By Chris Lang
The Indigenous Maasai in Loliondo continue to face violent repression with more arrests and seizures of cattle. Tanzanian government authorities are running a security operation against the Maasai and in favour of the Otterlo Business Corporation, a luxury hunting company owned by the United Arab Emirates royal family.
The violence and threats of eviction continue despite an international outcry. This post lists some of the recent statements from international organisations.
Amnesty International: “Stop the violent forced eviction of the Maasai”
Yesterday, Amnesty International put out an Urgent Action to stop the violent forced eviction of the Maasai. Amnesty International is encouraging people to write to the President of Tanzania, Suluhu Samia Hassan, urging a stop to the security operation, immediate release of the people arrested, and the suspension of any ongoing land acquisition plans.
You can read Amnesty International’s model letter below.
International Peoples Rights International: “Tanzania Stop further attacks!”
Founded by indigenous activists Victoria Tauli Corpuz and Joan Carling in 2020, the Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) works, “to protect Indigenous Peoples rights, and unite and amplify the call for justice to victims of criminalization and impunity”.
IPRI recently put out a statement urgently calling on the State of Tanzania “to immediately stop the criminalization against Maasai leaders and human rights defenders in the Loliondo Division”.
IPRI’s statement is available below.
Al Jazeera: “In Tanzania, the Maasai may lose their land – again”
Mittal explains that when she visited the Maasai in Loliondo, she had to arrange meetings with them “in the middle of the night in hiding, because they were afraid they would be arrested, they would be beaten, then I would be thrown out of the country.”
Oleshangay describes how the Otterlo Business Corporation signed an agreement with the Tanzanian government 20 years ago. The man signing the contract was Mohamed Abdul Rahim Al Ali, a member of the Dubai royal family. Hunts have involved Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, who is the ruler of Dubai, Vice President, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of the United Arab Emirates. “And this is why it is too tough for the Maasai to resist,” Oleshangay says.
Oakland Institute: “Tanzanian Government Continues Violent Repression of the Maasai”
On 8 July 2022, the Oakland Institute put out a statement pointing out that the Tanzanian government continues to forcibly remove Maasai communities from their legally registered village land in Loliondo. More than 60 citizens have been arrested and security forces have seized over 1,000 cattle. To reclaim their animals, Maasai have to hand over about US$42 per cow, and US$11 per sheep.
The Oakland Institute writes that,
Despite widespread international condemnation, the Tanzanian government continues to blatantly ignore domestic and international law, trampling on the rights and lives of the Indigenous residents.
The government claims that the demarcated land is not near Maasai villages. This photograph of a beacon next to bomas (homesteads) proves that this claim is simply not true:
You can read the Oakland Institute’s statement below.
View from the Termite Mound: “The Tanzanian Government Keeps Escalating its War Against the Maasai in Loliondo”
Susanna Nordlund has been writing about the Maasai in Tanzania for 12 years on her blog “View from the Termite Mound”. Her latest post is dated 7 July 2022 (with a series of updates at the end of the post). It is an extraordinarily detailed account of the most recent human rights abuses against the Maasai at the hands of the Tanzanian government – in the name of conservation and game hunting for the elite of the United Arab Emirates.
Nordlund describes the government’s “huge and shameless lie” which has been repeated for years. Nordlund highlights a video clip of John Mongella, the Regional Commissioner of Arusha, in which he repeats the claim that the 4,000 km2 of land that the Otterlo Business Corporation lays claim to is a protected area on which the Maasai have “encroached”. Nordlund describes the lie as follows: “the government out of the kindness of its heart is ‘giving’ the Maasai 2,500 km2 while only ‘keeping’ 1,500 km2”.
The reality, Nordlund writes, is that the 4,000 km2 has been customary Maasai land since before colonial times. The land is legally registered village land. Maasai village land.
Mongella even claimed that the demarcation exercise carried out by Tanzania’s security forces is “participatory”. The protests against the demarcation reveal this to be completely untrue.
