Loliondo Hunting: Kenya Urged to
Take Dar to ICJ
A JOINT REPORT SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS
Monday, December 8, 2003
KENYAN WILDLIFE conservationists are pressing the government to
take Tanzania to the International Court of Justice in the Hague
over Dar-es-Salaam’s decision to allow seasonal hunting in its
Loliondo zone, which straddles the common border, in a dispute
that has defied settlement for close to a decade.
At the heart of the simmering dispute are claims that the
Tanzanian firm Ortello Business Company (OBC), which is associated
with a top military man from Dubai, is involved in the
indiscriminate killing of wildlife migrating from Kenya’s Maasai
Mara National Reserve to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and
The firm is also being accused of contravening Tanzania’s
hunting regulations, by setting on fire huge areas of grass and
bushes adjacent to Serengeti game reserve. They then trap the
scared animals by baiting them with salt and water.
The Serengeti is the Tanzanian half of the world-famous Maasai
Mara game reserve in Kenya, which is a popular tourist destination
because of the seasonal migration of wildebeest across the common
border. At a function organised by the East African Wildlife
Society (EAWLS) in Nairobi recently, Kenyan conservation
organisations, which included the Born Free Foundation and the
Maasai Environment Resource Coalition (MERC), called for
international intervention to end what they described as the
wanton killing of wildlife across the common border under the
guise of game hunting.
The Born Free Foundation’s Ms Winnie Kiiru suggested that Kenya
should take the matter to the international Court of Justice for
arbitration. “We need to know whether the Court would have a
role to play in this,” she said. MERC director Meitamei Ole
Dapash said his organisation, which is a coalition of grassroots
Maasai community groupings in Kenya and Tanzania, has raised the
issue with both the European Union Parliament and the East African
Legislative Assembly, urging them to debate the matter.
“The EU parliament responded positively late last month,
requesting us to submit additional information before the matter
is taken up in debate,” he said.
The latest flare-up in the row was provoked by the recent release
of a highly damning report, The Killing Fields of Loliondo, by Mr
Dapash. He claimed that the hunting licence granted to OBC by the
Tanzanian government contravened the 1978 amendment of the
country’s Wildlife Act.
But in a swift rejoinder, the Tanzanian government dismissed the
claims. “All allegations against OBC and our government are
baseless since there’s no evidence to prove the company has been
violating the law of this country,” the Minister for Natural
Resources and Tourism, Zakhia Meghji, said last week.
“We have different hunting blocks or zones,” she told The
EastAfrican. “The rules or procedures to get the hunting
licenses are the same and OBC followed these rules prior to
getting its licence. But why Loliondo every time? she asked. “We
as a country have our own regulations set by the parliament of
Tanzania, whereby everything is done according to our laws, not
external pressures. I personally went to Loliondo to investigate
the matter, but I didn’t find anybody who is ready to tell us
how the company is violating the law set by my ministry. We,
therefore, believe that OBC follows all rules and regulations set
by the Tanzania government.”
But the Kenyan conservationists are far from convinced. Mr Dapash
said: “Recently, we gave a copy of our findings to officials of
National Geographic magazine, who were so shocked that they sent a
reporter to investigate the matter.”
EAWLS executive Ms Pat Awori said Kenya needs to engage Tanzania
in cross-border conservation campaigns for the good of both
countries. “We have to start now, otherwise there will be very
little left to conserve.”
Mrs Meghji also played down the threats from Kenyan conservation
groups that they would seek their government’s intervention to
raise the matter before the international court at The Hague. She
said the Tanzanian government had not received any official
communication about Loliondo from Nairobi.
“We have been hearing or reading about these allegations in the
media since 1992, but we have not received any official complaints
from our counterparts in Kenya. We welcome any complaint if they
have evidence to prove the allegations,” she said.
Citing allegations of plundering of wildlife by OBC, the minister
said everything was done according to export procedures set by the
Tanzania Revenue Authority, to which the company is supposed to
declare every single animal it intends to export, whether dead or
“We believe that all allegations are baseless and are raised by
people who have a hidden agenda. When I went to Loliondo I met the
villagers and their leaders, we discussed the issue and reached a
conclusion that everything was fine, but later I came to hear the
same allegations. I don’t know what is behind this,” she said.
But EAWLS chairman, Nairobi surgeon Imre Loefler, said that he had
first hand experience of the goings-on at the hunting zone during
his time at Loliondo hospital in early 1990s. He said that his
organisation has sought the views of the OBC on the matter on
three different occasions without success. “Each time, OBC
refused to co-operate saying that there was nothing to discuss and
matters pertaining to its operations in Tanzania should be
referred to the Tanzanian government.”
“Secrecy and underhand dealings between the company and the
Tanzanian government have all along been OBC’s modus operadi,”
charged Mr Dapash. He recalled that when members of MERC’s
investigative team visited Loliondo two years ago, they came
across hundreds of Tanzanian paramilitary troops guarding OBC’s
camp. “On this particular occasion in late 2000, Prince Abdalla
of Jordan had visited the camp.”
Two years ago, when The EastAfrican wrote about OBC, it turned out
that the firm had been given the go-ahead to engage in hunting in
Loliondo by the former Tanzanian president, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, in
the late 1980s.
Hunting in Loliondo is an exclusive pastime for royal visitors
from the United Arab Emirates and other kingdoms in the Middle
The company has also been accused of killing animals
indiscriminately and also of exporting large numbers of live
animals from the area. These animals are carried in huge military
planes that fly in directly from Dubai and land on local airstrips.
OBC has also attracted the attention of the international media
since it acquired exclusive concessions to operate in Loliondo.
This has placed the Tanzanian government in something of a fix, as
the company is reputed to be a significant contributor to the
Kenya, conservationists say, has been on the losing end since OBC
embarked on its operations. Nairobi has pursued a largely
non-utilisation wildlife conservation policy ever since the
founding president Jomo Kenyatta banned all forms of hunting in
1977. But Tanzania’s policy is different as the country’s
wildlife areas are split into either national parks or hunting
zones. According to Tanzania’s 1974 Wildlife Act, which was
reviewed in 1978, nobody is allowed to open up any
photographic-tourism venture within a hunting zone.
Complaining that the killings of animals orgies in Loliondo defy
all these regulations, community representatives approached MERC
for assistance in late 2000, leading to the investigations. “Our
findings have been a subject of lengthy discussion in many
international fora,” said Mr Dapash.
THE EAST AFRICAN http://www.nationaudio.com/News/EastAfrican/current/Regional/Regional081220030.html
Reported by John Mbaria in Nairobi and Richard Mgamba in Mwanza
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