Tanzanian Government Continues Violent Repression of the Maasai in Loliondo Despite Worldwide Condemnation
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July 8, 2022, 10:00 AM PT
Oakland, CA — In the past two weeks, the Tanzanian government has escalated its campaign against the Maasai living within the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district. Arbitrary arrests have continued — on June 29, 2022 ten people from Ndinyika, Malambo and seven more in Serng'etuny, Piyaya were arrested. 30 people were arrested in Njoroi and 11 arrested in Oloika sub-village under the pretense of being “illegal Kenyan immigrants” on July 2, 2022. Later that day, six seasonal bomas were burned to the ground in the Oldoinyorok area of Arash. On July 6, six more people — including a primary school teacher — were arrested in Olosirwa.
In addition to these widespread arrests, Tanzanian security forces have seized cattle en masse from the Maasai. Approximately 477 cows and 650 sheep were seized in Ololosokwan on July 2, 2022 and just two days later, more cattle and sheep from over five bomas in Ildupa sub-village of Ormanie were taken. To reclaim their animals, Maasai are reportedly being extorted for 100,000 TShs per cow [~US$42] and 25,000 TShs [~$US11] per sheep, a price too high for most to pay.
“The recent arrests and cattle seizures demonstrate that despite widespread international condemnation, the government of President Samia Suluhu Hassan is moving forward with the disastrous and illegal plan of removing Maasai from their ancestral land,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.
This repression follows the violence that erupted on June 8, 2022 after the Tanzanian government initiated the demarcation of 1,500 km2 of land it intends to turn into a game reserve for trophy hunting by the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Otterlo Business Company (OBC). In response, communities gathered to protest the demarcation. Security forces violently retaliated, severely wounding 18 men and 13 women. One elderly man was reportedly killed after being struck by a security forces vehicle. Thousands reportedly fled to Kenya for their safety and one injured elderly Maasai man who was injured remains missing.
An arrow allegedly killed one police officer during the demarcation violence and over 20 people — including ten ward councilors — have been arraigned before the Resident Magistrate’s Court of Arusha and charged with the murder of the policeman. Simon Saitoti — councilor for the Ngorongoro ward – was the latest to be arrested on July 1, 2022 after visiting those already detained.
International condemnation of the government’s violence was swift and widespread. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, nine United Nations Special Rapporteurs and numerous international human rights groups issued statements against the violence. In the face of mounting calls to halt evictions and investigate the human rights abuses, the government has instead completed the demarcation process for the newly named “Pololeti Game Controlled Area,” and some villagers have started to leave the area. The Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources has indicated the area will later become a game reserve, triggering mass evictions of Maasai living in legally registered villages.
Removing residents from this area violates the 2018 East African Court of Justice (EACJ) injunction, which prohibited the Tanzanian government from evicting the villagers, seizing their livestock, destroying property, or engaging in harassment against Maasai communities living in Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo, and Arash villages. While a ruling was expected on June 22, in a surprising move, the court postponed the decision until September 2022.
“Despite courageously speaking out and seeking international intervention, communities have been continually ignored by the government. Today they are left with little recourse except to pray for their continued survival,” Mittal added. The Oakland Institute and Survival International have called on the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to immediately sever ties with the Tanzanian government over the latest abuses and delist the nearby Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a World Heritage Site given the government’s disregard for Indigenous lives and rights. The communities have appealed to Tanzania’s donor countries to apply pressure.
“It is beyond time for international conservation agencies and donor governments to do more than issue statements. It is time for real action to show the Tanzanian government that the international community will not sit back and watch this disregard for the role of law while the lives and future of the Maasai is imperiled,” Mittal concluded.