Away from the bush: gunfire and machetes against the Masai.  The complaint: "Put on the run for hunting trophies"

In addition to the bullets intended for animals, to be hunted as a trophy, now there are also those fired at the Masai, to be removed from their ancestral lands. Shooting near the Serengeti, the “plain that never ends” as the original peoples called it, those Masai who were born and raised there and who since the time of British colonization in Tanzania are still being pushed away today. Now, however, the government of Tanzania, together with some large companies in the United Arab Emirates and even with nature conservation bodies, has accelerated its eviction plans at the beginning of June: in the Loliondo area on 10 June, 700 police men and the armed forces, ordering the Masai to leave, setting up pickets to delimit the lands and in the end, despite a peaceful protest by the shepherds, they also opened fire or brandished machetes: 31 people were injured, others fled, others still come helped by doctors who arrived from Kenya, since in Tanzania – having to go through the police – they would not be treated. In addition, some rumors refer to a deceased person.

The bloody context reached in East Africa is the result of a long battle that began in 2009. On the one hand, there are the government of Tanzania, together with the top management of Otterlo Business Corporation, a Dubai-based company interested in land. Masai to develop an exclusive luxury tourism, where even members of the Emirati royal family can pick up a rifle to get some animal heads to hang.

(photo: © Survival - Survival International, the global movement for indigenous peoples)

(photo: © Survival – Survival International, the global movement for indigenous peoples)

The idea is to create a protected area for “animal conservation”, safari tourism but also sport hunting, of about 1500 square kilometers. In that area, as in the vicinity of Loliondo, however, between 70 thousand and 80 thousand Masai live, many of them children of those who in the past were expelled from the Serengeti in 1959.

Longo flowera Survival International researcher who recently returned from Tanzania, tells a Green & Blue that “the Masai are at risk of eviction from both the Ngorongoro area and the Loliondo area. In the latter the situation is particularly tense. The 1500 square kilometers were registered as Masai lands, but recently the government changed the statute defining it as game control area, i.e. trophy hunting is allowed. So in this exclusive area for hunting and conservation, pastoral activities or Masai homes are no longer possible “.

(photo: © Survival - Survival International, the global movement for indigenous peoples)

(photo: © Survival – Survival International, the global movement for indigenous peoples)

Although the Masai have long been taking care of those territories, as indeed the original peoples already do from the Amazon to India without upsetting the ecosystems and preserving water and balances, their presence is not well seen by tourists and even by some associations. committed to the conservation of biodiversity. “For the Masai of Ngorongoro, the government is talking about houses where they can be moved hundreds of kilometers away, while for Loliondo there is no alternative,” explains Fiore. The problem is that the Masai – like many other indigenous people – have an ancestral bond, a very close relationship with their lands: “For them it is impossible to think of leaving. they are sacred, as well as the land where they bury their dead. A move would kill an entire culture. “

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The official position of the government is instead that of wanting to create protected areas “for conservation” where the man and the minister of tourism of Tanzania cannot live, Damas Ndumbarohe said that the Masai do not have a right to those lands since “all the land belongs to the president”.

Longo, who spoke at length with both Masai leaders and government bodies, explains that “in reality, trophy hunting is already allowed in those lands: wealthy tourists and people with a lot of money, however, do not like the presence of people and houses. , shepherds with cows, and for this reason they have long been asking to move the inhabitants “.

The researcher, who has also campaigned in Asia and South America, argues that “much of the history of conservation is made by hunters. People who have opened nature reserves with the basic idea of ​​protecting the fauna from those who hunt to eat but allow instead a regulated trophy hunt. Yet, the Masai do not hunt for food, they are mainly shepherds. But in Africa tourists are seen as more important, because it is with their money that they feed the funds to ‘protect nature’. This model however, in my opinion it does not work and it is often a racist and colonial system that tends only to alienate local peoples “. In reality, behind the latest episodes of violence that have just occurred, there could be a specific concern on the part of the Tanzanian executive.

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In both 2009 and 2017 there were major eviction attempts, but the Masai managed to resist. Five years ago, however, the natives filed a complaint with the East African Court of Justice, which issued a first injunction in their favor, a decision that must be confirmed by a sentence at the end of June. “Everything suggests that there is a link between the violence and the cause, – explains Longo – perhaps because the Court could again be in favor of the Masai and put an end to the government’s plans”.

For Survival International, the researcher is in constant contact with some of the attacked Masai. “They tell me that many are on the run, others are being prosecuted only because they have made videos of the brutality of the armed forces. Ten people have been arrested. The others are afraid.” It seems a paradox, but it is true: in the heart of Tanzania there is much more fear of man than of the lion.

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“The Masai have always lived with animals and have known wildlife: sometimes cats prey on cows, but it is part of the daily life of those lands. A life that now others, for reasons of money, do not want to continue. history of the Masai – concludes Longo – should therefore be emblematic to draw attention to an old-fashioned model of conservation of Nature that must absolutely be changed: scientific studies tell us that the original people know how to protect nature and biodiversity better than anyone other. So why do we keep pushing them away? “.

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