• TANAPA rangers attack villagers in Kimotorok, Simanjiro
  • Tanzanian Government announces new plan to evict 100,000 Maasai from NCA
  • New TANAPA boss appointed to boost tourism incomes
  • Tanzanian Government pushes for controversial electoral bills
  • Tanzania Parliament calls for more military involvement in relocating Maasai from Ngorongoro
  • NCA residents protest against the government’s new evictions plans
  • Success on the legal front in livestock auction case
  • MISA calls on UNESCO to halt its illegitimate mission to Ngorongoro and to delist NCA from World Heritage Sites list
  • President of Tanzania to meet with Pope Francis amidst human rights violations
  • German Government confirms it has suspended all project activities related to land-use planning in Ngorongoro
  • EU and China invest in Tanzania

Maasai residents of Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) gather to repair roads blocked by heavy rains

TANAPA rangers attack villagers in Kimotorok, Simanjiro 

On 14 January 2024, the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) paramilitary rangers opened fire and shot several Maasai herders in Kimotorok village in Simanjiro District, outside of Tarangire National Park. Eight people were arrested, and over 800 livestock were seized.

Maasai boy injured by TANAPA paramilitary bullets in Kimotorok

New TANAPA boss appointed

Mr. Musa Kuji has been newly appointed as Conservation Commissioner for Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), with the objective of making sure tourist arrivals reach three million in 2024. The tourist arrivals target is among 14 directives given to the new TANAPA boss by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Angellah Kairuki. The Minister insisted: “I don’t want to hear excuses. I don’t expect to hear about mining activities or livestock keeping in the parks, and the money required to conduct those patrols should be released according to the procedures.” Mr Kuji is described as a business and financial guru, and some anticipate that his leadership could mark the beginning of a new era for TANAPA: from conserving the country’s tourist attractions to focusing on promoting tourism products and investments.

Flying Medical Service still not authorised to operate 

The Flying Medical Service remains grounded and unable to supply the preventive, curative and emergency healthcare services it has provided to the Maasai and many other parts of the country for the past 40 years. It is trying — so far unsuccessfully — to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Vice President. The health implications of the grounding of Flying Medical Service are serious, as they add to the withdrawal of social and health services in Ngorongoro. This has led to increased incidences of measles, pneumococcal pneumonia, whooping cough, HIV and TB in the area. Tourists risk being exposed by tour drivers and hotel staff to all of the above as well as to multi-drug-resistant TB. That is not easy to cure and is often fatal. This is especially true for the growing numbers of travellers who are vaccine deniers and their children. It would be good if the US, German, British, and other embassies could issue a travel warning against tourism to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.

NCA residents protest against the government’s new evictions plans

On January 21, Maasai local leaders met with NCA residents to strengthen the local mobilisation movement and find community solutions to problems they are currently facing. In the video, people say, “We are not going, and the government spokesman should stop lying to the public and the President”.

Maasai community mobilisation meeting in NCA

Success on the legal front in livestock auction case

On 13 February, the Magistrate court in Musoma issued its judgement in the case (misc Criminal Appeal no 10 od 2023) between the Director of Public Prosecution vs. Oloomu Kursas, Sinjore Matika and Ndagusa Koros. This case involves 806 heads of cattle, 420 sheep and 100 goats from Loliondo that were seized last October, and auctioned and sold as unclaimed properties. The court has ordered that livestock owners be paid money amounting to 168 million TShs (approximately 61,250 EUR) regardless of the value of the livestock or the fraudulent procedure used from the arrest of the livestock to the sale. The community was  represented by our advocates, Alais Melau and Lairumbe. Maasai lawyers are further assessing the extent of the awarded amount compared to the value of the livestock to see whether they can appeal, considering that the judgement is already in their favour.

“We will not leave our land”: NCA residents join forces to repair village roads as government maintains only those used by tourists

On 21 January – Endulen residents led by Mr Thomas Oltwati, the Endulen Village Chairperson, organised themselves to restore a seven-kilometre stretch of road to Embarway Secondary School that the incessant rains had destroyed. NCAA, responsible for constructing and maintaining roads within NCA, is now unwilling to renovate any roads that connect villages, repairing only those leading to tourist destinations.

