Tanzania: Minister Puts a Halt to Vilima Vitatu Evictions

MINISTER for Livestock and Fisheries, Luhaga Mpina, has suspended the operation to evict and torching houses of the pastoralist community in Vilima Vitatu Village in Babati District, Manyara Region.

He has also formed a team of experts from eight ministries to monitor the implementation of the operation and submit the report to the government for fresh decisions to be made.

The operation conducted last month compelled many families to live under trees or in open spaces after their dwellings were torched, resulting in serious hardships, especially for pregnant women, children and sick people.

Speaking at a public rally attended by Babati District Commissioner (DC), Ms Elizabeth Kitundu, many tearful pastoralists expressed bitterness over the hardships to which they were subjected and sought to be assisted.

They also said that the food reserves they had in their homes had been burnt, requesting the minister to convey their grievances to President Magufuli as well as food assistance.

Mr Mpina queried the legitimacy of the operation while on January 15, 2019, the President issued directives to stop planned evictions of pastoralists near the protected area.

He remarked: "How can this operation to evict animals be conducted without the involvement of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries as the laws, regulations and guidelines require, resulting in suffering for livestock, due to lack of essential services that include vaccines, medicines, water and food ? Some of the animals die, causing huge losses to the national breeders."

The minister said the operation was conducted contrary to Animal Disease Act number 17 of 2003, Animal Welfare Act Number 19 of 2008, the grazing-land and animal feed resources Act Number 13 of the year 2010 Fisheries Act Number 22 of 2003.

He said all those involved in the operation should be arrested and charged as a result of penal offences as they have a duty to administer their implementation because animals are an important resource for the nation as are other resources in the country.

Mr Mpina warned leaders of the association of Tanzania pastoralists not to encourage actions to breach the laws of the country and if there are critical issues affecting their community, they should follow proper procedures by meeting with the relevant authorities to seek peace and also urged breeders across the country to abide by the law.

Barbaig pastoralists have for years been battling the authorities in Babati District over the disputed land near the highway to Arusha.

The authorities, through the village government, invoked the 2010 decree of the High Court Land Division to have the herders evicted on grounds that the disputed land was a Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

But in 2008, the 17 villagers successfully lodged an appeal at the Court of Appeal to repeal the High Court decree to evict them.

Although the herders stayed put at the contested Maramboi, a hamlet with a forest cover, they were finally forced out in September last year in a coordinated operation.

He further mentioned other defects of the operation as lack of a comprehensive evaluation of the number of families, households, livestock and other property before the operation was conducted, the absence of necessary documents to run the operation and weak connections between pastoralists, Burunge Wildlife Management Area (JUHIBU) and Investor Company Chemchem Lorge of France.

On her part, Ms Kitundu said the operation took place in the wake of indicators of a breach of the peace in those areas, and that she received instructions from Manyara Region offices.

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