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Maasai Clash with Tanzania in Court Over Eviction from Serengeti

June 7, 2018
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Kevin Mwanza

NAIROBI, June 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Maasai herders near Tanzania’s famous Serengeti wildlife park have asked a regional court to stop the government intimidating witnesses supporting their legal bid to return to their ancestral land, a lawyer for the community said on Thursday.

Maasai from four villages in Loliondo, on the outskirts of the Serengeti - famous for its annual wildebeest migration - sued Tanzania in September for the right to return to their villages which have become part of a park.

“The government is trying to intimidate the villagers to withdraw the case,” Donald Deya of the Pan African Lawyers Union, who is representing the Maasai, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after a hearing in the East African Court of Justice.

“For the last three weeks, the police have gone back to the community and they are summoning leaders and they are arresting them,” he said, adding that about seven men were charged with attending an unlawful meeting.

Tanzania’s tourism minister Hamisi Kigwangalla said he was aware that the hearing had begun but declined to comment.

He has previously denied the existence of human rights violations, and said that the government has found a solution to the conflict in Loliondo that is acceptable to all sides.

“Activists cook up these things for their own gains,” he said on Twitter last month. “I went there and asked the people to volunteer any violation and there was none.”