Thousands Homeless as Tanzania's Government Burns Houses to Clear Space for Tourism: Report
Rodney Muhumuza Associated Press
Tens of thousands of Tanzania's ethnic Maasai people are homeless after the government burned their houses to keep the savannah open for tourism benefiting two foreign safari companies, a U.S.-based group charged Thursday.
Villagers in northern Tanzania's Loliondo area, near the Ngorongoro Crater tourism hotspot, have been evicted in the past year and denied access to vital grazing and watering holes, said the new report by the California-based Oakland Institute policy think tank.
"As tourism becomes one of the fastest-growing sectors within the Tanzanian economy, safari and game park schemes are wreaking havoc on the lives and livelihoods of the Maasai," said Oakland Institute's Anuradha Mittal. "But this is not just about a specific company - it is a reality that is all too familiar to indigenous communities around the world."
Allegations of wrongdoing have persisted in recent years against Tanzania Conservation Limited, an affiliate of the U.S.-based Thomson Safaris, and Ortello, a group that organizes hunting trips for the royal family of the United Arab Emirates.
Young Maasai herders are so afraid of authorities that they "flee when they see a vehicle approach," thinking it might carry representatives of foreign safari companies, the report said.
Concern for the Maasai has been raised at home and abroad by rights groups such as Minority Rights Group International and Survival International, which has warned that the alleged land grabs "could spell the end of the Maasai."