Residents joined forces to repair roads to Olorobi Primary School and Oloirobi Health Centre

On 27 January 2024, Ngorongoro ward residents gathered to maintain the road to Oloirobi Primary School, which was rendered impassible by heavy rains. The government has stopped providing social services, including good roads, arguing that people will leave Ngorongoro anyway. Residents also gathered to strategise on how to bring back critical social services using their own efforts.

Residents gather to discuss local mobilisation and strategies to restore critical social services. One of the decisions made in the community meeting is to rehabilitate all the roads within the Maasai villages in NCA using the community’s efforts.

Government pushing for new laws to suffocate opposition parties and give President king-like powers

The Tanzanian Government is currently pushing for a new set of electoral laws to give the ruling party the upper hand in the upcoming elections. The Bills as presented do not hold any promise of strengthening democracy and improving governance because a) they maintain the Executive Director and other presidential appointees in charge of managing the election, b) the recruitment committee for the Electoral Commission is composed of presidential appointees, and c) the President is given wide powers to decide who can lead and be a member of this commission. Who manages the elections has been the key factor in Tanzanian election mismanagement. The institutions managing the conduct of the elections are not independent, either in law or in practice.

The three proposed bills relate to the Electoral Commission, the Registrar of Political Parties office and the Election Act. The proposed law to restructure the Electoral Commission would give the President enormous powers to decide who becomes the chairperson and members of the Commission. It further fails to create the possibility for independent personnel of the Electoral Commision, as it is forced to use career government employees to manage electoral issues. The second bill on the office of the Registrar of Political Parties would give it a mandate to single-handedly de-register political parties without check by independent institutions like the Court. The proposed Election Act would leave the mandate for local government elections in the single hand of the minister, who is empowered to make regulations for such elections and single-handedly manage local government elections.

The proposed bills must be carefully evaluated for their potential impacts, and their current shortcomings must be addressed, to ensure fairness and transparency in the electoral process. Different stakeholders, including political parties, civil societies, and religious actors, have already presented their criticisms of the proposed reforms, but the government has not considered their viewpoints. For example, an interfaith workshop was organised on 18–19 January to discuss the proposed bills and issue a critique. For many actors, these fake progress reforms will not make elections fairer, independent, accountable and verifiable.

Tanzania Parliament calls for more military involvement in relocating Maasai from Ngorongoro

On 8 February 2024, the Tanzania Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Tourism made a proposal for the whole Parliament’s consideration that includes a more systematic inclusion of the actual military in the relocation of Maasai from Ngorongoro. One military source informed MISA that nearly all heads of units in the Tanzania military have had some role in the ongoing Maasai relocation from Ngorongoro.

MISA condemns increased militarisation of conservation 

Tanzanian conservation is becoming more militarised with the use of military and paramilitary personnel, training and violence against people inside or next to conservation areas. Para-militarisation of TANAPA, TAWA and the NCAA, also called “green military”, intensifies with TANAPA’s priding its shift from a civilian to a paramilitary unit, according to George Waitara, Chair of TANAPA’s Board of Trustees (see MISA’s Nov/Dec Newsletter). In incidents in Loliondo (2009, 2017, 2022) and Ngorongoro (August 2023), Rangers repress Maasai protests with teargas, arrests and torture. Despite the current calm situation, waves of violence become more frequent.

Besides TANAPA, TAWA and NCAA, the Tanzanian Government co-opts police, prison service, intelligence service and migration authorities into conservation-related measures in the Serengeti Ecosystem. Military bases and personnel become numerous. The recently appointed District Commissioner of Ngorongoro is a former military man, and Tanzanian authorities established a military base 4 km from Wasso, the capital of Loliondo District. The military proper is carrying out the forced Maasai relocations from Ngorongoro to Msomera, supervising the construction of houses, with four military bases built in Msomera. Prison services and police contribute to arbitrary arrests of resisting Maasai.

A new actor called the “special operation task force/group “ reports to the Tanzanian President and comprises the organisations mentioned above. Because of this and the unclear and mixed composition of the units, it is impossible to take the group to court when it violates the rights of Tanzanian citizens. Violent incidents in the Serengeti Ecosystem are illustrations; many more can be named, such as the allegations against RUNAPA (TANAPA’s division managing Ruaha National Park) and shots at Maasai in Kimotorok by TANAPA rangers next to Tarangire National Park (see this newsletter).

MISA strongly opposes militarised conservation in Tanzania as it endangers long-term objectives of conservation without any supporting evidence that the use of violence or well-armed rangers contributes to more effective conservation. Instead, strong and forceful approaches alienate local communities such as the Maasai.

