Protimos has recently been alerted to some alarming developments concerning the Government’s conduct towards the Uvinje villagers. Key parties in the Government of Mainland Tanzania including TANAPA, the wildlife authority, have now insisted that Uvinje villagers are unlawfully living within Sadani National Park and must leave the area within 28 days. No formal eviction notice has been delivered to the community.
These parties claim that the Uvinje villagers ‘will understand that it is a National Reserve, and as a national reserve then it is about national interests, so every citizen has to cooperate so that the Government can make a clear investment’.
Recently Tanzania’s Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) held that the designation of the Uvinje villagers land as being part of the Tanzanian National Park, by the Tanzanian Park Authority (TANAPA) was illegal. This was a ground-breaking and welcome decision for the Uvinje community. Among other things, CHRAGG ruled that the land did indeed belong to the Uvinje community, it is not part of the National Park, and that a new survey should now be conducted, showing the correct boundaries. CHRAGG also required that enquiries should be made to ascertain whether the compensation that is said to have been paid by TANAPA was really to the right people and done so according to the law.
There is a legal procedure for TANAPA to follow, if it now wishes to appropriate the land, in which the public interest has to be satisfied, to justify any involuntary resettlement of the community. It is lengthy and detailed.
Protimos is deeply concerned by this recent statement by the Tanzanian Government. It believes this to be a real and urgent illegal threat, to the Uvinje as lawful owners of the land. It is not yet clear whether official documents in relation to eviction have been issued to members of the Uvinje community. This situation is critical and time sensitive. From past experience in Tanzania, the eviction which is threatened may involve huge intimidation of the community by police forces, with bulldozers and lorries, in the early hours of the morning. Once the villagers are evicted and the land is fully in ‘possession’ of the state and/or other parties (external investors, for instance) then there is justifiable concern that the Uvinje community will lose this land, forever.
Protimos hopes that an injunction will halt this process, particularly because the actions and decisions enacted by TANAPA and the Government are contrary to the findings of CHRAGG. The next steps are to use the recent CHRAGG ruling as justification for the Uvinje community to go to court, to contest the process by which it is claimed that Uvinje is part of the National Park, and obtain an injunction which will require TANAPA or any other government agency to use the correct legal processes in their approach towards the Uvinje community.
Protimos is the only legal organisation that is currently supporting the Uvinje community’s local lawyer. As a small organisation, we are trying to enable Uvinje to keep using the law to assert their legal position. We urgently appeal to the wider community, in particular those committed to the Rule of Law, to add their support to the Uvinje legal cause.
Please contact our Development Director, Laura Wilkinson directly for further information at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please see the full statement with background information on the Uvinje case in the file below:
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