NAIROBI—Close to 500 organizations and 4,747 individuals recently petitioned the Tanzanian government to respect the rights of 70,000 Maasai pastoralists, who are at risk of being evicted from ancestral land because of the government’s collusion with big-game hunting interests.
The petition was delivered after a government official summoned on January 11 village and ward leaders within the 1,500 square kilometers in question, informing them the government would be making a decision for the interest of the country. Maasai residents are calling on President Samia Suluhu Hassan to drop the plans.
“The Maasai residing within the targeted Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) are disallowed from building decent houses or even planting a tree, including even owning a motorbike,” Joseph Oleshangay, a lawyer representing the Maasai, told Toward Freedom. “Successive governments have eternally destined this community to remain impoverished. Now, this current move is a continuation of the abuse meted on the Maasai.”
The Tanzanian government had planned to lease the 1,500 square kilometers of Maasai ancestral land to Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC), which a group of Dubai royal families own, according to the petitioners. But after evictions in 2009, 2013 and 2017, the Maasai sought legal recourse. A 2018 East African Court of Justice (EACJ) ruling placed an injunction, prohibiting the destruction of Maasai property, the harassment of the Maasai, and the eviction of the people as well as their more than 200,000 livestock. The injunction remains until the case arrives in court.
Despite several attempts, Tanzania’s Directorate of Presidential Communications declined to respond to Toward Freedom.
Lead Image: Maasai in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya / credit: Henrik Hansen on Unsplash.
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