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Tanzania: Maasai community is a victim of forced eviction and brutal violence by authorities - New Report

Government forces violently evicted members of Maasai community from their land last year

Around 70,000 Maasai people left without access to grazing lands that their livelihoods depend on

Government says evictions are necessary for wildlife conservation, yet the land is often used for tourism, including trophy hunting

‘The Tanzanian authorities must urgently recognise and fulfil the rights of the Maasai to their ancestral lands, territories, and natural resources’ - Tigere Chagutah

Tanzanian authorities have repeatedly resorted to ill-treatment, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as forced evictions against members of the Maasai Indigenous community over the past year, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

The 55-page report, We have lost everything”: Forced evictions of the Maasai in Loliondo, Tanzania, details how the Tanzanian authorities forcibly evicted the Maasai community from Loliondo, a large swathe of land in Tanzania’s northern Ngorongoro district in the Arusha region, on 10 June last year.

Security forces violently and without due process removed the Maasai community from their ancestral lands, leaving 70,000 people without access to the pastures needed for their livestock, food production and water - putting their cattle at risk of death.

Displacement and disappearance

On 7 June 2022, hundreds of security personnel from numerous government agencies travelled to Loliondo, set up camp in Ololosokwan village and began to demarcate 1,500 square kilometres within Maasai territory.

Three days later they violently dispersed members of the Maasai community who had gathered to protest against the demarcation exercise.

Security forces shot and teargassed members of the Maasai who resisted forced eviction, injuring at least 40 people.

One police officer, Garlus Mwita, was killed by as yet, unidentified people, while 84-year-old Oriaisi Pasilance Ng’iyo, a member of the Maasai community, remains missing. He was last seen by his family lying on the ground after being shot in both legs by security forces. The authorities deny holding him.

Many Maasai fled their homes, hiding in nearby forest and the national park and having to move regularly in order to feed their grazing livestock. Many also fled the country to Narok in southern Kenya.

The forced eviction and resulting displacement has also seriously disrupted the education of Maasai children. As of last month, around 60 families were still living in Narok. They are unable to work and live in poverty.

Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said:

“This report highlights the total disregard for due process and free prior and informed consent of the affected Maasai people in the decision-making process that was used to justify the forced evictions.

“The Tanzanian authorities must urgently recognise and fulfil the rights of the Maasai to their ancestral lands, territories, and natural resources.

“They should abide by their international and national obligations to protect the rights to adequate housing, peaceful assembly, free prior and informed consent, and non-discrimination.

“Instead, what we have seen is that they have forcibly evicted the Maasai from their ancestral lands and offered no compensation.

“The Tanzanian authorities must conduct thorough, impartial, independent, transparent and effective investigations into all alleged human rights violations - including the killing of police officer Garlus Mwita, the enforced disappearance of Oriaisi Pasilance Ng’iyo, and the mass arbitrary arrests and indiscriminate killings of Maasai community members.”

Detained and unfairly charged

After the evictions, 27 Maasai were detained and unfairly charged in relation to the killing of Mwita. Ten people were arrested on 9 June, the day before the alleged murder took place, and later charged in relation to his death. The authorities also arrested 132 Maasai in Loliondo for allegedly being in the country illegally.

These people were discharged due to lack of evidence, but some were forced to sell their livestock to pay for legal fees.

Tanzania’s authorities continue to restrict the community’s access to traditional grazing land. Maasai livestock regularly gets impounded whenever it strays on to the demarcated land and the owners are forced to pay exorbitant fines to have their animals released. Those who are unable to pay the fines have their livestock auctioned off by the authorities.

During and after the forced evictions, Tanzanian authorities also prevented media outlets and NGOs from accessing Loliondo or reporting on the evictions.

Conservation or tourism?

Amnesty’s report also challenges the Tanzanian authorities’ claim that their actions are necessary in order to conserve land and biodiversity. It calls on them to ensure Indigenous peoples are offered leadership roles in conservation, allowing them to protect the land by using their traditional knowledge, as they have done for generations.

In 2009, without gaining consent from the Maasai as required by international human rights standards, the Tanzanian authorities restricted human activities, including settlements and livestock grazing, in a network of so-called “Protected Areas”.

Tanzania’s forced evictions are rooted in the country’s land governance policies, which fail to provide thousands of people with the right to land.

Since 1959, when the Maasai were moved from the Serengeti National Park to Loliondo, the Maasai have been repeatedly evicted from their traditional pastoral lands by the Government. Tanzanian authorities say the evictions are necessary for wildlife conservation, yet the land is often used for tourism, including trophy hunting.

The Maasai have been subjected to forced evictions in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2022 by numerous state security forces, who were accompanied by representatives of a private company licensed to operate tourism activities, including trophy hunting, in Loliondo.

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