ROME, Aug 28 2017 (IPS) - Indigenous Maasai people in Loliondo region,Tanzania have been facing new cases of forced evictions and human rights violations, a major international organisation supporting indigenous peoples’ struggle for human rights and self-determination warned.
“Forced and illegal evictions of Maasai pastoralists and serious human rights violations are right now happening in Tanzania,” the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) has alerted quoting “reliable information.”
The reported violations have been taking place on registered village land in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, IWGIA informs in an “evidence-based urgent alert.”
“Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo are at the moment being subjected to serious human rights violations including forced evictions, burning of houses, loss of property and livestock and serious harassment,” Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’ senior advisor on Land Rights (Africa), confirmed to IPS.
“They find themselves in a very serious situation with food insecurity and impoverishment and many are suffering from psychological trauma,” she added.
Not the First Time
Asked if it is about an unprecedented case, Wiben Jensen told IPS “The Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo have been subjected to similar forced evictions and human rights violations previously, such as in 2009.”
It is very important to find “a long lasting solution that will guarantee that no further evictions will take place and that the rights of the pastoralists to their legally registered village lands are secured,” she stressed.
A lot of evictions and human rights violations toward pastoralists have reportedly taken place over the years in Tanzania, as documented in IWGIA’s report: Tanzania Pastoralists threatened: eviction, human rights violations and loss of livelihood.
The report explores the evictions of pastoralists and other conflicts over pastoralists’ land in Tanzania, with focus on the past decade. “Although most of these evictions and land based conflicts have been documented, the associated human and legal rights violations have increasingly lead to concern” amongst civil society.
Loss of Livelihood and Property
“According to community testimonies provided in field work, it was found that not only are pastoralists losing their legitimate village land through government endorsed evictions and land encroachments, but these eviction processes and conflicts lead to loss of livelihood and loss of property.”
It was further alleged that serious human and legal rights violations are committed during eviction processes, none of which have been addressed, warns the study.
“Reports indicate that Maasai houses/bomas have been burned down, livestock have been lost, people have been forced to pay fines, and have been harassed and threatened,” IWGIA informed in its latest alert, adding that it has been reported that there is lack of water and food and that men, women, children and the elderly have to sleep out with no shelter.
“Families are being separated, and many people are now suffering from psychological trauma because of the evictions and harassment.” The evictions are creating food insecurity and lead to impoverishment.
The Copenhagen-based international human rights organisation supporting indigenous peoples right to territory, control of land and resources, cultural integrity, and the right to development, also informs that precise data at this time is not available, but according to the information received the following violations have taken place:
— On the 13 and 14 August 2017, an estimated 185 Maasai bomas (homesteads) were burned down by Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) rangers, supported by police from Loliondo.
As a result, it is estimated that approximately 6.800 people have been rendered homeless, had most of their property destroyed and been left without any shelter, food or water. The number is still increasing since the violent eviction is still going on.
People’s livestock are also unprotected and many have scattered into the surrounding areas.
— It is yet to be established how many livestock have been lost. However, it is reported that more than 2000 livestock have been lost in Ololosokwa village alone.
The eviction operation started on the 13 August in Ololosokwan village, and on 14 August the operation reportedly continued in several other areas: Oloosek, Illoibor Ariak, Endashata areas in Ololosokwan village, Oleng’usa area in Kirtalo village, Oloorkiku area in Oloipiri village and Loopilukuny area in Oloirien village.
“All the affected areas are classified as legally registered village land as per the Village Land Act no. 5 of 1999 under the formal administration of their respective village governments as per the Local Government Act, adds IWGIA.
Although accurate figures are hard to arrive at since ethnic groups are not included in the population census, the estimated number of Maasai in Tanzania is around 430,000.
The evictions take place at a point of time where pastoralists are trying to cope with a serious drought in the area, which has diminished the quantity and quality of pastures for their livestock, IWGIA adds.
There are reported incidents of pastoralists grazing their livestock within the Serengeti National Park, and having to pay massive fines to the [Serengeti National Park] SENAPA rangers, the organisation warns.
“It is reported that even pastoralists grazing their cattle outside the park boundaries have been fined. In conjunction with this, it is also reported that at least one young man from Olosokwan village has been shot and seriously injured by SENAPA rangers outside Serengeti National Park.”
“Now the on-going evictions and harassment, coupled as it is with the drought, make the local peoples’ situation even more desperate.”
Who Ordered the Evictions and Why?
Asked who ordered the evictions and why, IWGIA told IPS that it is not entirely clear who ordered the eviction. Reportedly there was no consultation at either District Council or Village Government level, nor with the people directly affected, which means there was no agreement on the evictions either.
There was no warning given.
“The evictions and human rights violations are carried out by armed SENAPA and [Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority] NCAA rangers supported by Loliondo police officers.”
It is also not clear why the evictions are happening and no official reason has so far been given, adds IWGIA. “It will be important to clearly establish who ordered the evictions and why such that these relevant authorities can be held responsible.”
The latest development is that a press statement released by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism stated that the purpose of the operation is to remove livestock and housing from Serengeti National Park and also from the boundary areas, which are legally registered village land, and it is clear from the press release that houses/bomas are being burned on village land, warns IWGIA.
The evictions, harassment and human rights violations take place within an area of where several other attempts of forced evictions have taken place over the years (such as in 2009, 2010 and 2015 where thousands of people lost their homes and properties), the organisation reports.
“Local leaders say that the on-going eviction is an operation organised to ensure that there will be no more people or livestock living in the villages of the area. This area, which is legally registered village land encompassing 8 villages, covers 1.500 km2 and has long been leased by the Government of Tanzania as the key hunting block in the Loliondo Game Controlled Area.”
Photo: courtesy of IWGIA.