President Suluhu Samia Hassan
Utumishi Street, P.O. BOX 670,
I am writing to express my concern about the ongoing security operation in the town of Loliondo, in the Arusha Region of Northern Tanzania, and the arbitrary arrests and detention of 25 members of the Maasai community for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
On 7 June, a security operation consisting of around 700 people, mostly police, park rangers, military and other security forces, arrived at Loliondo to implement the authorities’ plans to seize 1500 kilometres squared of the communal land of the Maasai people. On 9 June, soldiers used force to disperse community members in four villages (Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo and Arash) who had gathered to protest the demarcation exercise by removing the beacons that the security had placed marking the boundaries of the land that the Maasai lay claim to. According to two eyewitnesses, security forces started shooting at the protesters with firearms and also used teargas. Many sustained injuries, some bullet wounds.
Before the day of the protest, around 20 members of the Maasai community, some village elders, were arbitrarily arrested; 10 of them as they were meeting to discuss state plans to demarcate the parcel of land. On 16 June they were falsely charged with the murder of a policeman. They were arrested even before the policeman was killed. The statement of offence has since been amended four times to be conspiracy to murder, while also adding five persons to the list of accused persons.
The demarcation of the Maasai’s land happened contrary to the court orders by the East African Court of Justice. Furthermore, eviction from their ancestral lands in the absence of their free prior and informed consent will violate their human rights and will take away their livelihoods and impact their traditional way of life. Police force caused serious injury and risked the lives of the Maasai community members.
I urge you to suspend the proposals for the development of the Maasai lands until the Maasai community has given their free, prior and informed consent through a meaningful consultation process and to ensure an effective investigation into the use of force against protesters. I also call on you to order the immediate release of 25 Maasai community members detained for their peaceful participation in the anti-eviction protests and drop the charges against them.
The Indigenous Peoples Rights International-IPRI urgently calls on the State of Tanzania to immediately stop the criminalization against Maasai leaders and human rights defenders in the Loliondo Division. These leaders along with their communities are defending their right to live in their legally-recognized customary lands in the face of attacks to evict them.
IPRI has continuously followed up on the systematic attacks by the State of Tanzania against the Maasai. These actions, under the guise of conservation, are violating the human rights of the Maasai. These also contravene explicit orders from the East Africa Court of Justice whereby it instructed the State of Tanzania to cease and desist from evicting the Maasai; and from destroying their homesteads or confiscating their livestock on that land and restrain from harassing or intimidating the Maasai.
Regrettably, in spite of this order and the concerns raised by UN experts on the violent attacks by Tanzanian security forces on June 10, the government continues to criminalize the Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo. This week, 50 indigenous Maasai pastoralists -12 of whom are women- are to be taken to court for trumped-up charges, and 27 leaders and human rights defenders are facing murder charges of a police officer. These leaders were arrested the day before the murder that is being attributed to them. Last week, 72 Maasai were arrested and 22 were released on bail. More and more are facing threats of arrest and detention based on false charges.
In addition to these human rights violations, 18 Maasai indigenous pastoralists also had their livestock confiscated (totaling over 3,500 livestock) and they had to pay around 4,500.00 USD each to claim back their animals.
Joan Carling, Executive Director of IPRI, pointed out that “these attacks to the Maasai pastoralists by government forces are not only against the State’s human rights obligations but it also demonstrates the systemic racism and discrimination against the Maasai who have protected the wildlife and biodiversity in their customary lands for centuries.”
It should be recalled that these evictions are fueled by the interest of the Government of Tanzania to the establishment of the so called Pololet Game Control Area, established in indigenous peoples’ villages without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent and contrary to Tanzania’s Constitution and legislation. While the Maasai organized a series of peaceful assemblies to demand dialogue and the protection and respect of their rights, the Government did otherwise: unilaterally took violent actions to evict and relocate them to other areas without their consent.
Last June 15, IPRI – as an international organization constituted to address criminalization, violence and impunity in attacks against Indigenous Peoples – called on the Government of Tanzania to immediately withdraw all State forces from the Maasai traditional lands and engage in a constructive dialogue with Maasai leaders of Loliondo to end the conflict. As noted by Joan Carling, “the Maasai indigenous pastoralists are not criminals, and they deserve respect and peace in their territories.”
IPRI calls on the international community to condemn the attacks and violations of the rights of the Maasai Pastoralists and to urge the government of Tanzania to:
- Stop the criminalization of Maasai leaders; provide access to justice and ensure the respect for their fundamental rights of freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of speech instead of threats and reprisals.
