MOISES Naim of the Carnegie Endowment defines corruption as an epidemic affecting “… every region regardless of cultural background or gross national product, or GDP as our economists call it lovingly.”
Here are the hard facts:
● One third of India’s cabinet was once allegedly stood indicted on corruption charges
● Corruption stories make front page news in Spain, Italy, Columbia, Mexico, Pakistan and Turkey … as well as the United States; and
● More than 70 per cent of all businesses in Russia are paying (allegedly) protection money often to mobs licked directly to the government. And, I might add, old Don Trumps spends time and US taxpayers’ monies talking about an imaginary army of invaders from neighbhouring Mexico and some of his other south American human cousins.
Apart from my concerns over Trumps and his cousins, the other concerns are the product of research by a professor who shares his leisure time with me as share calabashes of local brew within our neighbourhood.
Still, all the above are would read like poor imitations of the real corruption that no one dares talk about openly: I’m talking of the corrupting ways in which we’re running down Planet Earth in the name of economic development.
Y ou see, the environment is the last thing anyone thinks about when big brains are discussing GDP and other high-sounding economic terms. Well, the animals can always wait when we’re in a hurry to develop, can’t they?
Think of the Loliondo enclave, for instance. For many years, this area has remained at the cutting edge of environmental abuse, interspersed by real human suffering at times.
One of the country’s rich wildlife dispersal areas, Loliondo has never known any real tender loving care as big-time hunters jockey for its control – having been demoted from a public nature reserve to a near-private farm (shamba la bibi, if you ask me).
Recently, a group of civil society organisations issued a joint declaration requesting the government of Tanzania to take action and make sure that the rights of the pastoralists in Loliondo are respected.
The concern of the country’s civil society has been raised after the report of a range of new cases of human rights violations, involving extrajudicial detentions, intimidations and mistreatment of local pastoralists from Loliondo, Ngorongoro District in northern Tanzania.
The situation of pastoralists in Loliondo has for many years been characterised by human rights violations and constant attempts of land grabbing to make way for hunting concessions.
Somehow, others treat it almost in much the same manner as we walk across ‘no-man’s land’ at border posts, prompting the Government at one time to warn some ‘foreign’ elements among the local pastoralists, who may have allegedly migrated illegally into Tanzania.
As the poor neighbouring pastoralists fight for grazing space, the government is reportedly incurring losses amounting to Sh 12,483 billion in unpaid taxes and other charges by a United Arab Emirates-based hunting firm.
Operating as Ortello Business Corporation, this firm commands near-exclusive club status over a large expanse of nature reserve since 19 9 2, in part the home of spectacular migratory species that move in eons-carved routes between Tanzania and Kenya.
At one time, media reports were full of accounts of ill-mannered hunters going out to hunt at night – which were vehemently dispelled, of course!
The massive losses in unpaid taxes were revealed early this month by the Arusha chapter of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), but the report falls short of the exact figures involved.
Even then the PCCB talks of ‘a lot of cheating’ on the part of Ortello management staff, and that investigations by the anti-graft staff in the region clearly put OBC officials on the spot for ‘reducing’ government officials down to their own ranks in the long-running clashes between local communities and the hunting firm.
While we commend Home Affairs Minister Kangi Lugola for dealing squarely with one of the firm’s senior officials, we do firmly believe that Loliondo’s enduring scandals should now be put to rest – once for all.
Indeed, mere mention of the word ‘Loliondo’ has become almost synonymous with graft …in fact, nearly to a point of defining it. But first thing: we should first admit that we made a grave mistake granting Messrs Ortello Business Coporration such wide-ranging concessions, then secondly, put the mistakes right.
And, there’s but one sure way of putting things – at once – and without half-measures in the name of public interest.
There’s just too much at stake in the interests of both conservation and the larger Tanzanian – as well as global -- public to be held to ransom by a single business entity.
To start with, away with OBC. In crude shorthand, the bush that makes up the Loliondo ecosystem is too precious to be dished out the way we did. Sorry, OBC.