Maasai Rising to Resist Eviction Plans in Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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February 17, 2021, 6:00 AM PT
Oakland, CA — On February 13, 2022, over 700 Maasai gathered in Oloirobi village to pray against the impending eviction from their ancestral lands within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) for fortress conservation and tourism. Traditional leaders spoke to the crowd who remained gathered in protest, with one stating: “The hooligans are determined to get us out of our land… Let us organize and fight either to survive or to die so as to protect our rights."
On February 9, 2022, Tanzanian Parliament debated policy changes to expedite the removal of the Maasai from the NCA. During debates, the majority of MPs sided strongly in favor of the eviction, while only three MPs (all Maasai representatives) opposed the move and defended the land rights of the Maasai. Given the imbalance of power, Parliament is in a position to change the legal framework that initially granted the Maasai the right to live in the NCA. One MP even suggested using military force if Maasai are not willing to leave.
In a letter sent the same day, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority announced it was grounding the Arusha Archdiocese Flying Medical Service, which will result in no flight clinics throughout Maasailand in Ngorongoro. “This is a very vital service for the Maasai, especially for women with difficult childbirth issues,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “Grounding urgent medical services demonstrates the Tanzanian government is willing to put the most vulnerable population in grave danger to pressure the Maasai,” Mittal added.
In June 2021, the Institute published The Looming Threat of Eviction, sounding the alarm on the Tanzanian government’s plans to remove the Maasai from the NCA in order to boost tourism revenues. In September 2021, the Institute, alongside Rainforest Rescue, delivered a petition with over 100,000 signatures to the government and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on behalf of Maasai communities, calling for an immediate end to the livelihood restrictions and to grant the Maasai true autonomy over future land use decisions.
While neither party has responded to these demands, the continued spotlight has helped catalyze global awareness of this urgent situation. On February 12, 2022 Avaaz launched a new petition, which has already gathered over 2.2 million signatures. As the Tanzanian Prime Minister is reportedly scheduled to visit the NCA this week, continued international solidarity is vital to supporting the Maasai.
The Oakland Institute remains committed to amplifying the voices of our Indigenous partners in Tanzania and will continue to provide updates as the situation further develops.