NORTHERN TANZANIA & KENYA
167,000 Maasai are being evicted from their homes in Loliondo and Ngorongoro with the excuse of conservation, threatening their survival as a people, but the real reason for the theft of their land is the expansion of trophy hunting and safari-tourism.
of violence and physical injury inflicted on Maasai throughout this page
On 7th June, about 700 police, park rangers, military and other ‘security’ forces arrived at Loliondo. Late on 9th June the community in large numbers went to uproot all the beacons that were installed by the police. They slept to guard the land. As the day broke, the soldiers returned only to find huge gatherings of men and women and the police started shooting teargas, followed by live bullets. A total of at least 31 people (18 men and 13 women) have sustained injuries resulting from live bullets, and at least one Maasai man has died.
Extracts from Maasai Elders statement.
Loliondo, Tanzania. June 2022.
“Our homeland has been turned into a hunting park, with the wealthy coming and hunting the wildlife. We have witnessed this killing of wildlife for fun since 1992, when the royal family from Dubai was given an open ended license in our village lands. The guns are now turned to us, we, the very people who have taken care of the environment and shared harmony, food and peace with wildlife for time immemorial. Hunting and conservation do not go together, but with the power of money, anything is possible…”
Anonymous Maasai Elder
“…We have resisted this plan of a hunting park for the best interest of our land security and those of the environment since it was proposed. Some of our community members have given their lives, many tortured, jailed and considerable economic loss…”
Anonymous Maasai Elder
“…On 10th June, our villages in Loliondo were invaded and occupied by the military; we were not notified despite the fact that we have a court case coming to its judgment at the end of June 2022…”
Anonymous Maasai Elder
“…We have been shot, harassed, injured-especially women- and displaced. Thousands have been displaced including 1,576 children and are now homeless seeking refuge in Kenya. Most of the are lacking basic needs, including food supplies, medical care and accommodation…”
Anonymous Maasai Elder
“…We are being accused by our government as destroyers of the environment; and, denied citizenry to Tanzania, those who crossed to Kenya in fear are now said to be Kenyans. This is the fourth forceful eviction from our land. And our leaders languish in detention in big numbers, 20 of them are charged with murder. “We cannot tell the world of the happenings because the media is banned from covering our story”. All the NGOs staff are under threat, most of them fled the country in fear…”
Anonymous Maasai Elder
Meanwhile the Government denies anything is happening despite also saying that one policeman has been killed. The Government cites as evidence the fact that there are no wounded people in hospital. However, this is because for a wounded person to be treated in hospital requires a PF3 form issued by the police, the same police who are causing the injuries. For this reason, wounded Maasai have to be taken to Kenya. One man bled to death on the way. So far at least 9 councilors and district chairmen have been detained in unknown locations since June 9th.
A Maasai community representative says, “There are thousands of police and soldiers. They are going into homes and beating people at night. People are hiding. Women are being shot. My female relatives have been shot. Journalists are intimidated into not reporting.”
Extract from Community Press Release, June 2022.
A local traditional Maasai leader 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 time 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.”
The brutal evictions are just the tip of the iceberg. The attacks of the government of Tanzania, the Safari and trophy hunting industries against the Maasai of Tanzania go far beyond. They have waged a concerted campaign to destroy the lives of the Maasai of Loliondo and Ngorongoro, and force them to leave. The Maasai communities have presented evidence in the following report that the government has:
WHY ARE THE MAASAI BEING EVICTED?
The Tanzanian government claims that they are evicting the Maasai to protect the wildlife and the ecosystem, but this claim is false.
Read the Guardian’s ‘East Africa must reject its colonial model of conserving wildlife‘.
The above report authored by the community also presents and collects comprehensive evidence that Maasai activities have not damaged the surrounding ecosystems, but in fact have supported its flourishing.
The fact that the Maasai Evictions serve no environmental purpose, contrary to government claims, is also confirmed by this open letter by conservation scientists.
While the government claims that the Maasai population has increased beyond the capacity of their territory, in fact their population used to be much higher before colonialism, without negative impacts on the ecosystem. The Oakland Institute reports at page 5 of their research “Losing the Serengeti” that “This period, known in the Maa language as emutai, “to wipe out,” resulted in the drastic decline of the Maasai population and an estimated loss of nearly 90 percent of their cattle by the early 20th century”
When the Maasai population was bigger than today, for centuries, they did not endanger the ecosystem; why would they do so now?
Nevertheless, many Maasai, aware of the dangers of overgrazing, are therefore reducing their cattle populations.
The Oakland Institute analysed the claims of the government about Maasai overgrazing. https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/looming-threat-eviction They found that the conditions of the NCA are actually not in decline:
“The health of wildlife populations within the NCA is not in an urgent state of decline. According to a 2020 study, the NCA currently contains: “Approximately 25,000 large animals…the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa including the lion population… endangered wildlife species including the black rhino, wild dog,
cheetah, and elephant…” as well as “calving grounds for over 1million wildebeest of the Great Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.” In 2017, the IUCN named the area the “most complex and diverse savanna community on earth,” and noted that while still critical, the status of the area’s two most endangered species (black rhino and wild dog) has shown signs of recovery. Along the same vein, the 2020 IUCN World Heritage Outlook assessment of the NCA actually rated the status of the area “Good with some concerns,” the second best rating within their system.”
