The Tanzanian government is poised to announcethis week that it will move to evict up to 40,000 Maasai from their homelands in Loliondo, to allow a company that caters to the UAE Royal family to use the land for hunting.
In September last year, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda confirmed that the Maasai could stay on the 1,500 sq km of land — which lies next to the Serengeti National Park. However, Maasai community leaders heard this week that Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Lazaro Nyalandu, will travel to Loliondo in the coming days and expect him to announce that their land will become a Game Controlled Area in exchange for compensation of 1 billion Tanzania shillings ($578,000
The Maasai stand united in opposing this deal. Maasai elders are meeting the Prime Minister in Dodoma today (Tuesday) and also considering a court injunction to stop the land being transferred to
Ortello Business Corporation (OBC). In support, 1.75 million people have already signed a petition from Avaaz — the global campaign group — calling on President Kikwete to scrap the deal. Avaaz now plans to step up its international advocacy efforts.p
Ole Kulinga, a Maasai elder and traditional leader from Malambo in Loliondo said:
“This is the worst kind of betrayal ever; this government’s promises are clearly worth nothing. They said our lands were safe – the lands where the Maasai have lived and died for generations – but now they are going to take them from us, and sell them to rich royals from overseas who want to come and slaughter animals. We will never accept this deal – our land is not for sale.”
The Maasai have long been fighting to fend off foreign investors eager to secure hunting or other concessions. In 2013, the Maasai travelled to Dodoma and camped outside the Prime Minister’s office until he agreed to meet them. They also took out adverts in the media saying they would consider transferring their vote away from the ruling CCM party if the land were given to OBC. Several donor governments — including Britain — also raised concerns directly with the Tanzanian authorities.
The Maasai also fear this deal would allow OBC hunters to shoot animals as they migrate to and from the Serengeti, with a significant impact on the wildlife there. Documents seen by Avaaz show that in two hunting seasons, OBC paid the government $300,000 for permits to shoot2,796 animals including lions, leopards and buffalo on nearby land.
Alex Wilks, Campaign Director for Avaaz said:
“The Maasai are the poster-boys to attract tourists to Tanzania, but in their own country they risk becoming the great unwanted. 1.7 million people around the world are backing the Maasai’s call for President Kikwete to let them stay on their ancient lands. This deal would be disastrous for Tanzania’s reputation, for wildlife and for the Maasai.”