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Cultural Survival Demands the Halt of Violence Against Maasai Peoples in Tanzania

Content Note: The content discussed below, and/or some of the web pages we link to, contain text and images documenting physical violence against Maasai people. 

The government of Tanzania is violently attacking Maasai Peoples in Tanzania in the course of a series of displacements aimed at appropriating Indigenous lands for “conservation” purposes, in violation of Indigenous Peoples' right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and other rights guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15, 18 , 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, and 32. Officials are seeking to convert 1,500 square kilometers of Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, in northern Tanzania into a game reserve–land dedicated to “elite tourism and trophy hunting”–which would likely result in evictions of up to 70,000 Maasai people from their homelands. A 2018 East African Court of Justice injunction prohibits this, as do Tanzania’s international obligations. The court was expected to rule again this week on a case brought by defenders of Maasai rights against the government of Tanzania but has postponed to September. The Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights reports, “On 7 and 8 June, [2022] around 700 members of security forces were deployed into five locations in the area, where they installed tented camps to start demarcating the 1,500 square kilometers. On 9 June the police placed markers to delineate the game reserve, but local Maasai people removed them and remained overnight to guard the site. When security forces returned at daybreak, they started firing live bullets and lobbed teargas at the Maasai.”

Meanwhile, nearby in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, another 80,000 Maasai are in danger of eviction, also allegedly for conservation purposes. Eighty-two percent of land currently available for Maasai traditional pastoral practices would be withdrawn from Maasai communities. Since the 1950s, the Maasai People have had legal rights to live on this land.

Security forces have fired bullets at community members and employed other military weapons including tear gas. As of June 12, at least 31 people have been injured.

Cultural Survival firmly supports Indigenous Peoples’ sovereignty and self-determination. We repudiate any attempts to remove Indigenous Peoples from their lands and violate their inherent rights to their ancestral relationships with lands, waters, animals, plants, and sacred places. We invite supporters to sign this petition and this petition to uplift the demands of the Maasai Peoples.

We call upon the government of Tanzania to comply with its international obligations to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as established in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

  1. Respect the Maasai Peoples' rights as Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and do not proceed with projects until such a process can take place, in alignment with Maasai decision-making processes.
  2. Respect Maasai Peoples' rights to life, liberty, and security of person, as stated in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

We amplify the following demands laid out by village leaders and published by Forest Peoples Programme and those presented by the ICCA Consortium: 

From Forest Peoples Programme: 

On Loliondo, 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.


  1. 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
  2. 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 
  3. 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 deed
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. The government to restore all suspended development projects including schools, heath services, water projects in NCA with no conditions. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.

From the ICCA Consortium:

  1. Immediately halt the violent evictions of the Maasai and withdraw all paramilitary and armed forces from their ancestral lands;
  2. Bring to an end the brutal mistreatment, injuries and suffering caused by the evictions, shootings and intimidation and bring to justice the perpetrators of this violence, including the intellectual authors and financiers;
  3. Ensure the affected community members have emergency and ongoing access to adequate and culturally appropriate health care and psychosocial support;
  4. Allow journalists, human rights observers, lawyers and civil society organizations to access Loliondo, speak with affected Maasai pastoralists and report on the situation freely and without intimidation, harassment or coercion;
  5. Respond to the communities’ report submitted to the Prime Minister on 25 May 2022, which includes their views on how the land in question should be used;
  6. Uphold commitments to protect human rights, including the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to appropriately recognize and support conservation by Indigenous Peoples and local communities under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity; and
  7. Refrain from over-reliance on foreign investors and commit to locally rooted, equitable approaches to conservation of the Loliondo area in partnership with the Indigenous Peoples of Tanzania, for example, by supporting the Maasai to secure legal rights through Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy.
  8. We call upon conservation organizations and funders as well as tourism operators and individual tourists who are supporting or seeking to support conservation initiatives in Tanzania to take a clear stand against this violence and back the self-determined priorities of the Maasai – the original conservationists of the Ngorongoro and Serengeti.