Maasai Rights VS Hunting for Tourists in Tanzania
Thousands of Maasai families are being threatened by government plans to immediately evict them from their ancestral lands in Tanzania.
Last week, Tanzania's ministry of tourism announced its plans to set aside 1500km² of land adjacent to the Serengeti National Park as a "wildlife corridor". According to government plans access to this "wildlife corridor" will then be granted to a Dubai-based UAE luxury hunting and safari company for wildlife hunting. Creating this corridor will block the traditional Maasai from accessing pastures within the designated corridor, jeopardizing the cattle-herding that serves as their livelihood.
This controversial move by Tanzania's government was previously attempted, but plans were halted through international protests in the latter half of last year.
With 30,000 Maasai people claiming that the expansion of this big-game hunting reserve for foreigners, will lead to their eviction from ancestral lands, urgent action is being called for by activists.
Read more about Maasai Evictions on TheGuardian - "Maasai fury as plan to lure Arabian Gulf tourists threatens their ancestral land"
Who are the Planned Evictions in Tanzania Affecting?
The land that Tanzanian government intends to claim as a “wildlife corridor” is located in northern Tanzania, bordering the world-famous Serengeti National Park, in the Ngorongoro District of the Arusha Region, near the border with Kenya.
The most immediate threat is to Maasai people living in the Loliondo area, where previous reports state that Maasai villages have already been burnt to the ground, and thousands of people evicted from their lands.
It's no wonder that the Maasai have progressively been pushed out of their ancestral lands over the years, given the prime location of their lands for generating revenue from tourism. The now affected Loliondo Game Control Area in the Loliondo Highlands is no exception, as the land is situated between Tanzania's top safari destinations – the Serengeti National Park to the west and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) to the south.
When are Maasai Evictions Starting?
Evictions are set to begin immediately according to NGO Avaaz.
According to the public letter from the Maasai elders, on Avaaz, the government last week announced its plans to
"...kick thousands of our families off our lands so that wealthy tourists can use them to shoot lions and leopards"
Last year a global protest campaign stopped moves to force Maasai pastoralists off their land to make way for game hunting by wealthy tourists from the United Arab Emirates. The Avaaz letter from the Maasai calls for urgent help and claims that:
“...the President has waited for international attention to die down, and now he's revived his plan to take our land...”
In August The Guardian reported that:
"the Tanzanian government vehemently denies the allegations, maintaining that those who sign the petition are being misled by an "unfounded and nonexistent eviction claim"." (Tanzania denies plan to evict Maasai for UAE royal hunting ground)
Why are the Maasai People Being Evicted?
The simple answer - for money.
The Maasai are being uprooted and disempowered to make way for hunting grounds to be used by an United Arab Emirates based safari hunting company, called Otterlo Business Corporation Ltd (OBC).
Basically, Tanzania's own Maasai people, one of Africa’s oldest tribes, stand to lose the lands that they have depended for suvival over the centuries, so that foreign tourists can come shoot lion, leopard, antelopes and other wild animals.
* Image by Erika Bloom
How can we help?
Sign the AVAAZ Petition opposing the eviction or relocation of Maasai from their traditional lands to make way for foreign hunters. Avaaz has posted a letter on its website from Maasai elders, calling for support to stop the government from taking control of the land in question. The petition stood at more than 1,6 million signatures earlier today (Tuesday 09 April).
Write a Letter to President Kikwete raising your concerns about the eviction of the Maasai in Tanzania (sample letter provided).
The Maasai elders say that they have lived “on this stretch of land for centuries and the evictions will mean the destruction of their way of life”. (StarAfrica)
More About the Maasai Eviction Plan
A member of the Maasai community, Robert Kamakia, who also works for an aid group for pastoralists, stated that many meetings have been held recently in an attempt to resolve this land issue, but that progress has not been made. Robert reports on the Maasai situation:
“Now the government is organizing to set up the place so that livestock and human activity will be prohibited, and it will be the end of the community here because actually 90 percent of the community are depending on pastoral activity...”
Campaign director for the activist group Avaaz, Ian Bassin stated that
"tens of thousands of Maasai villagers could be driven off the land. The last time the government tried to clear land for Ortello, security forces burned villages and tens of thousands of head of livestock died..."
According to Bassin the Maasai hold deeds proving legal entitlement to the corridor lands, and Maasai villagers say that they will vehemently resist the eviction planned by their government.
With enough international attention hopefully the Tanzanian government will drop eviction plans, leaving the lands to the indigenous Maasai tribes who have for years used the land to graze cattle and goats.
More information about the Maasai Evictions:
- The Guardian - Maasai fury as plan to lure Arabian Gulf tourists threatens their ancestral land
- Independent Online - Government to evict Maasai off land
- TripAdvisor's Tanzania Travel Forum - Massai - They’re kicking us off our land to hunt lions
More background info on the Maasai and other East African pastoralist societies facing threats today - Maasai and Barabaig Herders Struggle for Land Rights in Kenya and Tanzania on Cultural Survival.
*Banner Image by Kent Yoshimura on Flickr.