Arusha Times 1. A Barbaig warrior sharpens his stick while others listen to Babati District Commissioner David Hollela (not in picture) during the Vilima-Vitatu Meeting (Photo by Valentine Marc Nkwame) 2. Babati District Commissioner, David Hollela speaking with residents of Vilima-Vitatu wilderness last weekend A wide wild-animals corridor linking Lake Manyara eco-system to the Tarangire National park has, reportedly, been given to some French entrepreneurs, who intend to establish hotels within the area. This came to light recently after hundreds of members from the Barbaig community residing in the wilderness of Vilima-Vitatu section of Ngaiti ward, stood up to protest against the deal, a move which resulted into the arrest of 14 Barbaig men and youths. The Barbaig, reportedly armed themselves and prevented the said investors from putting up camp in the wide lush-green Savanna bush land. A French establishment known as UN EN-Lodge Afrique is said to have been given a total of 4084 hectares of the Vilima-vitatu virgin land to convert it into Hotels and Lodges. About US $5000 (Tsh. 8 Million) has been paid by the company representatives to the Vilima-Vitatu village officials as initial payment towards the future leasing of the area. This is according to a statement by Nicodemus Marcel the village executive officer. "We have been living in this area for the last 40 years co-existing peacefully with wild animals traveling back-and-forth between Tarangire and Lake Manyara and fellow pastoralists such as the Maasai who sometimes pass here seeking pasture," said Gwaydesh Joroji a sub-location chairman. According to Joroji, recently a team of strangers went into their land where they suddenly got busy laying down beacons and measuring plots. "When we asked them what was happening they simply told us to mind our own business," explained the chairman. When later on the group returned and started pitching tents, the residents decided to report the matter to District authorities where another shock was waiting to unfold. "We were ordered to start vacating the land because some 'Wazungus' had been given the area," said Mzee Giyamu Mwarisha an old man who was among the delegation that went to Babati District. Old Mwarisha added that they were told to clear their livestock from the wild and head further down. But where the about 50 families of pastoral Barbaig were told to move to happens to be part of Lake Manyara basin and normally fills with water during the rainy seasons. "In other words if we agree to go there, soon the Tanzania National Parks Authority will descend on us for invading a reserved area," explained Gwaydesh Joroji, the sub-location leader. The rather swampy Lake basin area is also said to be breeding point of Tsetse flies, insects that cause sleeping sickness to both livestock and their keepers. "Well, it is not a must that you go to the swampy area, you can always choose another location," the Babati District Commissioner David Holella told the Barbaig men and women who had gathered for a communal meeting in the Vilima-Vitatu wilderness last weekend. The DC who was also the acting Manyara regional Commissioner at the time, had gone into Ngaiti ward to calm the furious Barbaig who had vowed to die fighting, other than letting a foreigner turn their peaceful paradise into an ‘out-of-bound' (strictly for tourists) commercial venture. "We need these investors because the Government collect taxes from them, if you scare them away then we shall have no choice but start imposing taxes from yourselves, your wives and your animals," said the DC but the hundreds Barbaig simply jeered him down. "Listen very careful, I am the DC here and currently serving as regional Commissioner;" he said, "I represent the President and have both the army and Police behind me, if you do not comply with state orders then you will push us to apply force," the DC shouted. To which the local residents replied, "In that case we want President Kikwete himself to come here because you do not seem to understand!" Earlier on the Barbaig people had given the DC the ultimatum of first release their arrested fellow villagers before being allowed to meet with them and discuss the matter. The 14 men who got detained under charges of 'threatening peace' in the Vilima-vitatu wilderness were; Gebula Hotay, Juma Gidahuyada, Subayda Gelopta, Gidahebu Momoyda, Gidamakreri Gidabugenda and Saidi Gidahamuni. Other detainees were Kweku Bulaera, Hiyangoda Qembeshi, Heyay Lehe, Gebalack Qudajenda, Esaeri Lueu, Mabee Giyamu, Wakumu Giyamu and Gebalaek Qundajenda. These had been facing charges at the Magugu Primary Court of the Babati District. The Vilima-Vitatu (Three hills) Savanna bush land, measuring about 20,000 hectares, is inhabited by an estimated 500 people, mostly the pastoral Barbaig who keep a total of 7900 cattle, 3950 goats, 2104 sheep, 1703 chickens, 200 donkeys and some 63 dogs. The residents themselves occupy about 6970 hectares but need the rest for grazing animals. "Most of the meat that is eaten in Arusha originates from here, we keep most of the well fed cattle in the region," Joroji who boasts to own 800 cattle, maintained. Over 8783 hectares cutting across the Savanna, have for decades been serving as wild animal passage during their frequent migrations between Lake Manyara game park and Tarangire National Park. Environmental experts have also raised concern that blocking the animal corridor with human activities will spell doom to both wildlife and environment. They called for a preceding Environmental Impact Assessment before allowing the French firm to venture into such important passage. My Take: I have no idea, depressed is the mood.