By Chris Lang
The Maasai Indigenous people living in their ancestral land in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District in Tanzania are yet again facing forceful eviction. Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) have put out an urgent alert: “Around 70,000 Maasai in Loliondo, Tanzania, face another forceful eviction, gross violation of human rights and breach of Rule of Law”.
REDD-Monitor has written about the threats to the Maasai in this area of Tanzania several times. In June 2021, the Oakland Institute put out a report that documents how fortress conservation, with the support of international conservation agencies, threatens the Maasai:
Maasai pastoralists have lived on the land bordering the Serengeti National Park for generations. The Government of Tanzania is threatening to evict the Maasai from an area of 1,500 square kilometres. Here’s how IPRI and IWGIA describe the latest threat:
On 11 January 2022, the Regional Commissioner for Arusha, John Mongella, on behalf of the Government told leaders of the Maasai community in Loliondo that the Government is going to make tough decisions to remove the Maasai people from their 1,500 km2 area of village land any time in 2022, even if this will be painful to the Maasai. The Regional Commissioner held the meeting in Wasso town in Ngorongoro District headquarters with village and sub-village chairpersons, village and ward executive officers, and councilors.
Decades of violence against the Maasai
Since 1992, the Director of Wildlife has issued permits on the 1,500 km2 of land to a hunting tourism company owned by Dubai Royals, Otterlo Business Corporation. The Tanzanian Government has at no point sought the free, prior and informed consent of the Maasai people living there.
The land is legally registered as village land under the Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999. Eight Maasai villages are registered and the Maasai residents of these villages have formalised land tenure rights to their land.
Stop the evictions
Indigenous Peoples Rights International has set up a petition addressed to the President and Prime Minister of Tanzania, and the Otterlo Business Corporation. Organisations can sign on to the petition here:
Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hasan
United Republic of Tanzania
His Excellency Kasim Majaliwa
United Republic of Tanzania
Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC)
We, the undersigned organizations/networks and individuals collectively express our serious concern on the planned eviction of an estimated 70,000 Maasai indigenous pastoralists and their more than 200,000 livestock in Loliondo, Tanzania. According to the information we received from affected communities, a meeting with Maasai leaders called by the Regional Commissioner for Arusha, John Mongella was held last January 11, where he informed them of the government’s plan to evict any time this year the villagers in the 1,500 km2 area of customary lands of the Maasai indigenous pastoralists located in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, east of the Serengeti National Park. The main reason for this persistent plan to evict the Maasai villagers is to lease their land to Otterlo Business Corporation to be made as wildlife hunting area for the Dubai royal families who own this company.
This pending action of the Government of Tanzania is contrary to the Village Land Act of 1999, as well as to the international human rights obligations and commitments of the Government of Tanzania. The eight villages have in fact a legal security of tenure to their land which they have collectively managed and conserved well as their customary lands for decades as evidenced by its rich biodiversity.
The unjust and cruel plan to evict 70,000 Maasai pastoralists and make them homeless and to displace their over 200,000 livestock is against the respect for their rights, dignity and cultural identity and livelihoods. It will certainly result in conflicts, violence, poverty and marginalization just to satisfy the whims of the rich and powerful families who have no regard to the stewards of wildlife and rich biodiversity.
We express our strong solidarity with the affected Maasai villagers and we urge the Government of Tanzania and Otterlo Business Corporation to respect and protect the rights, well-being and dignity of the Maasai pastoralists who are the stewards of the 1,500 km biodiversity-rich area.
In particular, we call upon the Government of Tanzania to:
- Immediately desist from evicting the Maasai indigenous pastoralists and instead fully recognize and protect their right to their customary lands and resources, their livelihoods and distinct lifestyles.
- Ensure that the land tenure security of the eight villages in Loliondo is protected as per their status as legally-registered villages, and to guarantee that there will be no further attempts of land grabbing and forced evictions.
- Guarantee the respect for and protection of the right to freedom of expression and assembly; and ensure that there will be no reprisals against human rights defenders, civil society organizations and journalists who speak up on the Loliondo eviction issue.
We urge the Otterlo Business Corporation to:
- Abandon plans to lease the land of the Maasai villagers and ensure the respect for the rights of the Maasai indigenous pastoralists to their lands and resources and to free, prior and informed consent.
- Adopt a corporate policy for environment protection and respect for human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples as affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
PHOTO Credit: Oloirien, 13th January 2022: View from the termite mound.