Maasai evicted and imprisoned for hunting concession

by August 24, 2009

The Hadzabe community of Yaeda China valley, Tanzania, aren’t the only ones facing eviction and starvation so the commercial sport hunting industry can make a name for itself.

According to Survival International, eight Maasai villages were burnt to the ground last month—leaving 3,000 people without any food, shelter, or water.

“On 4 July, heavily armed Tanzanian riot police set fire to Maasai homesteads and foodstores to evict them from their ancestral land,” says Survival. “Thousands of Maasai are now destitute with their cattle in acute drought conditions. They were forced from their villages to create a game hunting area for the Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC). ”

17 years ago, the Tanzanian government granted OBC exclusive hunting rights to Maasai lands in Loliondo, northern Tanzania. The company is reportedly connected to Royal families from the United Arab Emirates—undoubtedly the same families pushing for a sport hunting enterprise on Hadzabe lands.

In the Name of Luxury

This wasn’t simply an eviction, like what the Ogiek are facing in nearby Kenya. It was also an attempt to dehumanize the Massai–specifically, Maasai women.

An unknown number of women were raped and severely beaten during the eviction. One woman told Survival, “two armed men chased me and forced me to lie down, at the same time another six men followed them and all raped me.”

“The recent atrocities show that the situation is now critical,” Survival goes on to say. “Maasai women recently demonstrating in Loliondo against the violent evictions were told they had no right to protest. Anonymous threats have also been made to local community leaders.”

Further, “the burning of villages has now stopped. But any Maasai herding cattle within the OBC hunting area are being arrested. Five people have already been tried without access to legal defence or bail, and have been imprisoned for six months. A further ten Maasai are due to appear in court on 24 August.”

International Demands

Since the July 4 eviction, several NGO’s have stepped forward in support of the Maasai, demanding a full, independent inquiry into the human rights violations.

They are also calling for the resignation of the Minister responsible for Natural Resources, for some recent, intolerable claim that the Massai were burning their own villages.

The NGO’s are further calling:

  • Compensation which “can be paid by the government and OBC”;
  • “For the process of degazetting Game Controlled Areas on village land “to be accelerated so the people of Loliondo can use their land without obstruction;”
  • That “all the leaders… involved in this injustice and brutality be pursued and administrative and legal steps taken of prosecuting them in court;” and
  • That “OBC’s hunting license be withdrawn and the company ordered to leave Loliondo Game Controlled Area.”

What You Can Do

If you would like to speak out in support of the Masaai and the Hadzabe (who’s situation has received next to no attention), send an email to:

  • President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, United Republic of Tanzania – State House Luthuli Road, Box 9120, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 00 255 22 2 116 898 / 22 2 116 899 00 255 22 2 113 425
  • Private Secretary to Mizengo Pinda, Prime Minister of Tanzania, Email:;
  • Mr. Yacoub El Hillo, UNHCR Representative to Tanzania,
  • Tanzanian Embassy in your country:

PHOTO: © Erika Bloom