Tanzania urged to end crackdown against Maasai community

Tanzania urged to end crackdown against Maasai Indigenous community Tanzania urged to end crackdown against Maasai Indigenous community
Maasai and government troops in Loliondo, where protests over eviction from their land turned violent in June 2022.

Amnesty International has urged Tanzania authorities to end its continued brutal crackdown on the Maasai Indigenous community.

Amnesty, a global human rights organization, has called on the Tanzanian government to put an end to these repressive actions and address the grievances of the Maasai people.

Tanzania urged to end crackdown against Maasai Indigenous community
Members of the Maasai community in Nairobi, Kenya, march in solidarity with Maasai being evicted from their ancestral land in Tanzania, 17 June 2022. Photograph: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

The recent incident involved the arrest of 39 members of the Maasai community and parliamentarian Emmanuel Lekishon Shangai in Endulen, within Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area. These individuals were subsequently detained in undisclosed locations, denying them access to their legal representatives. Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, expressed concern over the unlawful detention and stressed the importance of respecting the rights of the Maasai people.

The situation on the ground indicates a renewed wave of repression against the Maasai Indigenous Community, who are actively advocating for their rights to their ancestral lands.

These lands hold significant cultural, historical, and economic value for the community. The Maasai want to protect their access to essential services such as schools, health facilities, and water projects within the Ngorongoro area.

Tanzania urged to end crackdown against Maasai Indigenous community
Maasai and government troops in Loliondo, where protests over eviction from their land turned violent in June 2022.

The arrests and detentions are happening in the midst of an ongoing dispute over land ownership in Ngorongoro. Threats to forcibly evict the Maasai people from their ancestral lands continue to persist, despite the issue spanning over a decade.

The government’s latest security operation adds to the growing fear and uncertainty among the Maasai, who have not been properly consulted or given free prior and informed consent regarding the creation of a game reserve and protected conservation area on their territory.

Amnesty International emphasizes the need for transparency and accountability on the part of the Tanzanian government. It is urging authorities to disclose the whereabouts of the detained individuals, provide them access to legal counsel, and ensure that due process is followed.

The Maasai community members should be promptly brought before a court to challenge the legality of their detention. By doing so, the government can demonstrate its commitment to upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the rights of its citizens.

Background

Tanzania urged to end crackdown against Maasai Indigenous community
Tanzania urged to end crackdown against Maasai Indigenous community.

In recent years, the Maasai community in Tanzania has been facing numerous challenges and violations of their human rights. The government’s use of the media to manipulate public opinion and force the Maasai to leave the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a pressing issue that has sparked outrage among community members.

On 15 August 2023, at the Endulen Market, the Maasai community gathered to address their concerns regarding the government’s actions. They strongly believe that the government is using the media as a tool to persuade them to vacate the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. As tensions rose, community members chased away journalists from the meeting.

Reacting to this resistance, security forces, including the police and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority rangers, retaliated by targeting the Maasai community. Since 16 August, a total of 39 Maasai individuals have been arrested and held in undisclosed locations. This further exacerbates the already strained relationship between the Maasai and the government.

Notably, on 21 August 2023, Ngorongoro MP Emmanuel Lekishon Shangai was also arrested by the Tanzanian police and NCAA rangers. The arrest was carried out at his home in Karatu, after which he was taken to the Karatu Police Station for questioning. His alleged crime? Calling for accountability regarding the security operation in Ngorongoro. Following his interrogation, Shangai was moved to an undisclosed location, leaving the community and his supporters concerned for his safety and well-being.

The significance of these arrests and violations cannot be understated. In June 2023, Amnesty International published a report shedding light on the ill-treatment of the Maasai Indigenous community. The report highlighted various forms of abuse, including the excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and forced evictions in Loliondo, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The Maasai community has a rich cultural heritage and a deep connection to the land they inhabit. For generations, they have relied on the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for their livelihood and have played a vital role in preserving its natural resources. However, their traditional way of life is in danger due to government policies that prioritize profit and development over the welfare of indigenous communities.

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