Reports from the Maasai community of Loliondo in Ngorongoro District, Tanzania, indicate that people are being forcefully evicted from their ancestral lands and territories, starting on 10 June 2022. The ICCA Consortium strongly condemns this inexcusable violence against the Indigenous Maasai.
Warning: This alert includes disturbing content about human rights violations and violence against Indigenous Peoples.
Friday 10 June was a dark day for the Maasai of Loliondo following the forceful evictions of the community from their lands, reportedly to create a game reserve for wealthy foreign hunters. After months of threats, tensions have been particularly high since 7 June, when an estimated 700 troops (including police, park rangers, military and other security forces) arrived in Loliondo and invaded their territories by starting to demarcate 1500 km2 in preparation for evictions to create a game reserve. Thousands of Maasai protested this escalation in defense of their ancestral rights to the lands.
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Reports by media, civil society organizations and political parties in Tanzania show the graphic events and injuries sustained by members of the Maasai community. Videos shared on public social media platforms show people fleeing the terrifying evictions, gunshots and smoke rising in the distance, reportedly from tear gas thrown at people.
At the time of publication (12 June), grassroots organizations operating in the area have identified at least 31 people seriously injured by the security forces and admitted to various hospitals across the border in Kenya; they were unable to access the required emergency medical care within Tanzania. This number of casualties was acknowledged publicly by the Member of Parliament for Ngorongoro, Emmanuel Shangai, discounting the government narrative that the situation is peaceful.
Information continues to be gathered about how many people have been affected and harmed. Accurate reporting is hindered by the government of Tanzania’s intimidation of journalists, lawyers and civil society organizations and suppression of freedom of speech and independent media.
There is no context in which such violence against Indigenous Peoples can be allowed or accepted, including in the name of conservation. It must not be tolerated and the perpetrators must be held accountable.
In February 2022, the Maasai of Loliondo called out for support through a petition to the government of Tanzania following the latest round of threats of evictions from their lands, purportedly to create a game reserve to be controlled by the Ortello Business Corporation, which runs hunting excursions for the United Arab Emirates’ royal family and guests. According to the Oakland Institute, the influence of this company has led to previous violations of the Maasai communities’ rights through evictions, burning of homes and killing of livestock. On 25 May 2022, communities also submitted a comprehensive report on the best way the land in question should be used to the Tanzanian Prime Minister, with no response or any rounds of meaningful discussion.
It is clear that the government of Tanzania has not properly considered or responded to the communities’ calls to drop these eviction plans, which were amplified by more than three million supporters across the world.
“Why are Tanzania’s Maasai being forced off their ancestral land?”
28 February 2022 episode of The Stream, Al Jazeera.
The ICCA Consortium condemns the continued use of fortress conservation and the cycle of violence perpetrated against the Maasai through decades of threats, exclusion and evictions from their ancestral lands in northern Tanzania.
We stand in solidarity with the Maasai of Loliondo who are resisting these threats and violations and urge the government of Tanzania to:
- Immediately halt the violent evictions of the Maasai and withdraw all paramilitary and armed forces from their ancestral lands;
- 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;
- Ensure the affected community members have emergency and ongoing access to adequate and culturally appropriate health care and psychosocial support;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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
- 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.
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.
We also call on the general public to take action in support of the Maasai by signing this online petition via Avaaz and sharing it with friends and networks. Add your voice to the more than three million people who have already signed it (at the time of publication) and help meet the Ngorongoro leaders’ goal of 3.5 million supporters.