`Ghost investors` haunt Arusha villages


JF-Expert Member
Feb 11, 2007
`Ghost investors` haunt Arusha villages

2007-10-08 09:16:57
By Adam Ihucha, Monduli

The residents of some villages in Monduli District are up in arms against suspected ghost investors, who they claim have grabbed huge chunks of their ancestral land without being physically there.

The claims are most rampant in Lokisale village, which is home to some 10,000 people.

The local residents have been complaining that they are not allowed to venture into land that rightfully belongs to them and which they formerly used for pasture.

A member of the village`s land committee, Ormemei Mbiroy, said recently at a village meeting that the land has for long lain undeveloped while presumed investors whom they have never seen have been using agents to confiscate any cattle found there.

Another villager, senior citizen Daniel Matinda, said the agents of people he referred to as mysterious investors have been abducting local children driving livestock into the land under dispute.

The agents then demanded ransom from parents as a condition for releasing the children, some as young as eight.

`Initially, they used to confiscate our cattle and other livestock, compelling us to cough up as much as 50,000/- fine per animal confiscated. Now the so-called investors have become more furious to the extent that they abduct even the little children who take the animals out to graze and keep them locked up until we pay the ransom,` he said.

A woman who gave her name as Naomi Zakaria and said she represented other women in expressing their anguish, told the meeting that the ordeals they were being subjected to by the investors and their agents were bloodcurdling and could sound like a series of fabricated tales `but it is the naked truth`.

`We are planning to demonstrate to the (Arusha) regional commissioner`s office. But before we do that we would like our Member of Parliament, Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, to get the full details about our plight,` she said.

Lokisale village chairman Julius Muhale confirmed that the villagers` concerns had reached his office and he had been striving to forward them to district and regional authorities for further action but had not made it.

`So far, a total of 40,000 acres of cropland has been given to about 30 investors, most of whom remain anonymous,` explained Muhale, adding that only a few have ever been to the area physically. Most have chosen to post armed guards to keep guard in their vast chunks of land, he added.

The chairman said the villagers are strictly prohibited from even accidentally approaching, let alone taking their livestock anywhere near, the land under dispute.

`There have been many cases of villagers being arrested and a number of livestock ending up confiscated pending the payment of fines. The arbitrarily imposed fines given as a condition for getting the livestock back are awfully high and many of my people cannot afford them,` he noted.

Lokisale village executive officer Lesikar Lepilal echoed the sentiments, saying: `To get back an abducted child back, one has to pay 500,000/- or offer a cow with equivalent value. Most people here have been losing livestock and farm produce just to pay the penalties imposed by the new land owners.`

The village elders denied ever having been involved in perpetrating the controversial land transactions, actually swearing that they did not even know when the land was sold and who the new owners were because most have never been to the village.

Monduli District Commissioner James Ole Millya explained when contacted for comment on the issue that he was not in a position to say anything `because I am only acting as DC`.

Millya, who is actually the DC for Longido just next door, explained:`I have just arrived from my substantive district. I know nothing about the villagers` complaints and right now we are busy with preparations to receive the Uhuru Torch.`

In March this year President Jakaya Kikwete announced sweeping reforms in land ownership and use, the highlight of which would be the seizure of tracts of land acquired by wealthy individuals for redistribution to poor, landless people.

One dangling and controversial issue haunting the semblance of the stability of our nation is the erratic sale of communal land Kikwete told Arusha leaders at the end of a tour of the region.

He vowed that he would not hesitate to revoke any land title deed if by so doing he would be serving the interests of poor people and broader national stability.

That exercise would put to an end many land disputes and dissuade the wealthy from greedily acquiring large chunks of village land to the detriment of the welfare of the majority, the President pointed out.

He said there was ample evidence that well-to-do individuals usually capitalise on the ignorance of wananchi on land issues to dispossess them of their ancestral land.

`These wealthy people normally follow all legal procedures required to secure land. These procedures are legal but the deeds are illegal because they actually dispossess poor people of their ancestral land,` President Kikwete explained.

He said it was unfair to have internally displaced people, adding: `This dishonesty, if left unaddressed, can disrupt our peace,` citing Arusha Region as one of the areas leading in the number of land disputes.

The President was particularly disturbed by the tradition under which district land officials turned communal land into commercial commodities with impunity.

He subsequently directed all regional authorities to side with wananchi to prevent poor people`s ancestral land from wanton grabbing.

SOURCE: Guardian
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