On 5 March 2024, the Union of Superior Generals (USG) and International Union of Superior Generals (UISG)– Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) participated in a webinar organized by the Maasai International Solidarity Alliance (MISA). The webinar shared MISA’s advocacy experience in its fight to end human rights violations facing the Maasai in Tanzania. Since 2022, the Tanzanian government has been evicting the Maasai, one of the indigenous pastoralist ethnic groups in Tanzania, from their ancestral lands. Through foreign investments from Germany, United Arab Emirates, China and the United States, President Samia Suluhu’s administration planned to create exclusive gaming and hunting parks on these lands to bolster its tourism industry in the name of ‘nature conservation’.

            Through AEFJN’s invitation, the religious congregations were introduced to the present struggles of the Maasai in Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region. Divided into four parts, the webinar started with the Maasai representatives’ narration of their forceful eviction from Ngorongoro and Loliondo and the actions and objectives of MISA. In the second part, the actions taken by the Catholic Church in Tanzania in response to this issue were discussed. During the open forum, questions on the role of government propaganda in dismissing Maasai demands by portraying them as ‘backward people’ that must be “educated” or “civilized”, the legal hurdles of the affected local communities brought by the confiscation of their livestock and state violence by the state forces who do not respect the rule of law, and the split reception of the issue in Tanzania between the pro-government media and pro-Maasai public. The last part was a discussion on what religious congregations would like to offer to the Maasai cause.

The webinar was attended by some 68 participants. Among the speakers was the secretary-general of the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference Fr. Charles Kitima. As Fr. Kitima emphasized, “What we need now is a focus. It is true that we have to support those who are providing interventions as emergencies. But we must have our focus on the basic key goal [that] we are fighting or we are struggling for: We want those who don’t want to leave to remain and be treated like human beings. This should be our international message to investors, to tourists, to our government. This should be very clear.”

Through this webinar, it is hoped that the religious congregations would take more active engagement in responding to the humanitarian problems that the Maasai communities have been facing through concrete planning of activities with the local Church hierarchy. MISA also plans to organize a follow-up webinar for the religious congregations to remove the misconceptions about pastoralism as a way of life.

Dr. Lawrence S. Pedregosa

Advocacy and Communication Officer