By: Sarah Ryder, Programme manager of the ICCA Consortium
The Consortium currently has an active alert concerning Uvinje, a small, coastal sub-village of Saadani Village, north of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. The residents of Uvinje face forced eviction from their land and homes because the Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA) redrew boundary lines and unilaterally gazetted Uvinje’s present and ancestral lands to extend the coverage of Saadani National Park.
In 1965, Saadani Game Reserve (SGR) was officially established. To facilitate this, the community voluntarily contributed over 66% of their original lands to the SGR. In exchange, they were promised the retention in perpetuity of the coastal areas where their main villages, including Uvinje, are situated. In the 1990s, TANAPA unilaterally redrew the boundaries of the SGR to include the totality of the Uvinje and Porokanya sub-villages and a portion of the remaining Saadani village lands. Government officials and policemen attempted to start the expropriation of the Uvinje community’s lands in June 2014.
The villagers of Uvinje remain the legal owners of the village lands in question. They have consistently proven to be diligent custodians, able to respect and manage wildlife whilst remaining in situ. In a letter dated 20th August 2014, the Consortium appealed to the national authorities in Tanzania to cancel the proposed eviction and to seek agreement with the Uvinje community. Significant media interest in this affair was generated both locally in Tanzania and internationally but, to date, the Consortium has received no response to its letter and the situation has become increasingly difficult and threatening for the inhabitants of Uvinje. TANAPA has not yet withdrawn its claims, nor communicated formally with Sadaani Village or Uvinje. Further, and of profound concern, there is the suggestion that a group of individuals claiming to possess relevant ‘land rights’, is imminently to be paid ‘compensation’ for rescinding such alleged rights. Under Tanzanian law, and without any specific agreement from the rightful land owners in Uvinje, this could constitute a serious abuse in process and substance. Legitimate members of the community have steadfastly refused to accept any form of compensation for the expropriation of their land.