Photo: On 20 January, Chief of Defense Forces, General Jacob Mkunda, inspected the construction of 5,000 houses in Msomera and stated his satisfaction with the process.

Tanzanian Government releases new WMA strategy that ignores communities’ rights to land and resources

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism published its “revised strategy” for Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) for 2023–2033. Last year, MISA published a critique of the WMA, highlighting, among other things, that – through WMAs – “significant areas formerly used by the community and registered as village land are set aside for wildlife management and excluded from other kinds of use”. While this critique remains valid, MISA further questions the substance of the supposedly participatory processes that are presented as core aspects of WMAs. The strategy identifies 47 different actors to include in its “Stakeholder Analysis”– from private hunting associations to international conservation and development actors – that leaves out local communities. In the new plan, there is a new list of proposed WMAs, including one in Loliondo that will further threaten the existence of Maasai in Loliondo.

List of some of the proposed WMAs in Tanzania, including the small part of Loliondo that remains after the contested annexation of Pololeti Game Reserve

The strategy assesses current opportunities and challenges with WMAs. It shows a continuous stark asymmetry between the neoliberal commercialisation of nature and community-based interests. While poor participation of local communities is identified as a problem, the strategy continues to push for top-down government regulations that fail to respect Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and do not meaningfully promote community-based conservation. Also, the strategy mentions hunting associations as an important stakeholder, but identifies the illegal harvesting of resources as a challenge, including for subsistence. This signals a clear disregard for the traditional practices of local communities. Challenges further highlight a lack of mechanisms for WMAs to engage in revenue collection yet fail to recognize poverty alleviation as a priority for local communities.

The revised WMA strategy ignores the rights of local communities at the expense of attracting more international tourism, commercial hunting and climate investments. Donors have a responsibility here, as their interest in the WMA model is mentioned as a key opportunity.


Maasai advocates denounce human rights abuses at UNESCO meeting on World Heritage Sites in Geneva

On 17 January 2024, the Executive Director of PINGO’s Forum, Edward Porokwa, participated in a workshop on “Recognizing and respecting Indigenous Peoples’ heritage values in World Heritage sites”, organised in Geneva by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) in cooperation with the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on World Heritage (IIPFWH) and UNESCO. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) since 1979, under the natural category, and as a cultural site in 2010, but only for its palaeontology history, ignoring people’s culture  and their knowledge of ecosystems. In 2018, NCA was designated as Global Geo-Park, again with no recognition of Maasai rights, including their right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). NCA was legally established in 1959 as a Multiple Land Use (MLU) area where wildlife coexists with semi-nomadic pastoralists. However, no Maasai livelihoods and culture elements are reflected in UNESCO’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). As a result, the Maasai have become victims of the assessment of the OUV in Ngorongoro. Most recommendations made in the past by UNESCO have supported their displacement from their land and failed to incorporate their traditional knowledge of how to use and manage the land. The Maasai have made pultiple petitions to the Advisory Bodies of IUCN, ICOMOS and UNESCO over the years, asking them to revisit their inscription, but with no success.


MISA calls on UNESCO to halt its illegitimate mission to Ngorongoro and to delist NCA from World Heritage Sites list

On 2–9 February, a joint mission by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization) and its Advisory Bodies, namely IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) visited Ngorongoro. The mission came secretly, and the Tanzanian Government, which invited it, controlled it from beginning to end. The delegates (including Nigel Crawhall, UNESCO Chief of Section, Chief of Section, Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Joseph Itongwa, Coordinator of the regional indigenous network REPALEAC) did not meet with legitimate representatives from the Maasai community, despite their repeated calls in the last few years for a UNESCO mission to assess the human rights situation in their territory (see above).

Maasai are a historical victim of the UNESCO inscription standards, which have limited their access to a life with dignity. Recommendations by UNESCO and its advisory bodies have given the repressive Tanzanian Government a justification for its displacement of Maasai and added pressure to relocate people of NCA. UNESCO had previously publicly stated it had not asked for Maasai displacement, but in August 2022, in response to a case filed by Maasai in the East African Court, Tanzania’s Attorney General pleaded that Maasai relocation is a result of repeated pressure from UNESCO.

