Tanzania sides with trophy hunters and tourists evicting the Maasai

The government of Tanzania is currently planning to evict more than 80.000 indigenous Maasai people from their ancenstral land

Object of the problem in Tanzania is a land which covers 1.500 km2 area and it is located 437 kilometers (271 miles) in the Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro national parks, including the Ngorongoro conservation area, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in, Arusha Region, east of the Serengeti National Park away from Tanzanian capital Dodoma. The authorities claim the Maasai’s growing population is encroaching on wildlife habitats.

But preliminary investigations have revealed that the Tanzanian government has resorted to harsh cuts in vital public services in Maasai occupational areas; including health services imposition of strict livelihood restrictions, downgrading public hospital to a clinic with ambulance and emergency services discontinued, all government nurses, therapists, radiation specialists relocated to urban areas.

Tough decisions

The Regional Commissioner for Arusha, Mr. John Mongella recently held a meeting in Wasso town in Ngorongoro District headquarters with Maasai’s village and sub-village chairpersons, village and ward executive officers and councilors. Speaking during the meeting,  Mr. Mongella told the Maasai community leaders that the government of Tanzania was going to make tough decisions to remove them from the conservation area adding that even if this will be painful to the Maasai.

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This ugly history of dispossession and violence is upheld by the Tanzanian government , to serve the interests of tourism, foreign investment and (ostensibly) conservation ©  Minority Rights Group International

Furthermore, Mr. Mongella said that the state would also change the status of several Game controlled areas that have provided settlement to thousands of Maasai people  for centuries into Game reserve. However, this means that areas such as Loliondo, Lake Natron, Lokisale, Longido, Mto wa mbu and Kilombero would no longer allow permanent residents and livestock grazing would be banned. But after the commissioner revealed the eviction plans, Maasai leaders refused to sign the list of participants of said meeting because they feared that it will be manipulated and claimed as their consent to relocate from their ancestral land. They also refused to accompany the Regional commissioner and his entourage to visit the 1.500 km2 of disputed land.

Maasai lose lawsauit

Meanwhile, the Masai members of the Ngorongoro community filled a lawsuit in the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), in attempt to force the government of Tanzania to respect the Maasai’s right to property, right to life and livelihood and cultural and spiritual rights by abandoning its plan to “forcefully evict” them from their “ancestral land” of Ngorongoro. But in its defense, the government said the relocation exercise it is based on the argument that increased human and pastoral activities within Ngorongoro risk destroying the UNESCO-inscribed World heritage status adding that resettling people from the land in question was the only way to prevent that from happening.

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Maasai and government troops in Loliondo, where protests over eviction from their land turned violent earlier this month © Handout

Passing judgment, the Court dismissed the Maasai’s lawsuit saying, “Tanzania’s decision to cordon off land for wildlife protection was legal and that the Maasai failed to prove the eviction had taken place outside the park. Further, the court said that much of the evidence of alleged violence and brutality was hearsay or inconsistent.”

But Jebra Kambole, a lawyer who represented the Maasai community in the interim ruling said the villagers would appeal. “We are not satisfied with the ruling and we believe the court has erred in analysing the evidence we had provided.”

Strangers in their own land

One member of the Maasai community, who declined to be named said in an interview that the situation in his village is dire. He said, “One day, the security forces came into our village and started firing live bullets at us and sadly several people have been wounded. These people are hurtless. They have burnt our houses, destroyed food, our boda-bodas, our vegetable gardens and properties.”

“Everyone is now living in fear because the security forces have been going village to village tracking people, especially the educated, those with phones and evidence. A lot of young men have been arrested for uploading photos on social media platforms and also giving interviews to organisations. I don’t know how this will unfold, but we’re under a lot of pressure.”

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Violence has been used against Maasai © Mike Mwenda

A Tanzanian security forces shot and wounded a Maasai protestor during land demarcation and forced evictions © Survival InternationalA Tanzanian human rights lawyer, Mr. Denis Moses Oleshangai, has  described the government’s actions against the Maasai as a crime against humanity. He has however, urged the international community to intervene. “The government of Tanzania depends on donor aid from the west. I am asking those countries not to fund Tanzania because it is using this money to terrorise innocent people and this trend can’t continue.”

Tanzania profit before its people

According to Oakland Institute, the UAE-based Otterlo Business Company which runs hunting excursions for the country’s royal family and their guests will reportedly control commercial hunting in the area despite the company’s past involvement in several violent evictions of the Maasai, burning of homes and the killing of thousands of rare animals in the area.

“The Tanzanian government has resorted to harsh cuts in vital public services, including necessary health services and imposition of strict livelihood restrictions. Endulen Church hospital, the primary hospital for 60,000 Maasai in the NCA, has been downgraded to a clinic with ambulance and emergency services discontinued; all government nurses, therapists, radiation specialists relocated to other areas.” Oakland highlighted.

Sadly, the Maasai eviction has been deliberately caused by the Tanzanian  government’s lust for money. The tourism and trophy hunting business promises to bring a lot of capital, and unfortunately, that can only happen if the Maasai are removed from their native land.


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