By Forest Peoples Programme
“We have nowhere else to go. Losing this land will mean the extinction of our community.”
On January 21, 2022 the Tanzanian government began demarcating 1500 sq km of disputed land in Loliondo, resuming previous contentious plans to make way for elite tourism and trophy hunting. Plans are to evict tens of thousands of local Maasai residents to create a “protected” area in Loliondo, with police preparing to use force on those who refuse to leave. Over one thousand community members gathered to protest at the place of demarcation on January 21, 2022, announcing that they will not leave the area until the demarcation process stops. On January 22 the police vacated the area following increasing pressure from the protesters who destroyed the drums erected by local authorities to indicate the demarcation line.
The plans have resumed despite being halted in 2013 by the former Premier Mizengo Peter Pinda as a result of great international pressure and the 2018 East African Court of Justice’s court injunction in favor of the community. As part of the revived plan, the Ortello Business Company, a hunting firm owned by the United Arab Emirates’ Royal Family which already operates in the area, is being given exclusive rights to hunt in the 1500 sq km of disputed land.
At the same time the Tanzanian government is preparing to implement the new multiple land use (MLUM) and resettlement plan in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). The NCA plan, proposes to divide the Ngorongoro Conservation Area into four zones with at least 82% of the Area now legally accessible for pastoralism will be designated as conservation Area and the remaining 18% as a multiple Land Use for Human and Wildlife. On this option, the government proposes for resettlement of more than 70,000 pastoral community members largely Maasai indigenous.
On the alternative option, the government recommends for a total resettlement of all persons now legally residing in the NCAA with the option of redesignating it into a Game Control Area to license trophy hunting activities.
The options would greatly reduce the area with access to Maasai Pastoralists for livestock grazing and other livelihoods and would force all NCA residents out of the NCA: this would significantly affect the life of more than 90,000 NCA indigenous, mostly Maasai.
In total the local residents that will be affected by the evictions and by the restricted access to these areas are around 167,000 (97,000 living wholly within NCA and 70,000 in and around Loliondo).
As the government prepares to implement plans in both NCA and Loliondo communities from both areas have been working relentlessly to respond and negotiate with relative parties, to continue driving forward ongoing and new litigation efforts and build a collective community-led strategy to support everyone affected and resist any eviction plan.
As a result of this process the local community, village chairpersons and traditional leaders in Ngorongoro District have put together these demands for the Tanzanian government on the current human and land rights issues:
- The government should desist from threatening, intimidating or relocating communities pending the determination of the East African Court of Justice. The East African Court of Justice has ordered for maintenance of the status quo.
- The government, the Arusha Regional Commissioner and the District Commissioner should publicly announce the suspension of installation of the beacon in the 1500 sq.km
- The Tanzania Government and International agencies involved in informing the new MLUM in NCA, such as UNESCO and IUCN, should desist from executing and supporting in any way the current new MLUM, the General Management Plan and related law review proposals that will inevitably result in serious human right violations
- The government should abandon its secret relocation plans part of the new MLUM in NCA that have caused sustained fear among the local community and will inevitably lead to the erosion of the community’s livelihood and cultural identity
- The government should transparently address the claim that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) has recently provided salt licks for livestock contaminated by toxic substances that have already caused the death of Maasai livestock. In this regard, the government should then take appropriate legal measures against anyone responsible for this dead
- The government should be pursuant to the law that establishes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority acting giving equal weight and importance to the three founding legal objectives: safeguard and develop the interests of the Maasai Pastoral Community, Conservation and Tourism.
- Given the historical records and the emerged misunderstanding between the Maasai community in one hand and the government/NCAA, UNESCO and IUCN on the other, there is a timely need to re-address claimed historical injustices against the community, including the large-scale dispossession of Maasai land, displacement of Maasai people and the eradication of their indigenous knowledge in the management of the area.
- The government to restore all suspended development projects including schools, heath services, water projects in NCA with no conditions.
- We demand for an Independent Commission of inquiries to address the current and historical human rights injustices in the NCA and the involvement and role of Tanzania Government, UNESCO and IUCN in those violations.
- For both the NCA and the Loliondo the government should promote an independent study about the social, economic and environmental impacts of the existing model of coexistence between the local ecosystem and local communities before any eviction. The study should come up with best long term strategies for both the government and local communities and be carried out by an independent team of environmental as well as human and land rights consultants.
A local traditional Maasai leader attending the protest said: “Imagine your home is burned in front of you to clear your land for foreigners to hunt. Imagine not being able to graze our cows as we have done for millennia- because of the restrictions imposed by the government to protect a foreign company that is only hunting the wildlife, with whom we have been together for time immemorial!”
A local Maasai activist and community representative said: “The government has broken all the promises, pretending to have received the consent and agreement of the local community , that were made when the Serengeti National Park was established. This is a direct violation of our living rights. For 30 years, since the conflict in Loliondo began we have suffered three major evictions – in 2009, 2013 and 2017, legitimized by the government’s conservation agenda, which have led to great violence, abuses, harassment towards the communities and long-term economic and cultural loss. If this land is grabbed, over 50,000 people will be left without a home.”
He continued: “We Maasai Indigenous community are appealing for international support so that our land and our rights are respected. The myth of ‘Protected areas’ takes away not only our rights as people, but our ability to exercise our responsibilities related to land. Our symbiosis that connects us with spirits, animals, plants, water and land will be disrupted if this land is taken away from us. Tanzania is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) that underpins the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. We want the Tanzanian government to immediately stop the plan of evicting us from our ancestral land and wait for the court case to be determined.”
A local traditional Maasai leader attending the protest said: “We have nowhere else to go. Losing this land will mean the extinction of our community. We have taken care of our environment and lived in harmony with other living and nonliving things. And we are not ready to lose our traditional lifestyle we have lived for times immemorial. Tourists flood our homelands in every area to see and wonder how we have been able to maintain a balance between our lives and nature. Pastoralism is compatible with conservation. Many studies have confirmed.
Over 70% of our homelands has been taken for conservation and investment reasons. We are appealing to human rights organizations, media and other citizens who value Indigenous human rights to share our plight and put pressure on the government of Tanzania to respect the rights of its citizens, and particularly Indigenous people. We are capable of conserving and taking care of our environment more than any one, and we have demonstrated that for so long.
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- Federico Pastoris – phone: +44 7577080806 (Whatsapp or Signal); email: email@example.com
- Images: [01/02/22 Press Release Images and Footage]
- The Maasai of Loliondo have legal tenure rights over the area so any government attempts to evict them is a violation of national law and the Tanzania’s government international human rights’ obligations.
- The Maasai were relocated by the British government in 1959 to establish the famous (14000KMsq) Serengeti national Park. To learn more about this see Losing the Serengeti: The Maasai Land that was to run Forever.
- To learn about the new multiple land use (MLUM) and resettlement plan in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), see The Looming Threat of Eviction: The Continued Displacement of the Maasai Under the Guise of Conservation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
- In August, 2017, four villages filed a court case in the East African Court of Justice to challenge the violation of their collective human rights during the evictions and their customary and legal land rights. The court granted an injunction in favor of the community in Sept 2018 to halt the eviction while the main case is being determined. The date for the final ruling has not been decided yet.
- In 2013, an international online campaign run by Avaaz with over 2 million signatures forced the government to stop the evictions. The then president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, publicly announced the government’s intention to halt the plan.
- On 12th April 2021 the NCAA issued a statement which included the NCAA intention to demolish schools, dispensaries, police Station, churches, mosque and health clinics accessed by local communities to begin implementing the new MLUM.