Upon hearing about this mission, Maasai leaders, local authorities, civil society organisations, including international ones, and Members of the European Parliament wrote to the Government, the mission and the press to call for transparency and dialogue with the affected. The mission, feeling local and international pressure, invited the Maasai on its last day in the country and at very short notice. Maasai representatives refused to attend to avoid legitimising an non transparent and non-participatory process. For MISA, this mission cannot deliver independent and legitimate outcomes since it was not able to hear the rights holders. Demands are growing among the Maasai for UNESCO to delist Ngorongoro as a World Heritage Site since it is incompatible with upholding the human rights of its lawful residents.

German Government confirms it has suspended all project activities related to land-use planning in Ngorongoro District from 1 June 2023 until further notice 

A response from the German Parliament received on 23 January 2024 to a parliamentary question raised by MISA confirms that the Federal Government has stopped funding the development of a draft District Land-Use Framework Plan (DLUFP). This decision was made following the rejection of the draft framework by a majority of the Ngorongoro District Council members on 19 May 2023 and also criticism of the plan from human rights organisations and Maasai representatives. German support was provided through the financial cooperation project “Sustainable Development of the Serengeti Ecosystem”. Approximately EUR 220,000 had been budgeted for the relevant activities. Despite repeated requests, project details are still not disclosed to the Maasai on the ground.


President of Tanzania to meet with Pope Francis in midst of human rights violations

The President of Tanzania visited the Vatican and the Pope for two days on 11 and 12 February. In recent months, the Catholic Church, other Christian churches and Muslims in Tanzania have expressed concerns that the Government is not respecting the rule of law and is involved in human rights violations. Faith-based actors have also critiqued the introduction of new laws in Tanzania that seek to extend presidential powers and the ruling party’s grip. In this context, many actors see the visit of the Government to the Vatican as a public relations campaign. MISA has written a letter to the Pope, the state secretary and the dicastery for integral human development to raise our concerns about ongoing forced evictions of the Maasai. In Rome, protests were staged, targeting the Government and calling for drafting a new constitution before the elections.

While President Samia was meeting with the Pope in Rome, protests were staged outside of the Vatican, targeting the Tanzanian Government and calling for drafting a new constitution before the elections.


EU pumps Tsh 63.5 billion into Tanzania’s business engine

Despite repeated alerts about ongoing human rights abuses in Tanzania, the European Union (EU) recently invested EUR 23 million (Sh63.5 billion) in three critical Tanzanian projects to strengthen the business environment. These investments are mainly focused on 1) regulatory reform, 2) quality control, and 3) empowering micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). EU investments have been “paving the way for smoother business operations in Tanzania since 2017”. Aside from the EU, Tanzania’s initiative to improve its business environment has also garnered support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s (UNIDO) Qualitan Project.


Maasai lawyer Joseph Oleshangay receives Human Rights Award and tours Germany

On Human Rights Day, 10 December 2023, Joseph Oleshangay was given the Human Rights Award by the city of Weimar for his extensive support of Maasai communities and as guardian of Tanzanian democracy. In his speech, Oleshangay dedicated the award to his entire community. After the award ceremony, he advocated in Berlin for the cause of the Maasai with the Ministry of Development Cooperation (BMZ), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and key Members of Parliament (MPs). BMZ confirmed its funding suspension for the DLUFP in Ngorongoro District (see above). Other topics included developments in Tanzania after the Maasai delegation visited Europe in May 2023, such as TANAPA’s disregard of the Arusha High Court ruling in August and September 2023.

Following the Frankfurt Zoological Society’s (FZS) refusal to meet Oleshangay in Germany, MISA activists protested in front of FZS headquarters in Frankfurt. FZS was involved in Maasai land rights violations by facilitating meetings for a DLUFP, which would have formalised the forceful land annexation in Loliondo in 2022. While FZS has stopped activities related to the DLUFP, Maasai communities in the area have requested that FZS leave their land and stop their exclusive approach to conservation.

Photo: Joseph Oleshangay protesting with CSOs in front of Frankfurt Zoological Society headquarters in Frankfurt.



Tanzania & China sign deal for Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark project

On 28 January 2024, the Tanzanian Government’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) acquired an investment of Tsh 25 billion from China to develop the Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark project. This tourism project in Miamba is expected to be completed by June 2025. It will include a large and modern geological museum in the Empakaai crater and the restoration of ancient human footprints in Laetoli. The Ngorongoro-Lengai is the second geopark established in Africa and the only one in sub-Saharan Africa. MISA is concerned about the human rights implications of this project, which was elaborated with no consultation of local communities.

