Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lawyers, lawyers push Tanzania to strike Maasai plan to strike

Human rights activists and lawyers for the Masai people are pushing Tanzania’s government to stop plans to forcibly expel tens of thousands of indigenous nomads from their ancestral land on the eastern edge of the Serengeti National Park.

A violent clash erupted last week after government surveyors and security forces began demarcating 1,500 square kilometers of land that Tanzania would allegedly hand over to a company in the United Arab Emirates to run as a game reserve for commercial hunting. The area includes trekking routes for wildebeest, zebras and other wildlife.

The June 10 confrontation took place in Loliondo, part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where video material circulating on social media indicates that at least numerous Maasai have gathered to protest against the new border. Tanzanian security forces used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the Masai, who as shepherds regularly carried spears, arrows and arrows.

The Tanzanian government said a police officer had been killed. At least 31 Maasai – 18 men and 13 women – were treated for bullet wounds at Narok County Reference Hospital just across the border in Kenya, Dr. Catherine Nyambura told VOA.

A Member Of The Maa Unity Agenda (L) Is Arrested During A Demonstration In Nairobi, Condemning The Forced Eviction Of The Loliondo Ngorongoro Maa Community By The Republic Of Tanzania On June 17,

A member of the Maa Unity Agenda (L) is arrested during a demonstration in Nairobi, condemning the forced eviction of the Loliondo Ngorongoro Maa community by the Republic of Tanzania on June 17,

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that the demarcation could lead to more violence. The closure of the area for a game reserve “would imply evictions of the villages of Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo and Arash, which could displace up to 70,000 indigenous Maasai,” it said in a press release after the clash.

It said its legal experts were “deeply upset” over the reported use of live ammunition and “had serious concerns about ongoing intrusions into traditional Masai lands and housing, accompanied by a lack of transparency in and consultation with the Masai.” indigenous peoples during decision making and planning. ”

The UN bill noted that the government’s action followed a closed door meeting at which the Arusha regional commissioner announced his plan to impose the new border.

The confrontation also comes as the East African Court of Justice is expected to make its final ruling on June 22 on the Tanzanian government’s decade-long efforts to move the Masai. In 2018, the regional court issued an order against eviction.

Onesmo Olengurumwa, head of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, said the evictions were intended to make way for the Otterlo Business Corp. The UAE-based company is expected to offer trophy hunting and safari tourism.

“The government made a mistake at the beginning,” Olengurumwa said. It should have “reached an agreement with locals and in writing that ‘we carry out demarcation, but we do not take your land, just set boundaries.’ If that had happened, the community would not have worried and demonstrated. ”

Government defends action

Tanzania’s government has said it believes the area is overcrowded with people and livestock, causing stress on the wildlife that serves as a tourism magnet. In 2019, ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was the country’s largest source of foreign exchange, the second largest contributor to gross domestic product and a major source of employment, according to the World Bank.

Chief Government spokesman Gerson Msigwa told VOA’s Swahili service he was not aware of a court order against the eviction of the Maasai, “but there is nothing the government has done other than preserve the environment.”

“I want to make it clear that what we are doing in Loliondo is one of our responsibilities to preserve the environment,” Msigwa said. “And this is done not only in Loliondo, but all over the country, to show people where to stop in their human activities and where it has been designated for wild animals. The disputed area, 1,500 square kilometers, is very important to the nation. This is a water catchment area. As a country we must protect [the] interests of the nation. “

After last Friday’s clash, local people and the rights group Survival International reported that police were going to Masai villages and questioning people who were believed to be either involved in the protest or who shared images of the confrontation. Survival International said in a news release that police had allegedly beaten a 90-year-old man whose son had recorded video.

Asked about the allegations, Msigwa said: “The government is very irritated with information circulating that there are people injured.” He dismissed the idea of ​​injuries and said the government wanted to arrest and prosecute “groups of people who are pushing the community to resist government plans to preserve the area and cause chaos.”

Masai resistance

Many of the Masai fled on foot to nearby Kenya, where at least part of the border contains a series of waist-high markers between the grasslands, allowing easy movement by humans and wildlife.

Patrick Ole Ntutu, a Masai leader, said his people do not recognize borders in their ancestral lands. “The border between Kenya and Tanzania was set up by colonialists. We do not consider it a border, “he told VOA.

Meanwhile, Martin Ole Kamwaro, chief prosecutor for the Masai, said the legal team was considering filing a case against Tanzania at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“We will certainly move, as ordered by our leader, to institute legal action against the Tanzanian regime for human rights violations,” Kamwaro said. “We will not tolerate that kind of abuse.”

U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Donald J. Wright tweeted that tensions over Loliondo were part of a conversation Thursday with Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa. “… I have asked the Prime Minister to work with stakeholders to resolve the situation peacefully and fairly,” Wright wrote.

Numerous rights groups, including Indigenous Peoples Rights International and Survival International, have condemned the Tanzanian government’s eviction plan and called for an immediate halt to it. Amnesty International issued a statement this week denouncing an “illegal, forced eviction” that is “shocking in both its scope and brutality.”

This report has its origins in VOA’s Swahili service. Contributors include Idd Uwesu reporting from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Hubbah Abdi reporting from Nairobi, Kenya.

This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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