THE recent siege on Nairobi's Westgate building made headlines around the world and coincidentally the Somali insurgents attack on Kenya's shopping mall occurred at the time when Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda was solving a major land dispute in Loliondo.
Between 1998 and 2001, Loliondo was also under siege when gangs of Somali bandits moved into the area and started holding hostage a number of Maasai bomas, killing people, looting property especially livestock and raping women.
Loliondo has always been a controversial place since time in history; for instance the British who ruled East African region during colonial era, used Loliondo as a torture dungeon where all notorious African Freedom fighters such as Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta used to be jailed.
And when the same white rulers decided to evict the Maasai and Ndorobo natives from the Serengeti plains in their quest to convert the former Game Controlled Area into a National Park circa 1959, they sent the 'refugees' and their precious herds of cattle to settle into Loliondo.
In recent times Loliondo once became 'Westgate' when gangs of Somali Bandits invaded Tanzania between 1998 and laid siege in the Game Controlled area, killing and looting until their dramatic blood-drenched ousting in 2001 during the operation executed by one of the most effective commanders to ever serve in the Police Force, Alfred Tibaigana.
The Maasai played major role in helping security organs comb the wilderness to smoke out the rebels from the horn of Africa and in fact the last of the Somali bandit was seen fleeing with a Maasai spear sticking from his back.
When the Somali bandits were ousted from Loliondo they left trails of underground chambers reportedly filled with guns, ammunitions, grenades and other fire weapons that have been causing havoc in the area for years.
But in-between those episodes Loliondo has been creating its own mayhems; the tribal warfare between the Batemi (Sonjo) and the Maasai of the Loita clan has been costing lives while on the other side of the fence, these two communities kept clashing with foreign investors who operate in area as commercial game hunters, safari operators or hotel and lodges owners.
All these recent conflicts boiled down to a single concern; 'who owns land in Loliondo?' the question keeps baffling authorities in the wake of growing population, now touching 70,000 residents and eight villages plus two bustling commercial town centres of Loliondo and Wasso.
It also happens to be a border area, albeit uncontrolled one, where 30 minutes of leisurely walk will take one into Kenya, via an unmarked and unmanned borderline dotted with bushes that guarantee reliable camouflage to any illegal immigrant worth his or her salt.
Early this year, the Ministry of Natural Resources decided it was high time parts of Loliondo become total conservation area by carving off some 1500 square kilometres out of the total area of 4000 kilometres square for this purpose.
The carved area is mapped within wildlife corridor through which wild animals from neighbouring Serengeti National Park pass annually in their quest for greener pastures, water sources or just a change of scene, common among various species.
The corridor is also where many of the rivers feeding Serengeti plains originate, thus the importance of making sure that these springs remain protected for the sake of Tanzania's second largest National park. The move meant that the area will thus become a 'noentry' vicinity to the local people, including the native Maasai and their cattle. This caused uproar because the location features all-weather brooks that provide water to residents and livestock during drought.
The plan was good but the Maasai residents protested against being blocked from parts of Loliondo pointing out that, the water sources, rivers, natural growth and even wildlife species mapped within the former game controlled area have always been safe with them since 1959.
Besides, even during the time when the Maasai lived in Serengeti, the wildlife in the plains were always protected against hunters and other invaders since time in history and that is why when it became a National Park, everything was intact in their natural forms.
The other thing is that, the Maasai live alongside animals in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and everybody knows that this location has always been free from poaching incidences compared to the alleged 'protected areas!' It was along those and many other arguments that the recent decision by the government to let the Maasai continue to protect Loliondo was made.
This was after the Prime Minister took the pains to visit each and every village in the division and hear from the horse's mouth what exactly made Loliondo tick. Even after talking to ordinary wananchi in the remote villages, the Premier conducted discussion sessions with traditional elders, local leaders and investors operating in the area before sitting tabling the matter with Ministers for Land, Water, Tourism and Natural resources a panel which issued the final decision.
Mr Pinda's ruling that the entire area should be handled back to the indeginous Maasai however does not mean the government has contradicted itself, because the conservation motive was still there, as far as the premier is concerned. "The plan to conserver the corridor remains, only that we have decided that people who have been taking care of Loliondo for years, should be the perfect guardians of the vicinity!" He explained.