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Tanzania has been accused of violence against Maasai who were protesting the eviction

NAIROBI – Tanzania’s government has been accused of using violence against Maasai herders who are protesting efforts to evict them from one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, the recent friction between those who see certain African landscapes as a lucrative playground and those who use them just call her home.

Witnesses to the clashes in the Ngorongoro area told The Associated Press that fearing retaliation from the Tanzanian authorities, some of the wounded fled to neighboring Kenya to seek medical care. Video shared with the AP shows Maasai taking cover amid gunfire and tear gas, leaving others injured.

“We saw a lot of people being beaten,” said Stephen Parmuat, who said he helped carry some of the wounded across the border after clashes late last week. “The situation is still bad at the moment. We don’t know what’s coming next. Many people are displaced. We don’t know where to go.”

A Tanzanian Maasai advocate told the AP that 20 arrested people, including political leaders, were charged with murder Thursday in the Resident Magistrate’s Court in Arusha without legal notice to the contrary. On condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, the lawyer asked how so many people could be charged with the murder of the one police officer who authorities say was killed.

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A call to the court in Arusha was not answered.

The confrontations, which erupted after members of the Maasai community noticed that Tanzanian authorities were allegedly marking land for a game reserve, came just days before the East African Court of Justice will rule next week on the merits of a case filed by Maasai supporters against it Tanzanian government.

The government was served with the forthcoming verdict, and attorney Donald Deya wondered if the Tanzanian authorities were trying to forestall it by flagging the country.

“In 2018, the court issued an injunction that stopped the government from doing the very things it’s doing now,” said Deya, who heads the Pan-African Lawyers’ Union. “Do not drive out the Maasai, do not touch a disputed land. These government actions go against the court.”

Human rights lawyers in Tanzania raided police stations in the region for more than 30 people, including Maasai leaders, allegedly detained during the confrontations, he said.

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A march by a small group of Maasai in Kenya’s capital Nairobi to the Tanzanian embassy on Friday was broken up by police, who used tear gas and arrested a national community leader.

To take land in the public interest, Tanzanian authorities must consult with communities and provide justification, Deya said. He does not believe this has happened and warns that a court ruling in favor of the Maasai could be followed by a public campaign to pressure the Tanzanian government to respect them.

“Awkwardness might put them off,” he said, adding that some “tourists want exclusive use so they don’t have to run into cows.”

Tourism is a major source of revenue in Tanzania, which drew global attention when its former president, John Magufuli, largely denied the presence of COVID-19 and urged tourists to keep coming to the east African nation.

The confrontations in Ngorongoro District sparked an outcry among supporters of indigenous communities in general and the Maasai, many of whom are employed in the safari industry in Tanzania and Kenya.

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Several United Nations human rights experts said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they were “deeply concerned” by reports by Tanzanian security forces using live ammunition and tear gas against the Maasai and protested at “continuous abuses” on their ancestral lands.

Up to 70,000 Maasai could be displaced by the proposed game reserve, which would occupy 1,500 square kilometers (580 sq mi) of 4,000 square kilometers (1,544 sq mi) designated as village land, experts said.

The entire Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the UN experts urged the government of Tanzania to ensure all plans for the area meet human rights standards.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights this week called on the Tanzanian authorities to “stop the ongoing forced evictions”.

Tanzania’s government, including the tourism minister and prime minister, have said the goal for the disputed area is conservation, claiming that the growing number of Maasai and cattle on the land could endanger it.

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Police Inspector Simon Sirro accused some Maasai of being mobilized by local leaders to flout the law. “I have instructed the police to use force where necessary,” he said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/17/tanzania-accused-of-violent-eviction-attempts-against-maasai/ Tanzania has been accused of violence against Maasai who were protesting the eviction

Sarah Y. Kim

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