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16 Nov 2015

Katy Migiro, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Tanzania: Large-scale land deal for tourism has forced Maasai "out of their way of life"

"Maasai locked in Tanzania legal battle with US safari firm, land conflicts grow"

Maasai herders used to fighting to survive on the savannah have moved to a new battleground - a Tanzanian court - in a case highlighting increasing conflict in Africa between traditional culture and foreigners investing in land. The Maasai, a semi-nomadic people known for dressing in distinctive red blankets and colourful beads, say they are trying to reclaim 12,617 acres of grazing land in northern Tanzania from a U.S. safari company...

The case comes at a time when rising numbers of large-scale land deals in Africa are pitting indigenous people against investors, with resource and tourism projects bringing money and jobs but campaigners fearing loss of land for marginalised communities. "The case is really important because the Maasai here in Tanzania who live in that particular area are being pushed off their land, slowly but surely," Rashid Salim Rashid, a lawyer representing the Maasai, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "They are being forced out of their way of life."...

Tanzania's High Court in Arusha last month upheld TCL's ownership of 10,000 acres of Sukenya but ruled 20 percent should go back to the Maasai as it wasn't part of TBL's original lease. The Maasai have filed a notice of appeal, aiming to repossess the remaining 10,000 acres, arguing the common law principle of adverse possession whereby someone who has lived continuously on a piece of land for 12 years can gain ownership.