For the past nine days, Tanzanian rangers have been carrying out violent evictions of Maasai pastoralists from their land in Loliondo, to the east of the Serengeti National Park. Houses have been burned, people arrested, and food and property destroyed.
A company called Otterlo Business Corporation, which has links to the royal family of Dubai, has exclusive hunting rights on 4,000 square kilometres of land to the east of the Serengeti National Park. OBC wants to create a “protected area” on 1,500 square kilometres – this is the area where the evictions are taking place.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism put out a statement about the evictions on 17 August 2017. According to the statement, the evictions will last 14 days:
All settlements that would be found within conservation areas will be destroyed by fire and anybody found there with their livestock will be legally charged.
As Norlund points out, the land is classified as village land, under the Village Land Act No.5 of 1999. As such, the evictions are in breach of Tanzanian law.
This is not the first time the Maasai have faced violent evictions. More than 200 houses were burned in 2009. More evictions happened in 2015, not long after Tanzania’s then-President, Jakaya Kikwete, had tweeted:
— Jakaya Kikwete (@jmkikwete) November 23, 2014
Kikwete’s tweet followed an Avaaz petition signed by more than two million people.
In February 2015, six members of the Maasai in Loliondo produced a video, explaining what the land means to them:
In the video, one of the Maasai says,
Losing the land would mean losing everything. We would rather die than have our land taken.
Despite the illegality and violent nature of the current evictions in Tanzania, the story has so far received very little media coverage. Not surprisingly, given their record on evictions to make way for conservation, there has been no public outcry from any of the large conservation organisations in Tanzania.
URGENT REQUEST FOR INTERVENTION AGAINST THE ONGOING VIOLENT AND ILLEGAL EVICTIONS IN LOLIONDO
View from the Termite Mound, 19 August 2017
To any Tanzanian or international organisation or individual who can do or say anything against the ongoing human rights crime in Loliondo:
In Loliondo, Ngorongoro District, Tanzania there are currently ongoing extrajudicial evictions of the Maasai pastoralists in a 1,500 km2 area. This is the same as the human rights abuse that took place in 2009 and a repeat at this moment was very unexpected.
On Sunday 13th August rangers from Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area together with the police set fire to bomas (homesteads) in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan village. The following days the illegal operation has continued to several other areas inside the 1,500 km2, from Ololosokwan in the north to Piyaya 90 kilometres further south, hundreds of bomas (homesteads) have been burned to the ground, and the operation continues.
All the affected areas are classified as village land and should be managed by the villages as per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999 and Local Government (District Authority) Act No.7 of 1982.
Otterlo Business Corporation that organises hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai has for years been lobbying the Tanzanian government to reclassify the 1,500 km2 area as a protected area and thereby evict the Maasai.
Like in 2009 there’s currently a very severe drought.
Intimidation of local activists has increased, culminating with illegal arrests and malicious prosecution in 2016.
The Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, had set up a committee that in April presented a compromise proposal to Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa whose decision everyone was waiting for, and this makes the operation even more unexpected at this time.
The excuse presented by the DC is that people were entering Serengeti National Park too easily. A press release from the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism isn’t even trying to hide the fact that bomas are being burned on village land, and says that the operation will go on for fourteen days.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism has told media that it’s evictions from the 1,500 km2 that are taking place, while lying that this land would already be a game reserve (pori la akiba).
The ongoing illegal operation has made access to water and grazing sources impossible, and the extent of dispersal of livestock is yet unknown.
The Tanzanian government must be requested to immediately stop the operation, compensate for losses, allow emergency grazing in Serengeti National Park, and provide food and shelter for the victims.
Legal action must be taken against whoever ordered the operation, and against all participating in it.