Tanzanian authorities are proceeding with the eviction of the Uvinje despite the clear recommendations of the government ombudsman, the Tanzanian Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), that the Uvinje's claim to ownership of theirn ancestral land is legitimate.
With the Tanzanian authorities flouting the proper means of dispute resolution, the international community is pursuing every possible avenue to stop the eviction of the Uvinje.
As such, Protimos welcomes ICCA’s Consortium’s recent letter to the Tanzanian President, John Pombe Magufuli. The letter urges the President to ensure that the Uvinje’s case is treated fairly, with due respect for the Uvinje’s legal and human rights. The President has the power not only to halt the planned eviction, but also to begin the legal processes that would ensure that the Uvinje’s ownership of the land, as upheld by CHRAGG, is respected by other parties.
This is the fifth letter concerning the Uvinje that the ICCA has sent to the Tanzanian premier (see below for previous letters from 2014, 2015, and 2016). Several themes emerge across the letters; the authorities’ confusion over the historical boundaries of the National Park, and the villagers’ steadfast determination to hold onto their land.
It is encouraging to see organisations from across the world acting together in support of the Uvinje. To find out more about both the Uvinje and the steps Protimos is taking to help the villagers, click here.
ICCA Consortium's first letter, August 2014
ICCA Consortium's second letter, February 2015
ICCA Consortium's third letter, May 2015
ICCA Consortium's fourth letter, January 2016
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:
‘I will never forget in all my life, the help Protimos gave us, and I hope, will continue to offer us… I find it hard to comprehend that people from so far away can be so kind and so caring about us, a small village in Tanzania’ – Hoseni Salehe Akida, Elected Chairman of Uvinje
Following an investigation initiated with the help of Protimos, Tanzania’s Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance has held the involuntary resettlement of Uvinje villagers by the Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA) to be unconstitutional.
Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA) had incorrectly claimed that the Uvinje people’s ancestral homeland was part of the Saadani National Park and so relocation was necessary. The Commission, however, ruled that TANAPA’s redrawn map fails to take into account the original boundaries agreed between the Tanzanian government and the Uvinje people in the 1970s. Moreover, the Uvinje villagers did not participate in any decision to expand the boundaries of the Park, as required by law.
The Commission’s Opinion is a crucial victory in the fight to protect the land rights of the Uvinje villagers. The next step is to ensure that the correct Park boundaries are officially demarcated. The Protimos sponsored barrister is taking steps to ensure that a ruling commission has additional strength from a court order. The Uvinje legal team will also ensure that the Uvinje people have a voice in court if TANAPA try to reclaim the land in the future.
Please see the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance recommendations below.
The Protimos Team