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Luxury Safaris Are Expelling This Indigenous Group From Their Ancient Lands in the Serengeti

May 15, 2018
Global Citizen

Joe McCarthy

In 2017, thousands of Maasai homes were burned.

The Maasai people of the Serengeti are being expelled from their native lands in Kenya and Tanzania to make way for luxury tourism, according to a new report by US-based think tank Oakland Institute.

On lands that the Maasai have traditionally used for livestock grazing and agriculture, multinational hunting and safari companies are moving in and setting up shop, the report says, promoting tourism opportunities that go for several thousand dollars.

The report alleges that two companies in particular are responsible for displacing the Maasai — the US-based Thomson Safaris and the luxury hunting company Ortello Business Corporation, which has ties to the royal family of the United Arab Emirates.

Rick Thomson, the director of Thomson Safaris, told the AP that the allegations against the company are “simply untrue,” and told the Guardianthat his company respects local rights.

The governments of both Kenya and Tanzania have backed these companies as a way to fund municipal budgets and conservation efforts, AP reports.

The Oakland Institute argues that this has led to the displacement of the Maasai.

“Instead of being evicted, marginalized, and ignored, [the Maasai] should be consulted and involved from the start,” Elizabeth Fraser, the report’s co-author, told Global Citizen over email.

Photo by sutirta budiman on Unsplash

The Maasai, a semi-nomadic ethnic group of herders, have tried to resist expulsion from their lands by protesting and mounting legal challenges against the companies, but their efforts have largely been stifled, according to the report.

The tactics used to enforce new land boundaries are oftentimes violent, the authors write.

In recent years, officials have sent police to burn down Maasai homes, arrest protesters, and restrict areas for livestock and agriculture, the Guardian reports.