- Immediately drop the charges against the Maasai leaders and defenders on trial and, in consequence, release them.
- Immediately stop the violence of State forces against the Maasai.
- Provide justice and reparations to victims of the armed attack of June 9, and for those whose livestock has been killed or confiscated.
- Start a process of dialogue with the Maasai leaders based in the respect of their rights. This is the only acceptable solution in a democratic State that upholds its international human rights obligations.
- Implement the law on community land rights and other individual and collective rights of the Masai indigenous pastoralists consistent with international human rights instruments.
Tanzanian Government Continues Violent Repression of the Maasai in Loliondo Despite Worldwide Condemnation
Oakland Institute, July 8, 2022
In the past two weeks, the Tanzanian government has escalated its campaign against the Maasai living within the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district. Arbitrary arrests have continued — on June 29, 2022 ten people from Ndinyika, Malambo and seven more in Serng’etuny, Piyaya were arrested. 30 people were arrested in Njoroi and 11 arrested in Oloika sub-village under the pretense of being “illegal Kenyan immigrants” on July 2, 2022. Later that day, six seasonal bomas were burned to the ground in the Oldoinyorok area of Arash. On July 6, six more people — including a primary school teacher — were arrested in Olosirwa.
In addition to these widespread arrests, Tanzanian security forces have seized cattle en masse from the Maasai. Approximately 477 cows and 650 sheep were seized in Ololosokwan on July 2, 2022 and just two days later, more cattle and sheep from over five bomas in Ildupa sub-village of Ormanie were taken. To reclaim their animals, Maasai are reportedly being extorted for 100,000 TShs per cow [~US$42] and 25,000 TShs [~$US11] per sheep, a price too high for most to pay.
“The recent arrests and cattle seizures demonstrate that despite widespread international condemnation, the government of President Samia Suluhu Hassan is moving forward with the disastrous and illegal plan of removing Maasai from their ancestral land,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.
This repression follows the violence that erupted on June 8, 2022 after the Tanzanian government initiated the demarcation of 1,500 km2 of land it intends to turn into a game reserve for trophy hunting by the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Otterlo Business Company (OBC). In response, communities gathered to protest the demarcation. Security forces violently retaliated, severely wounding 18 men and 13 women. One elderly man was reportedly killed after being struck by a security forces vehicle. Thousands reportedly fled to Kenya for their safety and one injured elderly Maasai man who was injured remains missing.
An arrow allegedly killed one police officer during the demarcation violence and over 20 people — including ten ward councilors — have been arraigned before the Resident Magistrate’s Court of Arusha and charged with the murder of the policeman. Simon Saitoti — councilor for the Ngorongoro ward – was the latest to be arrested on July 1, 2022 after visiting those already detained.
International condemnation of the government’s violence was swift and widespread. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, nine United Nations Special Rapporteurs and numerous international human rights groups issued statements against the violence. In the face of mounting calls to halt evictions and investigate the human rights abuses, the government has instead completed the demarcation process for the newly named “Pololeti Game Controlled Area,” and some villagers have started to leave the area. The Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources has indicated the area will later become a game reserve, triggering mass evictions of Maasai living in legally registered villages.
Removing residents from this area violates the 2018 East African Court of Justice (EACJ) injunction, which prohibited the Tanzanian government from evicting the villagers, seizing their livestock, destroying property, or engaging in harassment against Maasai communities living in Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo, and Arash villages. While a ruling was expected on June 22, in a surprising move, the court postponed the decision until September 2022.
“Despite courageously speaking out and seeking international intervention, communities have been continually ignored by the government. Today they are left with little recourse except to pray for their continued survival,” Mittal added. The Oakland Institute and Survival International have called on the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to immediately sever ties with the Tanzanian government over the latest abuses and delist the nearby Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a World Heritage Site given the government’s disregard for Indigenous lives and rights. The communities have appealed to Tanzania’s donor countries to apply pressure.
“It is beyond time for international conservation agencies and donor governments to do more than issue statements. It is time for real action to show the Tanzanian government that the international community will not sit back and watch this disregard for the role of law while the lives and future of the Maasai is imperiled,” Mittal concluded.