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Indigenous Maasai in Tanzania face resettlement sites with ‘critical flaws’

May 25, 2022

Joseph Lee

Located in the United Republic of Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its beautiful landscape and “Big 5” game — elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, and rhinoceros. Every year, the area’s attractions draw hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world. The park is also home to roughly 80,000 Indigenous Maasai people who have called the region home for millenia, living on the rich and fertile landscape. But since its creation in 1959, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), the Maasai population in the park has steadily increased. Now, the government is trying to evict the Maasai, a move officials say is necessary to protect the park’s environment, but that the Maasai say is an attempt to sacrifice their way of life for tourism and profit. 

According to a new report from the Oakland Institute, a California-based think tank, Tanzania’s proposed resettlement sites have “serious issues” for the Maasai and are critically flawed. “While denying plans for mass evictions in the NCA, the government’s strategy to deprive residents of basic services and the ability to graze livestock, leaves the Maasai with few options for survival in the land they have stewarded for generations,” said Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute’s Executive Director. 

Around the world, Indigenous people are being evicted and even murdered by governments and international NGOs in the name of conservation, despite strong evidence that Indigenous land stewardship is actively helping biodiversity. Both the Maasai and international advocacy groups have strongly resisted what they are calling an illegal eviction. The Maasai and international groups have called on the Tanzanian government to respect their rights before making any decisions regarding the land and Maasai stewardship of it. In April, eight U.N. Special Rapporteurs also raised concern about the evictions, and this month, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called on Tanzania to immediately stop the eviction plans.