In Tanzania, the Masai expelled from their land in the name of wildlife protection and tourism

In order not to miss any African news, subscribe to the newsletter from World Africa from this link. Every Saturday at 06.00 you can find a week with news and debates covered by the editorial staff at World Africa.

A Masai woman walks in the Ngorongoro Nature Reserve in northern Tanzania in 2007.

This is a new phase in the showdown that has put the Masai against the Tanzanian government for years, in the name of nature conservation. On Thursday, June 16, about twenty Masai families left the Ngorongoro Nature Reserve as part of a program called “voluntary relocation” by the authorities but“postponements” by human rights activists. These populations of semi-nomadic shepherds have lived since 1959 in the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in northern Tanzania. But their exponential population growth – and that of their herds – puts them in direct competition with wildlife, authorities say.

The number of Masai living in Ngorongoro has increased from 8,000 in 1959 to more than 100,000 today, while their herd has grown even faster, from about 260,000 animals in 2017 to over one million at present. “Ngorongoro is losing itself”, said Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan last year. The Masai, for their part, accuse the authorities of wanting to evict them from their historic habitats in order to turn them into areas for safari or private hunting.

Also read: Tanzania maintains a ban on wildlife exports

Most recently, these tensions have peaked in Loliondo, an area near Serengeti Park, 125 km north of Ngorongoro. There were clashes between the police and the local community, who protested against the laying of “beacons” separates areas of human habitation and areas reserved for wildlife. Hundreds of members of the security forces were deployed from June 7 to place these beacons, while eleven Masai representatives from the disputed countries were arrested and detained. », reports human rights lawyer Joseph Moses Oleshangay, who himself lives in Ngorongoro.

Tear gas and sharp ammunition

On the night between June 9 and 10, the Masai gathered under cover of darkness to remove beacons and remained to guard the place. “When dawn came, the security forces came back and started spraying them with tear gas. continues Joseph Moses Oleshangay. Then the police started firing sharp ammunition and the Masai responded with arrows. At 8 o’clock in the morning, customs were ten wounded by bullets on the Masai side. At the end of the day, I was reported about thirty wounded and two dead, a Masai and a policeman. »

Only the death of the policeman has so far been confirmed by the government. Twenty residents of Loliondo have been charged with the murder, as reported in a statement by Tanzania’s Coalition of Human Rights Defenders. According to their lawyers, they were allegedly tortured during their detention. The case is expected to be processed at the end of the month.

also read Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania’s first female leader

In a statement issued on June 15, nine independent experts appointed by the UN condemned the Tanzanian authorities’ plan to transform 1,500 km.2, out of the 4,000 that make up the Loliondo controlled area, an area reserved for safaris, trophy hunting and conservation. According to them, the decision was announced by the regional commissioner of Arusha after a meeting behind closed doors and without consulting the Masai representatives. However, this “sanctuary” would lead to the expulsion of the 70,000 inhabitants of four villages, Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo and Arash. An operation described by Amnesty International as“unlawful forced release”, “shocking both in its scope and its brutality”.

For the UN experts, by combining the projects of Ngorongoro and Loliondo, there are even 150,000 Masai at risk of being displaced without their free, prior and informed consent ”. “This will cause irreparable damage and may mean abduction, forced eviction and arbitrary expulsion prohibited under international law.” they warned.

The appetite of a wealthy emirate society

In 2018, a year after a wave of large-scale postponement in Loliondo, the East African court issued temporary rulings against local authorities, valid until Wednesday 22 June. On this date, the court is expected to rule on a legal appeal against the expulsion of the Masai. Recent events in Loliondo that violate these ordinances, according to Joseph Moses Oleshangay, testify to a “gross disrespect for this institution in particular and for law and order in general », from the Government of Tanzania.

In February, the National Assembly of Tanzania held a special session to debate the right of the Masai to inhabit the lands of their ancestors, which has been guaranteed by law since 1959. In the process of supporting their relocation program “voluntary”, the government increased the police presence in the Masai villages and froze the funding of public structures, “in particular health and education”, condemns Joseph Moses Oleshangay: “Today, all infrastructure is paralyzed to force residents to leave the site. »

also read In Tanzania, empowering women also means educating men

Loliondo’s wildlife has long whetted the appetite of a wealthy emirate firm, Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC). As early as 2009, thousands of families had been expelled from the area to allow OBC to organize private hunting trips there. The Emirati company has the support of the highest strata of the Tanzanian government: one of its shareholders is none other than Abdulrahman Kinana, the general secretary of the country’s first party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), in power in Tanzania since its independence in 1962.

In 2017, the government decided following a decision by Tanzania’s Human Rights Commission to scrap OBC’s license – some see the move as a result of political disagreements between Mr Kinana and then-President John Magufuli. But Kinana seems to have regained its influence with the presidency, as has OBCsummarizes Joseph Moses Oleshangay. It is these close ties between emirate interests and the Tanzanian authorities that are at the root of the current conflict. »

Leave a Comment