In September 2018, the East African Court of Justice granted an interim order preventing the government of Tanzania and its agents from evicting people from four Maasai villages in northern Tanzania: Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo, and Arashi.
This was a major victory for the Maasai, who have faced a series of violent evictions in recent years. But less than two months later, Susanna Nordlund reports that evictions have started again.
Nordlund has been documenting human rights abuses in the name of tourism and conservation in Loliondo since 2010.
Since 1992, Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) has been running hunting safaris on the Maasai’s territory. OBC is a United Arab Emirates company. Nordlund writes that,
In wide areas around the camp of OBC, that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, people are being attacked and beaten, and chased away together with their cattle. This is not only a crime against human rights and Tanzanian law, but it’s a serious violation of interim orders issued by the East African Court of Justice on 25th September this year.
A series of violent evictions
In 2009, Tanzania’s paramilitary Field Force Unit and OBC’s security staff violently evicted several Maasai villages. More than 200 homes were burned down, leaving 3,000 people homeless.
Since 2010, OBC has been lobbying to get an area of 150,000 hectares of land classified as a “protected area”. About 30,000 Maasai would be evicted, and tens of thousands more would lose dry season grazing land.
Violent evictions took place again in August 2017. Houses were burned down and livestock lost. The Maasai were harassed, threatened, and forced to pay fines.
In November 2018, violence has erupted again. Nordlund writes that,
On Tuesday 13th November I was told that [a villager] who has a boma in Kishoshoro, had been beaten so badly that an arm and a leg were broken. The violence escalated on Wednesday 14th November, more people were beaten, and chased away, and bomas were burned. At least one motorcycle was confiscated, and a goat was slaughtered by the soldiers. I wasn’t told how many bomas or exactly where. I got names of more people that had been assaulted, several taken to hospital in Wasso.
Nordlund reports that a village leader and a former local councillor were threatened by soldiers, to prevent them from speaking out against the violence.
Apparently soldiers told some villagers they were being beaten because they had sued the government. Nordlund reports soldiers have seized cattle and driven into Serengeti National Park to be handed over to park authorities. Park authorities refused to take the cattle, and the soldiers released them. “It’s not known if all have been found,” Nordlund writes.
GIZ and Serengeti
Nordlund also reports that Serengeti rangers have also been involved in detaining herds of cattle. The cattle were taking to Lobo, inside the national park. Rangers are demanding 100,000 Tanzanian shilling to release each animal.
The German aid agency GIZ is among the supporters of the Serengeti National Park under its Sustainable management of natural resources in Tanzania project. According to GIZ’s website, the project is part of “a joint development programme with the Tanzanian Government and KfW Development Bank”. Partners include WWF and the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
In recent days, two articles appeared in Tanzania’s IPP media featuring Philemon Mneney a GIZ-Tanzania project advisor. One story is about a donation of 100 beehives to five “women’s development groups” in villages near the Enguserosambu community forest in Loliondo.
The other story is about a football cup organised to raise awareness of wild dogs in Tanzania. GIZ donated football kits to all 10 teams, as well as cash prizes.
I’m sure it’s purely coincidence that these articles appeared just as violence flared up against the Maasai indigenous people in Loliondo.
But isn’t it odd that these two feel-good articles are the first time that the name “Philemon Mneney” has ever appeared in a Google search?