The International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) last week put out a short report about the violent evictions of Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo, Tanzania.
According to reliable information received by IWGIA, forced and illegal evictions of Maasai pastoralists and serious human rights violations are right now happening in Tanzania.
IWGIA reports that houses have been burned down, and livestock lost. People have been harassed, threatened, and forced to pay fines. There are shortages of food and water. The people who have been evicted are forced to sleep outside, with no shelter.
IWGIA has received reports that on 13 and 14 August 2017, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority rangers, with the support of Loliondo police, burned down about 185 Maasai bomas (homesteads). The evictions left approximately 6,800 people homeless, with most of their property destroyed. More than 2,000 livestock have been lost in Ololosokwa village, where the evictions started. The rangers and police continued evictions in other villages.
The land where the evictions took place is registered as village land, in accordance with the 1999 Village Land Act no. 5.
There is currently a serious drought in the area, meaning that pastoralists are struggling to find grazing land for their livestock. Some Maasai have been caught grazing their livestock in the Serengeti National Park, and have had to pay large fines to park rangers. Some pastoralists grazing their cattle outside the park boundaries have also been fined.
Serengati National Park rangers shot and seriously injured a man from Olosokwan village. The shooting took place outside the National Park.
IWGIA reports that, “It is not entirely clear who ordered the eviction.” There was no consultation and no warnings given before the evictions started. IWGIA writes that,
It will be important to clearly establish who ordered the evictions and why such that these relevant authorities can be held responsible. The latest development is that a press statement released by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism stated that the purpose of the operation is to remove livestock and housing from Serengeti National Park and also from the boundary areas, which are legally registered village land, and it is clear from the press release that houses/bomas are being burned on village land.
IWGIA’s report notes that the evictions are taking place in an area of 1,500 square kilometres leased by the Government of Tanzania as the key hunting block in the Loliondo Game Controlled Area. Since 1992, a company from the United Arab Emirates, Otterlo Business Corporation, has organised hunting activities in the area for international elites. No free, prior and informed consent process took place before OBC started its activities in Loliondo.
OBC has campaigned for the government to turn the 1,500 km2 into a protected area – which would require the eviction of all people and livestock.
IWGIA reports that,
It is not clear if the OBC is involved in the ongoing eviction operation, however, it has been alleged that OBC is the main financial supporter of the operation.
Not the first evictions in Loliondo
Previous evictions have taken place on the land, particularly in 2009, when hundreds of houses were burned. In August 2009, IWGIA put out an Urgent Alert about the human rights abuses taking place in Loliondo.
In August 2016, IWGIA produced a Briefing Note about a series of arrests and harassment of human rights defenders in Loliondo.
IWGIA notes that the current evictions come at the same time as a commission is working to try to find solutions to the Loliondo land conflict.
This committee was set up in December 2016 by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and led by the Regional Commissioner for Arusha Mrisho Gambo. The committee comprises representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Ministry for Lands and Human Settlements, TANAPA, TAWA, the Regional Commissioners office, the National Security Committee, conservation organizations, 4 community members, OBC and Thomson Safaris. The committee has completed its report and it was sent to the Prime Minister on the 20th of April 2017. There has not been any reaction from the Prime Minister so far.
IWGIA points out that the evictions are in violation of Tanzanian and international law, and calls on the international community to urge the authorities in Tanzania to:
- Immediately stop the illegal eviction operation and human rights violations
- Compensate the victims for the losses they
have suffered, including loss of property
- Ensure that the victims have sufficient access to humanitarian assistance such as food and shelter, and if necessary provide food aid.
- Take legal action against the people who ordered the operation and against all those who conducted it.
- Ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld and make sure that the human rights defenders, civil society organizations and journalists who speak up on the Loliondo eviction issue are in no way intimidated or harassed.
- Make sure that the land tenure security of the villages in Loliondo is protected as per their status as legally registered villages, and make sure that there will be no further attempts of land grabbing and forced evictions. The government should recognize and respect that the 1,500km2 of land in question is legally registered village land and it should leave it entirely to the villages to manage their land according to the Village Land Act No.5 of 1999 and the Local Government (District Authority) Act No.7 of 1982.
- Make sure that evictions in Tanzania, if deemed necessary, comply with the provisions in Tanzanian law and comply with international human rights obligations.
IWGIA’s report ends with a call for the Tanzanian Commission for Human Rights and Good Goverance to investigate the violations. Earlier today (30 August 2017), the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition posted the following on its Facebook page:
Human Rights Defenders and Community Leaders from Loliondo Division-Ngorongoro District in Arusha Region have filed their complaint with the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance regarding the ongoing eviction and burning of settlements. They urged the Commission to do the following:
1. The Commission should urge the government to immediately stop the eviction of people in the disputed areas since the effects of the exercise are irreparable.
2. The Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources, Police Force and other leaders should stop intimidating human rights defenders who have appeared to defend the pastoralists because it has been witnessed recently that they have been warning Human Rights Defenders not to persuade the people in Loliondo to claim for their rights.
3. The Commission should go to the scene and conduct an investigation into the crisis and take action against the ongoing human rights violations in Loliondo.
4. The Commission should collaborate with other Human Rights Defenders to file a claim in the Court of Law to claim the right to own land that has been violated against people in Loliondo.