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19 Oct 2022

Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI)

Tanzania: Open Letter to stop evictions & criminalisation of Maasai land defenders


Letter to President of Tanzania: Stop human rights violations against the Maasai

Dear All, 

Our Maasai brothers and sisters of Loliondo, Tanzania, are facing an extremely serious situation due to the violent dispossession of their ancestral lands for a sport-hunting company linked to the United Arab Emirates Royal Family.

The government of Tanzania is systematically attacking the Maasai indigenous peoples. Maasai leaders and defenders are imprisoned on trumped-up charges; hundreds of families are suffering forced displacement - with the consequent loss of property, health, and education, among others - children, elders, and women are starving. This is happening while threats of violence and criminalization continue. 

The international community needs to speak out against these violations, demand the respect and protection of the Maasai’s individual and collective rights and access to justice for the victims. We have prepared an open letter to the President of Tanzania (displayed below) to express our strong solidarity with the Maasai and to demand a stop to these human rights violations that threaten the collective survival of thousands of Maasai indigenous pastoralists.  

We will be collecting signatures until October 25th. If you and your organizations can support this letter, please fill out this form.


The letter will be sent to the President of Tanzania and to people related to Otterlo Business Corporation and will be disseminated through social networks and mail. 

In solidarity, 
Joan Carling
IPRI Executive Director

More information: https://bit.ly/IPRILoliondo

Samia Suluhu Hassan
United Republic of Tanzania

Otterlo Business Corporation

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, express our profound concern and outrage over the continuing attacks and grave human rights violations committed by the State of Tanzania against the Maasai indigenous pastoralists in Loliondo and the larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). The customary land of the Maasai is, among others, the source of their livelihoods, their identities, ways of life, culture, and knowledge. It is fundamental to their survival as an Indigenous People, a people with reciprocal relations to their lands and resources.

Tanzania is systematically attacking the Maasai, using excessive and unwarranted force, misusing and abusing its criminal laws against the Maasai. It is also deceiving and misinforming the population with the objective of taking over the customary lands, territories and resources of the Maasai. These actions are generating a humanitarian crisis with the impending forced eviction of at least 150,000 Maasai pastoralists. Women and children suffer disproportionate effects as many of them are facing or already experiencing hunger and malnutrition. 

The recent judgement of the East Africa Court of Justice is hugely disappointing and an appeal is being prepared. Justice will be sought internationally. The State has an obligation, under international law, to respect and protect the rights of the Maasai, including an obligation to not forcibly displace them from their ancestral lands. The State must not violate the rights of the Maasai, and it cannot disregard the deep concerns raised by UN experts and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Those who are defending their rights are being criminalized. 27 Maasai were falsely accused of killing a police officer. To date, only three (3) have been released, while 24 (2 women) remain in jail. In addition, over 90 Maasai were charged as illegal immigrants and 45 (over 30 are women) remain detained as illegal immigrants in their own country. Furthermore, 40 Maasai women were wounded in the violent attacks by State forces. The Maasai have had to pay more than $86,000 USD (200,000,000 TZS) to claim back over 3,500 livestock confiscated by the State. 

The aim of establishing the “Pololet Game Control Area” is also unjust and discriminatory. There is no rational basis for their eviction or otherwise in the name of “conservation”. On the contrary, it is outrageous that their rights are being violated and their very survival is put at risk so that the Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) can manage this wild game area for rich foreigners to hunt in. 

We also appeal to the UAE-based Otterlo Business Corporation to respect the rights of the Maasai. You cannot be complicit to these human rights violations. The land rights of the Maasai pastoralists also need to be respected by business groups. Any contract or agreement with the government should be invalidated as there was no consent provided by the traditional Maasai landowners. The plan to evict them and use their customary lands for the recreational pursuits of the rich is deplorable, all the more, as they have cared for those lands since time immemorial. 

We urge you, as President of the United Republic of Tanzania, to stop these unjust, illegitimate and discriminatory actions and to ensure that Tanzania complies with its international human rights obligations pertaining to the Maasai’s individual and collective rights. Stop criminalizing the Maasai for defending and exercising their rights. Immediately release those who have been imprisoned under trumped-up charges; provide access to justice to all the victims, including just compensation. Cancel any concession or permits granted to the OBC for the establishment or management of the “Pololet Game Conservation Area.” Engage with the Maasai pastoralists, including women, and obtain their consent prior to any further actions and to address their needs for sustainable livelihoods, basic social services, food security and to ensure peace in their territory.

We urge the Otterlo Business Corporation to desist from further engaging with Tanzania for the establishment or management of the “Pololet Game Conservation Area.” The collective and individual rights of the Maasai must be respected, including by business enterprises. 

c.c. Former President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete
Secretary-general of Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Abdulrahman Omari Kinana 
Conservation Commissioner, Freddy Safiel Manongi