What is happening?
The Maasai are ancestral peoples of the Great Lakes region and planes of Tanzania and Kenya.
The situation of the Maasai in Tanzania is an outrage. Government does not recognise Indigenous people status, customary land rights or human rights. Authorities are selling the reserves of Loliondo and Ngorongoro to United Arab Emirates royals and American trophy hunters. The Maasai have been forcefully evicted, killed, the women raped, their cattle confiscated, water access denied- all of this so that tourist hunters can abuse these wild and beautiful lands for lion and big game hunting.
East African Court of justice was bribed and ruled that violence against the Maasai was ‘hearsay’ and UNESCO academic Professor H Malebo reported that displacing the ancestral Maasai was ‘necessary for development’
Read this petition organised by the Oakland Institute and Rainforest Rescue. Sign it to help stop violent eviction of the Maasai
Letter of Maasai people to International Community
Call for international support to stop the Tanzanian government's human rights violations against the Maasai.
We, Maasai community leaders from Ngorongoro and Loliondo, are writing to you because our lives and cultures are threatened by the Tanzanian government’s plans to dispossess 167,000 Maasai from our ancestral lands to make space for tourism, development and wildlife hunting. These plans will destroy our livelihoods and erode our ability to preserve our traditional livelihood practices, and with that the inter-generational transfer of traditional knowledge, our social organization and traditional institutions, and our cultural and spiritual practices. All of which causes poverty, social disintegration, and loss of human dignity.
We are on the brink of forceful eviction from the lands we have protected for centuries and which we dearly regard as our only home. We are reaching out to you because now more than ever we need your support and solidarity to ensure that we are not subjected to any further violations of our human rights, including the denial of our land and cultural rights.. We are asking for your help to let our government know that our land is not for sale and that we will continue to resist this long-standing assault on our rights and the ecological integrity of our land. We are therefore calling on your organization to speak out against these abuses and help us prevent the extinction of our people. The support you provide to our government and our economy gives you the opportunity, and therefore the responsibility, to act in the defense of human rights, respect for our culture and livelihoods and in the interests of climate justice.
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."
Since 1959, when our people 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 marginalization.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)
In March 2019, a joint monitoring mission from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) asked the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) to urgently control population growth in the NCA, framing it as the leading cause of environmental degradation there. The Tanzanian government responded by producing a Multiple Land Use Model (MLUM) and Village Resettlement Plan.
First, the new MLUM recommended the resettlement of all 97,000 indigenous and legal residents of the NCA with an option of redesignating it as a Game Control Area to license trophy hunting.
As an alternative, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism proposed that the NCA be divided into four management zones with varying land use regulations (core conservation zone, conservation sub-zone, transition zone and settlement and development zone). This designates at least 82% of the area to conservation, making access for pastoralism illegal and leaving only 18% (2,230 km2) for "settlement and development". Under this proposal, the government therefore needs to resettle over 80,000 community members, largely Maasai, out of Ngorongoro
While the Tanzanian government and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) claims that the proposed MLUM and resettlement plan were developed through consultation with Indigenous residents, the most recent version of the plan does not adequately incorporate our concerns or recommendations. In 2017, a new Ngorongoro General Management plan began to be drafted by a group that did not include a single NCA resident. By August 2018, the Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism formed a taskforce to review the MLUM of NCA and recommended management options. Again, residents within the NCA were not initially included on the taskforce. Eventually, four community members joined the taskforce after much of the document was already drafted but were reportedly “side-lined almost instantly.” There remains much confusion on the ground as communities fear relocation and further livelihood restrictions are imminent given Tanzania’s historical failures to recognize the rights of the Maasai.
Government moves to evict the Maasai are not new. On 16th April 2021 the NCAA released an eviction notice to 45 families and ordered over 100 buildings to be destroyed. The local community infrastructure subject to demolition includes schools, dispensaries, police stations, churches, mosques and health clinics. The order was rescinded 8 days later, but the threat of potential future evictions remained.
On 9th February 2022, Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, reiterated the government’s intention to carry out the new MLUM, now supported by a significant majority of MPs. On the same occasion, Damas Ndumbaro, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, announced that the government is due to review the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Act of 1975, since the equal prioritization of communities, development and tourism no longer suits Tanzania’s national economic and conservation interests. The amendment bill to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Act is scheduled to
be discussed in parliament from April 5, 2022.
At the same time, on 11th January 2022 the Arusha Regional Commissioner, John Mongella, announced the Tanzanian government’s intentions to resume plans to turn 1,500 km2 area of village land located in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, east of the Serengeti National Park, into a protected area. Through this revived plan the government is planning to evict 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.
