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In an Attempt to Wrestle Away Land for Game Hunters, Tanzanian Government Fires on Maasai Farmers, Killing Two

June 10, 2022
Inside Climate News

By Katie Surma

Tanzanian security forces fired gunshots at Maasai farming communities on Friday during what appears to be an eviction operation aimed at clearing land for the establishment of a game-hunting preserve, according to witnesses, photographs, videos and non-governmental organizations familiar with the situation. 

In the videos, the sound of gunfire can be heard as groups of about 100 or more Maasai, dressed in traditional red cloaks, run across the green Serengeti and away from security forces. Some of the Maasai are holding spears or bows and arrows. In one of the videos, what looks like explosions are going off in the distance, and in another video a group of about 100 Maasai are holding bows and arrows at the ready, purportedly protesting and resisting the evictions.

Images show some Maasai with bloody bullet wounds. Two people were killed during the incident, according to Anuradha Mittal, founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute, a California-based think tank specializing in social and environmental issues.

The affected Maasai communities, who depend on the land for their livelihood, are “legally registered owners” of the property at issue, which is about the size of the city of Phoenix, according to a court order from the East African Court of Justice. In that 2018 order, the court issued an injunction restraining the Tanzanian government from evicting the Maasai, confiscating their livestock and destroying their property. The court is expected to issue a final ruling in the case later this month.

Mittal, who has been monitoring the alleged evictions, condemned the government’s plans to rezone Maasai land for game hunting, and the planned evictions. 

“The government is willing to defy the court injunction, grab the ancestral land of the Maasai and hand it over to the royal family of the UAE for their hunting pleasures, indicating its ruthless disregard for its citizens, international law, and due process,” Mittal said in a written statement, referring to the UAE-owned Otterlo Business Company, which the Oakland Institute says has a license to run commercial hunting operations on the land at issue.