New Internationalist

Hunted down

December 2009

Maasai evicted so foreigners might play

Dieter Telemans / Panos
‘We will not be quiet!’ Tanzania’s Maasai fighting eviction and harrassment. Dieter Telemans / Panos

In July this year the Tanzanian Field Force Police violently and unlawfully evicted 25,150 people from eight villages in Ngorongoro District that are traditionally used for dry-season grazing by pastoralists. Homesteads were burned, women raped, people were beaten, shot at and imprisoned. Three children went missing and, while two have since turned up, scraps of cloth are the only remains of the third.

The eviction was carried out in order to clear the area for hunting in the Loliondo Game Controlled Area, which borders the Serengeti National Park and is famous for its wildlife breeding grounds.

The area is controlled by a company from the United Arab Emirates called the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC).

The villagers have responded by demanding their rights. Fifty women marched on Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city, but President Jakaya Kikwete refused to see them. On returning home, the women were detained by police. ‘We think the Government intends to finish off our livestock and then finish us off as well… There is nothing else to do bar fight. We have nowhere else to go,’ explains Manyara Karia, a member of one of the affected villages.

This is not the only land dispute that Manyara’s village is contesting. A US company, Thomson Safari, bought 4,000 hectares of prime land under disputed circumstances in 2006, denying the Maasai grazing and water rights on land they have been dependent upon for decades.

Mysteriously, Thomson’s land boundary widens every year and 2009 saw the denial of water rights at two more water sources. ‘This year, the boundary has moved and comes right up to our bomas (homesteads),’ Manyara reveals. ‘We are now prohibited from using two more water sources. We used to go there for firewood, but now the Thomson security guards beat you if you go.’ Villagers, not knowing where the border lies, are accused of trespass and carted off to Loliondo police station, where they have to pay hefty fines before being released.

The OBC evictions suddenly stopped on 8 October to make way for village elections on 25 October. Local activists and non-governmental organizations believe that this is just the beginning of a new phase, however, and that the battle has just begun. A new Wildlife Act, which is waiting to be signed by the President, states that Game Controlled Areas cannot be situated where there are villages. In other words, villages must be removed from the area before the Act becomes operational.

Journalists are banned from the area, and the District Commissioner in Loliondo believes that concern about the evictions is a fuss over nothing and wants the whole thing hushed up. However, sources say that a new militia is being trained as a permanent force for the area and that new controls on the movement of livestock will soon be implemented. The District Commissioner has confirmed that OBC will be given land on a permanent basis for hunting. In response to this revelation, Maanda Ngoitiko, the Director of the Pastoral Women’s Council, declared: ‘We will carry on shouting. We will not be quiet!’

Rosie Martin

This column was published in the December 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 Simon and Jacky Wainwright 12 Aug 12

    If this occurred on any other continent in the world, the respective countries leaders would be lynched and hung out to dry. Let's just hope and pray it doesn't happen elsewhere. We have just seen one of, if not, the most successful Olympic games where people from around the world join hands in harmony. So it should be for the Masai who should be respected and not displaced and butchered for their way of living and protection of wildlife.
    Moneyed individuals who think they have the right to do what they want, when they want, where they want, and more importantly how they want,should be forever ostracised and left to rot in their own countries!!

  2. #2 letizia magnetti 13 Aug 12

    Difendendo i Masai difendiamo un habitat prezioso ed i diritti delle minoranze

  3. #3 Luigi Pucci 13 Aug 12

    I have read this article and must express my outrage. Look at the historical facts about the Masai. Charles New encountered them around the 1870 described them as “physically they are a splendid people, and for energy intrepidity – they are without equals in Africa” We are all aware that tourist find the Masai fascinating, they are a huge attraction bringing a large amount of revenue into East Africa, supporting the local tourist industry, including tour companies hotels, local industry etc. Furthermore, Charles New had mentioned that they immigrated into East Africa from the North about 300 years earlier ... thus making them the original settlers into the country, even before the Bantu settlers arrived. My research has indicated that the Masai migrated from Southern Sudan and occupied prime grazing land in the Kenya Highlands and extending south into what is known today as Tanzania ... down the Rift Valley. 19th Century explorers and writers believe that there were 2 major sub divisions in the Masai nation ... the Masai proper (as we know them today) and the Kwavi. The later term describes those tribesmen who had lost their cattle and had been forced into taking up farming. The Masai divided into 16 major clans of which 4, the Kaputiei, the Loitai, the Purko and the Kisongo were predominant and formed the core of the loose semi permanent power blocks.
    What surprises me in the Loliondo district, the Tanzania Government sees fit to forcible remove one of the 4 prominent groups of the Masai, Loitai. These people have been settled in this area for 400 plus years, they have been and are a proud people fighting off slave traders ... attackers .... explorers in fact everything that life threw at them ... for some rich Arabian People to come and hunt animals in the heart of one of Tanzanian’s biggest tourist attractions, being the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation area.
    This area is very ecologically sensitive. It is on the migration highway and is a breeding area for animals. By indiscriminately shooting animals they can and will upset the balance of nature which will have huge repercussions. The powers in the 50’s and 60’s including the late president Julius Nyerere fought hard to enforce conservation in this unique area. What on earth are they doing in Dar-es-Salaam? Have they forgotten what is one of the main resources in the Tanzania? Tourism contributes a major portion of the resources not only in Tanzania, but Kenya as well. We are already having a problem with the so called Serengeti Highway ... now this is really rubbing salt into the already bleeding wound.

  4. #4 Michael Oberndorf_MA_ RPA 13 Aug 12

    You will not be shouting alone, nor to deaf ears. Your story is, as I write this, being spread world-wide by freedom-loving, liberty-respecting human beings. The corrupt fascists in your country, in Dubai, and in the US will get LOTS of free publicity of the sort I truly doubt they want. This whole situation is the result of greed and corrupt power, run amok. But know that you are not alone!

  5. #5 Pieter Henning 09 Apr 13

    When are African leaders behave responsibly and protect ’Human Rights?’

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This article was originally published in issue 428

New Internationalist Magazine issue 428
Issue 428

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