Worldwide Condemnation Over Violence against the Maasai by Tanzania Security Forces
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June 16, 2022, 12:00 PM PT
Oakland, CA — On June 8, 2022, the Tanzanian government initiated the demarcation of 1,500 km2 of land that it intends to turn into a game reserve, which would trigger mass evictions of Maasai living in legally registered villages within the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district.
This action has led to widespread violence against the Maasai by security forces, which has left at least 29 people wounded by live ammunition and other injuries. Reports from the ground also indicate home raids by police forces leading to an unknown number of people arrested.
“The Tanzanian government is using violence to forcibly displace the Maasai, grab their land and hand it over to the royal family of the UAE for their hunting pleasures, indicating its ruthless disregard for its citizens, international law, and due process,” said Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute Executive Director, who has warned for several years about the unfolding disaster through several reports and alerts.
There is widespread condemnation of this violence and forced evictions of the Maasai by numerous organizations and coalitions. On June 13, 2022, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights strongly condemned the violence and urged the government to halt the eviction and open an independent investigation. On June 14, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expressed “its profound concern” over the ongoing evictions” and called “on the government of Tanzania to comply with the provisions recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other relevant international human rights instruments, and ensure the right of the Maasai to participate in decision-making, considering that their land in Loliondo for safari tourism, trophy hunting and “conservation” will affect their lives and territory.” On June 15, nine United Nations Special Rapporteurs called “on the Tanzanian Government to immediately halt plans for relocation of the people living in Loliondo and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and begin consultations with the Maasai Indigenous Peoples, including direct contact with the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council, to jointly define current challenges to environmental conservation and best avenues to resolve them, while maintaining a human rights-based approach to conservation.”
The Tanzanian government has denied the violence and claims it is carrying out its plans through voluntary resettlement. Government spokesman Gerson Msigwa thus stated to the media that “no soldier, government or government leader has been sent to evict a citizen or a Masai from their homes.”
“Why would the operation of demarcation be led by the Special Forces of the Tanzanian Police Force (TPF) if people were to move voluntarily?” questioned Mittal. “These statements by the government responding to the growing worldwide attention are misleading. The fact is that demarcation intends to change the status of the Game Controlled Area where the Maasai are living to a Game Reserve to be used for tourism and trophy hunting,” she said.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Otterlo Business Company (OBC) — which runs hunting excursions for the country’s royal family and their guests — will reportedly control commercial hunting in the area despite the company’s past involvement in several violent evictions of the Maasai, burning of homes, and the killing of thousands of rare animals in the area.
“This international mobilization is extremely important to help stop the violence and the forced evictions and deeply appreciated by the impacted communities on the ground,” Mittal emphasized. “However, these latest events are a continuation of past efforts to evict the Maasai from their land for safari tourism and trophy hunting. For years, the Maasai have only demanded respect and fulfillment of their basic rights. African and international human rights bodies are echoing their demands. It is time for the Tanzanian government to listen,” Mittal concluded.