The indigenous Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya are undergoing forcible removal from their ancestral lands within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area by the Tanzanian government. Violence erupted on June 10, when decades of simmering tensions between the Tanzanian government and the Maasai people were physically demonstrated by the demarcation of 15,000 square kilometers of land that have long been the home of the Maasai people. The eviction of the Maasai people made way for a United Arab Emirates-based company (Otterlo Business Corp) to conduct commercial hunting, utilizing the multiple migration routes of wildlife as a game reserve.
As the Maasai people, human rights advocates, and activists protested the violent land grabbing; they were met with Tanzanian security forces, tear gas, and live ammunition. The government’s plans to evict 150,000 Maasai people living and depending on the Ngorongoro Conservation Area strikes up hypocrisy and irony as the government continues to amplify police presence within Maasai villages, urging them to relocate as they are left with no choice but to.
In retaliation for the killing of a police officer, 18 and 13 Maasai men were wounded and treated for bullet wounds in Kenya – as Dr.Catherine Nyambura told the Voice of America (VOA). According to UN news, 700 members of security forces were allocated to the conservation area on June 9, which was followed by the removal of the demarcation lines by the Maasai people, to which the police responded with live bullets the following day.
One Maasai elder recounts the violence to Aljazeera news as such “They found us in a meeting, and they started shooting at us like wild animals.” Another elder villager said, “We had gone to graze our cows when we met police officers on our way who started attacking us with live bullets.”
Proper communication and consultation from the Tanzanian government have yet to be attested to by Maasai representatives as Tanzania continues efforts to displace 70,000 indigenous Maasai from Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo, and Arash villages.
In a recent report issued by the United Nations, experts mentioned, “We are concerned at Tanzania’s plans to displace close to 150,000 Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Loliondo without their free, prior and informed consent, as required under international human rights law and standards. This will cause irreparable harm and could amount to dispossession, forced eviction, and arbitrary displacement prohibited under international law.”
Ngorongoro Conservation Area not only carries generational significance to the nomadism and pastoralism of Maasai life but with its recognition as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the eviction calls to the UN’s responsibility for the preservation of human rights that have been threatened by Tanzanian forces. In addition, the eviction of the Maasai peoples disputes the 2018 ruling by the East African Court of Justice and another ruling to be put forth on June 22, presenting legal scaffolding in the hopes of peaceful negotiations.
Hundreds of locals and communities of Maasai people have fled by foot to neighboring Kenya with some sort of guaranteed protection. However, as the government provides them with 400,000 acres of land for resettlement, it comes at the cost of losing ancestral land and the beginnings of unethical tourism.
As human rights lawyers and advocates rally to vocalize for the Maasai people and urge Tanzania to immediately stop evictions of the indigenous nomads, Tanzania is left to address its role in the erasure of African indigenous practices that have protected biodiversity under the guise of economic development.
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