In brief

Violent clashes between Tanzanian police, Maasai communities

Government plans to evict 70,000 people from their land to make room for reserve

A Maasai protest in Loliondo, January 2022.
A Maasai protest in Loliondo, January 2022. Author: Oakland Institute
Clashes between the Tanzanian police and Maasai communities in recent days have left dozens injured, an unknown number of people displaced, and one police officer dead, according to several media and association reports.

The clashes have taken place in Loliondo, in the northern district of Ngorongoro, bordering Kenya. The Tanzanian government seeks to relocate some 70,000 Maasai living there to another location as part of a 1,500 square kilometre expansion of protected natural areas.

The clashes have injured more than 30 people and a dozen Maasai leaders have been arrested, according to The Guardian. The English newspaper reports that hundreds have taken to the forests to flee violence. Survival International puts the figure at several thousand. South African media outlet News24 claims to have seen a report detailing that those injured have broken legs, gunshot wounds, and head injuries.

According to the BBC, some of the injured needed to seek medical assistance in Kenya because Tanzania has refused to assist them. Forest Peoples organization says one of the Maasai has bled to death while being carried to Kenya.

The Tanzanian government says the growth of the human population in Ngorongoro and its herds threatens wildlife in the region. Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan warned that human presence in the area endangers the sites. “What is more important,” she asked, “between letting people continue to put our world heritage in danger or supporting the preservation of the heritage and those people relocated to a better place?”.

Several sources, including The Guardian, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, and the Oakland Institute, suggest that the Tanzanian government is using this argument to create a high-end tourism-oriented reserve where hunting will be allowed, managed by a UAE company.

The Maasai complain that their people have been evicted from a number of lands since the beginning of the 20th century. First, during the first two decades of the 20th century, by British authorities in Kenya to make way for European settlers. And later, in Tanzania, for the creation of parks such as Serengeti or Ngorongoro.

The Maasai number around 2 million people, of whom approximately 1.2 million live in Kenya and 800,000 in Tanzania. They are a minority in both states.