There are other studies that reached the same conclusion, that the Maasai are not affecting their ecosystem negatively:
Melubo, K. “Why are wildlife on the Maasai doorsteps? Insights from theMaasai of Tanzania.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples 16, no. 3 (2020): 180-192.
Further evidence is presented in the Community Report above, in chapter 4, 5 and 6.
In fact, as the reports from the Oakland Institue demonstrate, the excuse of environmental conservation is just being used to remove communities from the land in order to give space for the expansion of safaris and trophy hunting. This is the same dynamic that we see playing out across the world: government using the excuse of conservation to actually hand out land to polluting multinational corporations. Global Tourism, Safaris and Trophy hunting, instead, are actually very harmful to the ecosystem.
“Since 1959, when the Maasai were first relocated from the Serengeti to Loliondo and Ngorongoro by the British colonial authorities, our communities have faced a cycle of broken promises leading to dispossession, violence and marginalisation.”
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)
In March 2019, a joint monitoring mission including the UNESCO and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) asked the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) to urgently control population growth in the NCA, framing it as the leading cause of environmental degradation. The Tanzanian government responded by producing a Multiple Land Use Model (MLUM) and Village Resettlement Plan.
The new MLUM recommended the resettlement of all 97,000 residents of the NCA with an option of redesignating it as a Game Control Area to license trophy hunting. The plan designates at least 82% of the area to conservation, making access for pastoralism illegal. Under this proposal, the government therefore needs to resettle over 80,000 community members out of Ngorongoro and into areas that cannot sustain their traditional livelihoods. The Oakland institute reports that the areas designated for resettlement lack adequate water sources, grazing land, social and health services, and the government have not consulted the communities that currently live in that area.
Oakland Institute report:
Flawed Plans for Relocation of the Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
This is particularly devastating given the acute hunger and food insecurity that 70% of Maasai residents already face with the existing restrictions placed by the government– including restrictions on subsistence cultivation. The result of these senseless restrictions is increased poverty (which already affects 50% of Maasai residents), widespread starvation and disease, especially amongst children.
The Tanzanian government is turning 1,500 km² area of village land located in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District into a protected area, evicting over 70,000 Maasai residents and their 200,000+ cattle from their legally owned land. As part of the plan, the Ortello Business Company (OBC), a hunting firm owned by the United Arab Emirates’ Royal Family already operating in the area, is being given exclusive rights to hunt in the disputed land despite the company’s past involvement in several violent evictions of the Maasai, burning of homes, and the killing of thousands of rare animals in the area.
Tanzanian president Samia reassuring investors from the Gulf that they will have their way:
HOW IS WWF INVOLVED IN THE MAASAI EVICTIONS?
For years WWF has been organizing safari tours in the NCA, https://www.nathab.com/africa/ and the research on the ground points to the fact that the Maasai are being evicted precisely in order to make space for safaris.
WWF is profiting from the ethnic cleansing of the Maasai, which leaves further space for Safari tours to take place.
Possibly also because this conflict of interests, the WWF have advised the NCA Authorities in 2019 that key environmental issues in the NCA were caused by the high population, despite much evidence of the contrary, and suggested that the government “reduce the number of people” and relocate essential social services outside of the area.
You can find the consultation papers at page 13 of the Oakland Institute report
The WWF blatantly lied about this in their reply to the demands of our occupation, when they said that they already made clear to the Tanzanian government that they opposed the evictions: instead, they told the government to carry them out and are profiting from them.
WWF has been working with NCA Authorities on a number of conservation projects and anti-poaching activities, many of which have led to increased militarisation of the NCA Authorities. Additionally, considering the financial and technical support WWF UK provides to WWF Tanzania and the support provided by WWF to the Tanzanian government which is carrying out the evictions, WWF UK is indeed involved in the NCA and the evictions.
The Maasai are not passive victims of this ethnic cleansing. They are bravely resisting the onslaught, using non violent resistance, putting their bodies in front of the army who wants to evict them, showing incredible bravery in the face of danger.
Since the beginning of the evictions the community has mobilised in great numbers to deliberate and reach collective decisions on demands and strategies. They organized a large number of protests, including coordinated protests in Ngorongoro, Dar Es Salaam, London and Edinburgh, as well as launching an international campaign to boycott the tourist industry, which is the cause of the evictions.
The community also reached out to international media outside of Tanzania, securing sustained coverage of the evictions, is providing legal defence to all human rights defenders under attack by the state and organised emergency support for those Maasai who had to flee to Tanzania. They are currently submitting a complaint to the United Nations, to UNESCO and challenging the government’s actions in the East African Court of Justice. They have been engaged in this struggle for land and life for decades already. The courageous collective resistance of the Maasai community shows us that when people are determined to defend their land and fight together, they can face overwhelming odds.