“We have nowhere else to go. Losing this land will mean the extinction of our community.”
February 1, 2022 Press Release from Peasant and Indigenous Press Forum
On January 11, 2022, the Tanzanian government resumed contentious plans of creating a wildlife corridor that would be used for trophy hunting and tourism exclusively by the Ortello Business Company, a hunting firm owned by the United Arab Emirates’ Royal Family - a move which will involve dispossessing over 70,000 Maasai pastoralists from 1500 sq km of their ancestral land. The Regional Commissioner of the Tanzanian government met with village chairmen to inform them of the government’s decision, despite the fact that the land is legally registered in the Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District and vital for Maasai pastoralists, who have sustainably stewarded the area for generations. Thousands of Maasai have gathered to protest, and are adamant that they will not leave until the decision is reversed.
To facilitate the Maasai dispossession, the Tanzanian government prepares to implement the multiple land use (MLUM) and resettlement plan in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), created with heavy influence from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC). The NCA plan proposes to divide the Ngorongoro Conservation Area into four zones, with at least 82% of the area currently accessible for pastoralism to be designated as a conservation area, and the remaining 18% classified for multiple land use for humans and wildlife. The MLUM plan proposes to remove residents from the NCA, and resettle any remaining residents in the NCA, to just 18% of NCA land. 80,000 (majority Maasai) residents would be impacted.
Past investigations have revealed that the Tanzanian government worked in collusion with foreign companies – specifically the Ortello Business Company and Tanzania Conservation Ltd (TCL), an American-owned safari business – to evict the Maasai under the guise of conservation and tourism. Contrary to conservation, it led to the killing of thousands of rare animals in the area, as well as the violent evictions of tens of thousands of Maasai, many of whom were left homeless and faced starvation after their homes were burned. The evictions were halted in 2013 by former Premier Mizengo Peter Pinda after heavy international pressure. Similarly, in 2018, the East African Court of Justice ruled in favor of the Masaai community. The renewed attempt to seize this same land appears to be in blatant violation of the injunction, and village chairmen have applied for urgent stop orders at the EACJ. If these plans prevail, the restricted access and subsequent evictions will displace an estimated 167,000 indigenous members from their ancestral lands; this includes 97,000 people currently living wholly within NCA and 70,000 people in and around Loliondo.
“That the Maasai are once again facing eviction to please the UAE royal family shows the Tanzanian government continues to prioritize tourism revenues at the expense of the indigenous pastoralists who have sustainably stewarded the area for generations.” - ANURADHA MITTAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE OAKLAND INSTITUTE AND AUTHOR OF LOSING THE SERENGETI
“The government’s own reports acknowledge that the indigenous in the NCA successfully protect wildlife from poaching. removing us will only hurt the health of wildlife we have co-existed alongside for millennia.” - TRADITIONAL MAASAI LEADER LIVING IN THE NCA
“We Maasai Indigenous community are appealing for international support so that our land and our rights are respected. the myth of ‘protected areas’ takes away not only our rights as people but our ability to exercise our responsibilities related to land. Our symbiosis that connects us with spirits, animals, plants, water, and land will be disrupted if this land is taken away from us. Tanzania is a signatory to the United Nations declaration for the rights of indigenous people (UNDRIP) that underpins the principle of free, prior, and informed consent. we want the Tanzanian government to immediately stop the plan of evicting us from our ancestral land and wait for the court case to be determined.” - LOCAL MAASAI ACTIVIST AND COMMUNITY REPRESENTATIVE
1 FEBRUARY 2022 / LOLIONDO, TANZANIA
Photo by Federico Pastoris.
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