At least five people have lost their lives so far, with scores others injured in clashes over grazing land between peasants and herdsmen in Ikwiriri district, the Guardian has learnt.
The clashes are reported to have been aggravated by an excessive increase in the number of cattle in the area, from the originally proposed 50,000 to over 300,000 cattle, a situation the local people blame on corrupt village and district officials who are accused of receiving bribes from pastoralists without due regard to the available area.
The remarks were made by several people interviewed by The Guardian in collaboration with a team from the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) who had gone to the area to assess the situation following severe clashes which erupted on May 20, this year.
On the material day, Ikwiriri residents took to the street after a peasant, Shamte Seif (80), was reportedly killed by herdsmen following a misunderstanding which erupted due to the herdsmen grazing their cattle in his farm.
Following the killing, hundreds of angry residents roamed the streets and vandalizing property and torching scores of houses, including the homes of three senior police officers. They also slaughtered several head of cattle belonging to pastoralists.
The mob went further and broke into a pharmacy and farming implements shops and vandalized a milk factory and several business premises belonging to herdsmen in the district. Commenting on the issue, a man who identified himself as Haji, said he has been a resident of the area since 1974, adding that many people in their area had customary ownership of most of the land in the area.
He said they were however shocked when the third phase government unilaterally sent hundreds of herdsmen in the area even after they had rejected its proposal to allow them in.
“They wrote a letter requesting for grazing area and we rejected the proposal because the land we have is only enough for farming. We are peasants who depend on the Rufiji River basin for our livelihood,” said Haji. He called upon the government to find an alternative area to give to the pastoralists as graze land in order to restore peace in the area, adding, “The number of cattle in the district is simply too high; no wonder there are clashes.”
An elderly resident of Ikwiriri town, Mussa Machella, said herdsmen in the area were arrogant and often deliberately sent cattle to graze in their farmers' farms.
“Herdsmen should leave this area to enable us live in peace,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, Coast regional police commander Ernest Mangu said there were conflicts due to different interest between herdsmen and peasants.
“Herdsmen in this district are mostly from the Wasukuma tribe and own quite a sizeable number of cattle, some as many as 1,000.
Most of them are arrogant and often send their cattle to graze in farms. The number of cattle in the district is four-fold more than it should ideally be," he said.