In 2017, when these plans were previously proposed to the communities residing within the 1500 sq km area and violent evictions erupted, four Village Councils – Ololosokwan Village Council, Oloirien Village Council, Kirtalo Village Council and Arash Village Council took the Tanzanian government to the East African Court of Justice and filed an application to prohibit the Tanzanian government from evicting these Maasai communities from precisely this area of disputed land. As part of the court’s preliminary ruling in 2018 the EACJ issued Orders including the following directions:
a) That the Government of Tanzania and any persons or officers acting on its behalf, cease and desist from evicting the Maasai in the 1,500 km2 of land belonging to them; destroying their homesteads or confiscating their livestock on
that land, until the determination of Reference No. 10 of 2017, the case filed in
b) That the Office of the Inspector General of Police restrains from harassing or intimidating the Applicants in relation to Reference No. 10 of 2017 pending the determination thereof. - IWGIA 2022
This is happening despite the fact that the eight Maasai villages living in the contested area in Loliondo have a legal right to inhabit this land since it is legally registered as village land under the Village Land Act No.5 of 1999. The government decision to resume the plan in Loliondo and proceed with the evictions of local residents would be a violation of the Village Land Act of 1999, “which makes provisions for information and consultation procedures with the Village Council and Village Assembly in cases where evictions are deemed necessary/where the President orders the transferal of village land into general public or reserved land. The Village Land Act also includes provisions and procedures for full, fair and prompt compensation” . Furthermore, it violates the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 (Article 9(a)), as well as the court injunction issued by the East African Court of Justice in 2018, and numerous provisions of international human rights law protecting the Maasai’s rights to property, natural resources, culture, equality and non-discrimination, food, adequate housing and livelihoods, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the East African Community (EAC) Treaty, the Protocol on the Establishment of the EAC Common Market, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rightsl the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Covenant for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The government is justifying these mass evictions framing livestock grazing and Maasai population growth as the leading cause for the environmental degradation of the area, presenting the forced relocation of local residents as in the interests of conservation and tourism. This is a false and biased narrative since the Maasai have preserved those lands for centuries and all the evidence shows that Maasai are the best guardians of the local ecosystems: Indigenous people already protect 80% of global biodiversity while the tourism industry creates extreme pollution and environmental degradation, while safaris harm wildlife. Furthermore, our government is arguing that relocation is also meant to tackle Maasai poverty and illiteracy while evidence suggests that evictions and government land management have been their main causes and that they will only worsen our already precarious situation. Many studies from 1980s to date have clearly established how the government has heavily invested in poverty as a “weapon” for relocation of the Maasai in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, our only home we have known for centuries.
While the government claims this relocation is voluntary, our communities have been protesting in every way they can while police forces and park authorities have been harassing, arresting and beating up community members. Moreover, to ensure that all these crimes go unattended, the government, police force and park authorities have not been allowing media coverage of the Maasai perspective on the story and journalists who have attempted to report on it have been arrested, first on February 3, 2022 and then on February 17, 2022 – when Prime Minister Majaliwa visited Ngorongoro.
Parallel to the eviction plans, since January 2022 the government has been promoting a toxic media campaign to dehumanize Maasai residents and legitimize the government’s plans.
Despite the intimidation and attempts to suppress our rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and freedom of expression, the communities in Loliondo and Ngorongoro have formulated clear demands:
The government should desist from threatening, intimidating or relocating communities pending the determination of the case currently pending before the East African Court of Justice (relating to the proposed resettlement of Maasai in Loliondo). The East African Court of Justice has ordered that the status quo be maintained until it is able to issue a judgment on the case before it.
The government, the Arusha Regional Commissioner and the District Commissioner should publicly announce the suspension of installation of the beacons in the 1500sq.km area of land.
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 violation
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
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
Pursuant to the law that establishes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, the government should be acting in a manner that gives equal weight and importance to the three founding objectives: safeguard and develop the interests of the Maasai Pastoral Community, Conservation and Tourism.
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.
The government must restore all suspended development projects including schools, heath services, water projects in NCA with no conditions.
We demand for an Independent Commission of Inquiry to address the current and historical human rights injustices in the NCA and the involvement and role of the Tanzanian Government, UNESCO and IUCN in those violations.
For both the NCA and 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
A local Maasai activist and community representative said: “The government has broken all the promises, pretending to have received the consent and agreement of the local community, that were made when the Serengeti National Park was established. This is a direct violation of our living rights. For 30 years, since the conflict in Loliondo began we have suffered three major evictions – in 2009, 2013 and 2017, legitimized by the government’s conservation agenda, which have led to great violence, abuses, harassment towards the communities and long-term economic and cultural loss. If this land is grabbed, over 50,000 people will be left without a home.”
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.”
International solidarity with the Maasai:
The world is watching this horrendous situation and demanding clearly and loudly that the Maasai rights be respected and protected.
Here are petitions on the issue:
Avaaz petition: signed by over 3 million citizens
IPRI petition: signed by almost 500 civil society organizations and 4,747
Boycott of Tanzania’s tourism petition: signed by over 900 individuals
The Oakland Institute petition: signed by 109,062 supporters
As donors of the Tanzanian government, you are positioned to rescue the life, livelihoods and culture of our people. You can either be silent and complicit, or take a stand for justice, dignity and human rights. You can keep providing funding to those responsible for appropriating our land in the name of profit or you can make it clear to our government that you will not stand by as our right to live peacefully on and conserving our land is denied to make space for elite tourism and “trophy” hunting. This is not the first time that we are fighting to secure our rights and protect the lives of our people - we need a permanent solution and we need it now. We will not leave; Not Now, Not Ever!
We are asking you to demand the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Damas Ndumbaru, President Samia Suluhu Hassan and the Prime Minister Majaliwaour put an end to all evictions and plans to amend the 1959 Ngorongoro Conservation Area Act and for the government to meet with us to discuss our legitimate demands and to find a mutually agreed way forwards.