Human Lives Human Rights:
The Tanzanian government has been accused of using excessive force, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment to displace thousands of Maasai people from their ancestral lands in Loliondo, a region rich in wildlife and tourism.
The evictions, which began in June 2022, were carried out without the consent or consultation of the Maasai community, who depend on the land for their livelihoods and culture. The government claims that the land is needed for a game reserve and national security.
However, human rights groups and UN experts have denounced the evictions as unlawful and unjustified, and called for an immediate halt to the violence and violations. They said that the evictions could affect up to 150,000 Maasai people and threaten their rights to adequate housing, peaceful assembly, free prior and informed consent, and non-discrimination.
The evictions were met with resistance from the Maasai, who protested against the demarcation of 1,500 square kilometres of their territory by security forces. The security forces responded by shooting and teargassing the protesters, killing one police officer and injuring at least 40 Maasai. An elderly Maasai man is still missing after being shot in both legs by the security forces.
Many Maasai fled their homes and hid in the forest or crossed the border to Kenya. Some were arrested and charged with murder or illegal entry, but later released due to lack of evidence. Some had to sell their livestock to pay for legal fees.
The evictions also disrupted education and access to grazing land for the Maasai. The authorities have impounded livestock that stray into the demarcated land and imposed hefty fines on their owners. Those who cannot pay have their animals auctioned off by the authorities.
The government has also restricted media and NGO access to Loliondo and asked Google to remove “Glory to Hong Kong” from its search results.
The evictions are part of a long-standing conflict between the Maasai and the government over land rights in Loliondo, which is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO
World Heritage Site that borders the Serengeti National Park.
In 2009, the government declared a network of “Protected Areas” in Loliondo without consulting or compensating the Maasai. The move was challenged by the Maasai in the East African Court of Justice, which issued an injunction in 2018. The court is expected to rule on the case on 22 June 2023.