War Against the Commons

Tanzania escalates violence to evict indigenous people

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Tens of thousands are being driven off their land to make ‘conservation parks’ for tourists

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Maasai communities in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area chanting, “We will not agree with these unlawful plans to evict us…our land will remain ours.”

by Chris Lang
REDD Monitor, January 27,  2024

The Tanzanian government is escalating its campaign of evictions, violence, and restrictions on livelihoods against Indigenous People and local communities living near National Parks in the country. On 25 January 2024, the Oakland Institute put out an Urgent Alert about the situation in Tanzania.

The Oakland Institute highlights three areas of the country where human rights abuses are taking place at the hands of the government and the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA).

Simanjiro District: On 14 January 2024, TANAPA paramilitary rangers shot several Maasai herders in Komotorok village in Simanjiro District, outside Tarangire National Park. The rangers arrested eight people, and seized 800 livestock.

In December 2022, more than 3,000 cattle were seized for allegedly entering Tarangire national Park. The cattle belonged to herders living in Simanjiro District.

The head of Tarangire National Park, Mathew Mombo said the cattle were seized on the edge of the National Park. “We are warning the herders to stop immediately their plans to bring livestock into the National Park, because we will continue to seize them and take strict action,” Mombo told Mwananchi.

The Oakland Institute reported that, “Sources on the ground report the cattle were not in the park when they were seized.”

Ngorongoro Conservation Area: On 17 January 2024, the Tanzanian government announced that will change the legal status of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to prevent human settlement inside the protected area. About 100,000 people, nearly all Maasai pastoralists, would be forcibly evicted as a result — against their will.

The government has set a target of evicting 20,000 people by March 2024.

The government has been threatening the Maasai in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with eviction for several years. While tourism has boomed in Ngorongoro, the government has cut services to the people living there. “The government is systematically starving us,” a woman from Oloirobi Village told the Oakland Institute in 2021.

Research carried out by the Oakland Institute has exposed the flaws with the government’s plans to evict the Maasai. The Oakland Institute found that the “relocation sites not only lack adequate water and grazing land, but the existing residents are being driven out to make way for those relocated — creating conflict”.

In November 2023, Rainforest Rescue and the Oakland Institute set up a petition to stop the eviction of the Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It has been signed by more than 135,500 people — please add your name to the petition, and please share it far and wide.

Ruaha National Park: The government’s efforts to evict people to make way for the expansion of the Ruaha National Park have intensified. TANAPA rangers have seized farming equipment and fertilizer to prevent people from cultivating their land during the start of the rainy season.

In December 2023, communities filed a case with the East African Court of Justice in an attempt to stop this oppression.

The expansion of the Ruaha National Park is part of a US$150 million World Bank project titled, “resilient natural resource management for tourism and growth” (REGROW). In 2023, the Oakland Institute published a report that “exposed how tens of thousands of Indigenous and local communities face evictions while Bank-funded rangers are accused of murder, rape, and other shocking violence.”

In November 2023, the World Bank’s Board approved a recommendation from its Inspection Panel to investigate the project. This followed a request filed by two impacted villagers with the support of the Oakland Institute.

In the Urgent Alert, Andy Currier, Policy Analyst at the Oakland Institute says,

“The intensification of violence and evictions by the government coincide with the launch of the World Bank investigation. Approximately US$100 million out of the total US$150 million has been already disbursed to the project. It looks like instead of pressuring the government to stop its abuses, the launch of the investigation has led the government to intensify its plan for widespread evictions, letting TANAPA rangers continue their violence with impunity.”

The Inspection Panel’s investigation is expected to be completed by July 2024. Villagers impacted by the Bank-supported violence and evictions are calling on the World Bank to freeze the funding of the project while the investigation is on-going.

The international community should hold the government to account

The Oakland Institute points out that the eviction plans, livelihood restrictions, and violence by TANAPA rangers is “a clear escalation of violence by the Samia Suluhu government.”

Communities on the receiving end of the government’s and TANAPA’s violence are calling for international support. The Oakland Institute reports them as saying, “As donors of the Tanzanian government, you are positioned to rescue the life, livelihoods, and culture of our people. You can either be silent and complicit, or take a stand for justice, dignity, and human rights.”

And Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute’s Executive Director, adds her voice to the calls for the international community to hold the Tanzanian government to account:

“Devastating plans that are destroying the lives of the Indigenous Maasai and other communities have nothing to do with conserving the environment but everything to do with greed.

“In the North of Tanzania, the Maasai communities have made clear that they will not leave the lands they have stewarded for generations. Despite the threat of arbitrary arrest and detention, thousands of courageous Maasai land defenders continue to protest and speak out against the eviction plans – showing the world they will not give up their struggle.

“How many more people must lose their lands, their children, their future before the international community takes real action and holds the government to account?”