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Humanitarian Aid

Tanzania condemned for violence against Maasai

The European parliament strongly condemned the Tanzanian government in a resolution adopted on March 12th, for years of violence against the Maasai and violating their human rights. Recently, in January 200 shelters were destroyed by the Tanzanian authorities and a large amount of stock disposed of, leaving 3,000 Maasai destitute and left homeless. Earlier, in 2009 at Cordaid’s initiative, members of EU delegations visited Loliondo villages and spoke with members of affected communities.

The problems of the Maasai with the government of Tanzania are related to a hunting license issued to a company from the United Arab Emirates. In 1992, the safari company Ortello Business Corporation (OBC) from the UAE was granted an exclusive license to hunt. In 2009 more than 3,000 Maasai, mostly women and children from eight villages, were evicted by riot police and guards of OBC and a large amount of cattle was either killed or taken away. A number of Maasai were killed this operation. The same year staff from the EU embassy in Tanzania visited the destroyed villages at the insistence of Cordaid.

Evicted Maasai in Loliondo, February 14 (© Women’s Pastoral Council) 

“This EU resolution is incredibly important as a signal of support to indigenous peoples like the Maasai. Never before have violations of their rights been judged and condemned so clearly and at such a high level,” says Alba Espinoza Rocca, program officer of Cordaid.

“Human rights violations continue, judging by the recent violence in January.”

In 2013 the Tanzanian government wanted to sell 1,500 square kilometers of Maasai land to OBC, adjacent to the Serengeti National Park. The plan foresaw the forced relocation of 40,000 Maasai. Under international pressure President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania in November 2014 refrained from selling the land. But the human rights violations continue, judging by the recent violence in January.

Land Grabbing

In the adopted resolution the EU parliament strongly condemns the widespread practice of land grabbing in Tanzania, by which the central government gives new destinations to community land without taking into account the rights of local residents.

In the first decade of this century, there was an increase in Tanzanian land from international and Tanzanian companies for the cultivation of biofuel crops. About 640,000 acres of land of small farmers and rural households were confiscated between 2005 and 2008 and allocated to investors.

“This resolution is incredibly important as a signal of support to indigenous peoples like the Maasai.”

Masaai are part of the pastoralist or itinerant farmers population, living in the arid and semi-arid areas of the Horn of Africa.  They have been victims of land grabbing practices for many years and have lost access to a lot of their grazing and farming lands.

The European Parliament notes that both pastoralists like the Maasai (10% of the population) and all small farmers in Tanzania (75% of the population), are at a risk of losing their land due to deals of which they have insufficient knowledge, due to corrupt and illegal land transfer to foreign companies or the reallocation of land by authorities, for example to natural parks.

For years Cordaid has fought for the rights of pastoralists and the recognition of their contribution to national economies.

These practices are now condemned by the European Parliament for the first time. This is a success for Tanzanian and European organizations, including Cordaid, who stand up for the rights of pastoralists in East Africa. For years Cordaid has fought for the rights of pastoralists and the recognition of their contributions to the national economies in the form of meat production and the ways they respect and maintain the fragile ecosystem in which they live.

Cordaid is founder of the Coalition of European Lobbies for Eastern Africa Pastoralism (CELEP) and has a large program aimed at farmers in the arid and semi-arid areas of the Horn of Africa.

Read the press release of EU on the resolution.

Read the EU Resolution (full text or summary).