the idea that decentralization leads to more-efficient and effective environmental management, government officials draw on the current policy context to reassert the need for centralized state authority. Many public employees remain strongly attached to their belief in the validity of the nationalist project as the right way to govern resources and people. This notion is especially strong among civil servants in the conservation sector.54 But beyond combining the still-persistent idea that African nature is too valuable to be managed by Africans, government officials are able to recast themselves as agents of neoliberal modernity, in which the market logics of efficiency replace the socialist beliefs in collective national interests. In Tanzania neoliberalism is actively reshaping the terrain on which the state reimagines and asserts its role as a sovereign power.
Area shared by livestock and wildlife and used as mobile safari campsites, Loliondo. Photo by author.
Maasai woman preparing tea inside her home, Soitsambu village, Loliondo. Photo by author.
Sheep and goats grazing on Maasai village land near boundary of Serengeti National Park, Loliondo. Photo by author.
Mobile safari campsite, Loliondo. Photo by author.
Cattle grazing in Soitsambu village, Loliondo. Photo by author.
Cut-out images of Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania, and Bernhard Grzimek, veterinarian and advocate for African conservation and specifically for creating Serengeti National Park. Photo taken by author at Serengeti National Park Visitors Center.
Photo of President Julius Nyerere granting a diploma to Maasai MP and KIPOC founder Lazaro Moringe Parkipuny at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1975. Photographer unknown, print in possession of the author.
Airplane of the Ortello Business Corporation and airplane of the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority at the Arusha Airport. Photo by author.
Avaaz campaign flyer protesting the eviction of Maasai from their village land in Loliondo for trophy hunting.
Contested property of Sukenya site of Thomson Safaris Enashiva Nature Refuge project, Loliondo. Photo by author.
Elected district representative and Maasai civil society leader. Photo by author.
Maasai village meeting to discuss impact of safari tourism in Ololosokwan, Loliondo. Photo by author.