No trace of $1.2m meant for evicted Mbeya villagers

Sunday May 17 2009

The Ngorongoro Crater, one of the many parks under the Tanzania National Parks Authority. /Picture: Leonard Magomba

The Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa) is on the spot over the embezzlement of $1.2 million meant to compensate villagers evicted from the Usangu Valley in Mbeya Region, southern Tanzania.

The eviction paved the the way for the creation of national parks.

According to the latest Controller and Auditor General report, a payment of $3.3 million was authorised by the Cabinet to pay villagers of Msangaji, Idunda, Ukwaheri, Sololwambo and Upagama, Iona, Mapogoro (Isimike) Vikaye (Kapungu), Ikanutwa (Tangawanu) and Kiwale.

However, Controller and Auditor General Ludovick Utouh said audits show that Tanapa released $4.5 million as compensation to the villagers by June 30, 2008, and there is no evidence as to whether the extra funds amounting to $1.2 million were approved by the Cabinet and Tanapa Board of Trustees.

The funds, channelled through the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources were not fully accounted for, thereby triggering fears of embezzlement of public finances, says the Auditor General’s report.

The report further says that there is no evidence or audit trail to suggest that the funds were received by the intended beneficiaries who have already been evicted from the said villages.


The eviction was informed by the government’s decision to include Usangu in Ruaha National Park, and payments to affected villagers were to be made in accordance with the Village Land Act, 1999.

Usangu Reserve was first gazet-ted as a protected area by the colonial government in 1953 and it was gazetted as a Game Reserve by the government in 1998.
The objective of the government was not only to protect the animal diversity, but to also conserve the waters of the Great Ruaha River.

The Ihefu Wetland in the Usangu Game Reserve is the natural water reservoir for the Great Ruaha River, and had previously been invaded by pastoralists.
On the other hand, it is also believed that as a tourist attraction, the area was underexploited due to lack of resources to market and manage the facility.

It is important to note that the Ihefu Wetlands is the catchment area for the Ruaha river which produces over 60 per cent of the country’s hydroelectric power. The government’s object is to restore the continuous and sustainable flow of the Great Ruaha River by 2010.

But during a similar eviction in 2007, critics said the operation to transfer thousands of livestock from Mbarali district, in the southern highlands region of Mbeya to the southern regions of Lindi and Mtwara, “grossly violated human rights,” in which evicted families lost properties and were subjected to a miserable life.

Critics said the government also acted contrary to its own promise to recognize livestock keeping as one of its strategies in fighting poverty as addressed in the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction, and that it acted irresponsibly as thousands of livestock continue to perish in transfer as a result of poor logistical arrangement, lacking veterinary services and other services.

A research by three civil societies of Land Rights Research & Resources Institute, Pastoralists Indigenous Non-governmental Organisation’s Forum and Legal and Human Rights Centre show that the government failed to recognise the role played by the livestock sub-sector, affecting households income negatively and the national economy.

Although no comprehensive statistics are available, the situation in Kilwa during the time illustrated government unpreparedness as reports indicated that more than 10,000 cattle died of diseases and fatigue. Veterinary facilities such as cattle dip were also missing.