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World Bank Finances Evictions and Human Rights Abuses in Tanzania

September 28, 2023
TANAPA rangers
TANAPA rangers. Source: Tanzania National Parks Facebook Page


September 28, 2023; 8:00 AM PST

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  • New research presents compelling evidence on World Bank’s complicity through financing of Tanzanian government’s violent expansion of Ruaha National Park. Tens of thousands of Indigenous and local communities face evictions for tourism dollars.
  • Lack of a resettlement plan and due process for consultation and compensation for those evicted blatantly violates the World Bank’s safeguards and procedures.
  • Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) rangers – financed by the World Bank – are implicated in murders, numerous incidents of violence, and widespread cattle seizures intended to pressure people to leave.
  • The World Bank denied responsibility and failed to take action when informed of human rights abuses and violations of its safeguards.
  • Left to their own recourse, 852 villagers from Mbeya have filed a case at the High Court of Tanzania to prevent the government’s plans to evict them.

Oakland, CA – In a new report, Unaccountable & Complicit, the Oakland Institute exposes how the World Bank is enabling the violent tactics of the Tanzanian government to increase tourism revenue. The expansion plans for the Ruaha National Park (RUNAPA) are greased by rampant violence and cattle seizures by wildlife rangers with the goal of forcibly evicting tens of thousands of villagers.

The World Bank’s US$150 million Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (REGROW) project in Tanzania is financing the government’s plan to “develop” four national parks in the less visited Southern Circuit – including infrastructure and management of natural resources and tourism assets. RUNAPA is the only park to receive dedicated funding to massively expand – from one to over two million hectares.

“REGROW project is not about protecting wildlife or conservation. Instead, the Bank is financing an oppressive and violent economic growth model based on boosting tourism revenues,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “Amidst widespread international condemnation of forced evictions of the Maasai in Ngorongoro and Loliondo, it is stunning for the Bank to be complicit in serious human rights abuses through its support for the expansion of another national park for tourism.”

In October 2022, the government announced five villages close to RUNAPA (Luhanga, Madundasi, Msanga, Iyala, Kilambo) with a population of 21,252 and an additional 47 sub-villages from 14 villages will be evicted – with their legal registration cancelled. Villagers are told to leave the land they hold a title deed for as the government claims the boundaries of RUNAPA have encompassed these villages since the Government Notice of 2008 – which was never implemented. Moreover, the villagers were not consulted nor did they give their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. To challenge the planned evictions, 852 villagers filed a case at the High Court of Tanzania at Mbeya in February 2023.

TANAPA park rangers, funded through REGROW, are implicated in murders of several villagers and numerous incidents of violence since the project began in 2017. Field research collected heart wrenching testimonies from those who have faced sexual violence, brutal assaults, and inhumane treatment by rangers.

Government agencies are also seizing and auctioning cattle in large numbers. The enormous financial strain induced by these seizures undermines livelihood of pastoralists, to pressure them to leave the area. These actions go against a stated goal of the REGROW project – to strengthen livelihoods of the local communities.

Unaccountable & Complicit provides irrefutable evidence that the Tanzanian government is violating the World Bank’s safeguards and procedures by planning evictions without a formal resettlement plan and due process for consultation and compensation. In communication with the Oakland Institute, the Bank denied any responsibility or wrongdoing and failed to take action when informed of human rights abuses and violations of its safeguards. By doing so, the Bank has chosen to side with the Tanzanian government’s horrific abuses unleashed on the Indigenous communities, including the Maasai, Datoga, and Sangu pastoralists, who inhabit the project area.

Following past critiques of its toothless safeguards, the Bank launched a plan in 2015 to improve the oversight and management of resettlement practices. This new report demonstrates the continued failure of the Bank to ensure application of its safeguards and human rights standards in the projects it finances.

“Previous evictions for the expansion of RUNAPA – coupled with the Tanzanian government’s track record of human rights abuses – should have triggered internal alarm before the Bank decided to finance the project. Instead, it looked the other way and continues to do so. It should be held accountable,” concluded Mittal.