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Tanzania’s Masai Fight Eviction From Unesco World Heritage Site

March 2, 2022

Anthony Langat

Faced with a looming threat of eviction from Ngorongoro district in northern Tanzania, Masai people, clad in their traditional shukas of various shades of red and blue, congregated for prayers in the plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area last month.

This was the second time they were meeting since they got news of the government’s intentions to evict them from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to make way for a tourism project. In January, they held demonstrations in Loliondo, one of the three divisions in the district.

Both Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Loliondo are within Ngorongoro district in Tanzania’s Serengeti ecosystem, which also includes the Serengeti National Park. The Masai Indigenous people have known the area as their ancestral land, coexisting with wildlife for generations.

According to the Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank, this year the government threatened to evict over 70,000 Masai from Loliondo and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to make way for a wildlife corridor. The land central to the current dispute is a 1,500 square kilometer (580 square mile) portion that would be used for trophy hunting and tourism by the United Arab Emirates-based Otterlo Business Corporation — a game hunting company that has been licensed in Loliondo since 1992.

Anuradha Mittal, the founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute, said high-income countries such as the UAE and western organizations such as UNESCO are to blame for the current dispute.

“It is about rich countries still thinking of Africa as their hunting grounds and Africans and Indigenous people as dispensable,” she said. “It is shameful that UNESCO is part of it. … It should delist Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a World Heritage Site.”