US embassy delegation explores freedom of religion for Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania 

In early February, several members of MISA met with a delegation from the US embassy interested in assessing the liberty of religion for indigenous peoples in Tanzania. MISA representatives explained how Maasai traditional religion is grounded in specific places, such as sacred mountains and special sacred trees, where prayers and sacrifices are made. Moving people from those areas destroys some of the very foundations of their religious practice. The group also discussed the growing presence of ultra-conservative Islam and jihadist Islam as a growing concern, considering there is already active jihadist recruitment going on in South Maasailand.  A great deal of money is available from conflicting Islamist ideologies funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This could undermine the historically good relationship between Christianity, Islam, and traditional religions in Tanzania. The meeting further discussed other challenges facing the Maasai, including denying them medical and other social services, leading to a humanitarian and livelihood crisis in Ngorongoro. It was noted that Emirati families, and the government of the Emirates in particular, are buying up the country of Tanzania and that there seems to be a surge in “missing” people and local assassinations. MISA is deeply concerned for the safety of all human rights activists in the country.


Selected Media Articles

Kicking Native People Off Their Land Is a Horrible Way to Save the Planet (Robert Williams, New York Times, 20 February 2024)

World Bank Abdicates its Responsibility to Human Rights in Tanzania (The Chanzo, 10 January 2024)

Africa’s savannah elephants: small ‘fortress’ parks aren’t the answer – they need room to roam (The Conversation, 25 January 2024)

URGENT ALERT: Tanzanian Government on a Rampage Against Indigenous People (Oakland Institute, 25 January 2024)

A new wave of land grabs strikes Tanzania (GRAIN, 2 February 2024)

Tanzanian farmers and pastoralists hit by double whammy of corporate farming and tourism projects (Bharat Dogra, Counter Currents, 9 February 2024)

Pastoralists as Conservationists (Ian Scoones, PASTRES, 19 December 2023)

Second ministerial conference on Transboundary Transhumance in Central Africa (Paul Scholte and Matthew Luizza, Cambridge University Press, 11 December 2023)

John McEnroe plays tennis match on Serengeti despite bloody conflict over beautiful land (Josh Peter, USA Today, 1 December 2023)

More 25 households leave NCA (Daily news, 1 January 2024)

TAWA attracts 696bn/- investment in SWICA (Daily news, 4 January 2024)

Relocations were meant to protect Ngorongoro, Tanzanian govt says (The Citizen, 20 January 2024)

CHADEMA Supporters Stage Peaceful Demonstrations in Dar es Salaam Amidst Rising Tensions (Habari Tanzania, 24 January 2024)




* What is the Maasai International Solidarity Alliance (MISA)?

The Maasai International Solidarity Alliance (MISA) is an international alliance standing in solidarity with the Maasai of Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Loliondo in northern Tanzania. We bring together faith-based organisations, human rights organisations, international aid and development organisations as well as researchers. Our alliance includes, among others, the Africa Europe Faith Justice Network (AEFJN), Agrecol Association for AgriCulture & Ecology, Coalition of European Lobbies for Eastern African Pastoralism (CELEP), Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE, International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity), Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz (KOO, Coordinating Office of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference), Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker, Misereor and Welthaus Graz.

Our main objective is to put an end to the human rights violations facing the Maasai of northern Tanzania. In June 2023, we jointly organised a lobbying tour to Germany, Austria, Belgium and Italy, which enabled a Maasai delegation to voice their concerns to European decision-makers and trigger international solidarity. We support the voices of grassroots organisations representing the Maasai at the local level, such as PINGO’s (Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organisations) Forum, UCRT (Ujamaa Community Resource Team), PWC (Pastoral Women’s Council), First Nation Land Governance (FINAL GOVERNANCE) and TEST (Traditional Ecosystems Survival Tanzania). These grassroots organisations are well recognised for their long-standing work in Maasai communities and are in regular contact with affected communities and their representatives, including traditional leaders, women and youth as well as councillors / village chairpersons. We are also supported by Tanzanian lawyers representing the Maasai in the several court cases that have been launched to address the violations of their land rights.

Contact person for media: Joseph Moses Oleshangay, joseshangay@gmail.com

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