Uvinje ‘still facing imminent danger’
With Protimos' assistance, Tanzania's Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) has ruled that the Uvinje community’s assertion that they own the land which they occupy is correct. CHRAGG ruled that the Uvinje lands must be surveyed anew, and the correct boundaries, which the Uvinje community has always been maintained, clearly and accurately recorded.
In its ground-breaking decision, CHRAGG found in May 2017 that, ‘the villagers had proved that they are the rightful owners of the land at Uvinje. The Uvinje lands have never been part of the Saadani Game Reserve, therefore their inclusion within the boundaries of National Park is unlawful.’ The Uvinje community were not provided with the ruling until August 2017, by which time government agencies had already visited Uvinje and told the community that it remained there unlawfully. In an interesting development, the government ministers making those assertions have now been dismissed.
Protimos' sponsored barrister Jeremia Mtobesya has advised, 'if nothing is done within three months, to implement CHRAGG’s ruling, then under s28 of the CHRAGG Act which constituted CHRAGG, the Commission shall take action and appoint an independent officer to implement its ruling.' Mtobesya wrote to CHRAGG some weeks ago, to request that this action should now be taken by CHRAGG in the absence of the Tanzanian authorities' compliance with the CHRAGG ruling. CHRAGG responses are now anxiously awaited and are being pressed for, by Mtobesya.
Mtobesya has warned us that the residents 'are still facing imminent danger … unless something is done immediately to arrest the situation, Uvinje residents stand to be forcefully evicted from their land in complete disregard of CHRAGG’s recommendations.’ CHRAGG’s clear and unequivocal recommendation is that the correct due process of law must be followed, in any proposed eviction, which can only be contemplated if it is ‘in the public interest’. This is a test which the Uvinje community will litigate over, if necessary. This litigation would be precedent setting for a large number of other communities facing eviction from their own lands.
The next steps are crucial; we must be in a position to ensure the Uvinje community is prepared; if the community receives a notice of eviction, in a blatant disregard for CHRAGG’s ruling, it will be necessary to get an injunction.
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The Protimos Team