Tanzania Commence Moving Maasai Out of Ngorongoro Reserve

Tanzania Commence Moving Maasai Out of Ngorongoro Reserve (News Central TV)

The government of Tanzania began relocating Maasai pastoralists on Thursday, from the famous Ngorongoro conservation area, a move that has sparked concern among rights campaigners.

The residents face the threat of eviction, as the authorities contend that their growing population is encroaching on wildlife habitat.

The indigenous residents have lived in the reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Tanzania, for over a century.

Arusha regional commissioner John Mongella said around 296 families had registered for the move to Handeni, a district 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Ngorongoro.

“There is no eviction here, all people who are leaving (are) voluntarily registered and the government is facilitating them,” he said.

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162,000 hectares of land has been earmarked by the government for the relocation of Maasai households.

However, the community has remained sharply polarised over the issue, with many reluctant to leave the only home they have ever known.

“This eviction has never been voluntary for Ngorongoro people,” Ngorongoro-based human rights lawyer and activist Joseph Oleshangay said.

The relocation has sparked concern, with a team of UN-appointed independent rights experts warning that “it could jeopardise the Maasai’s physical and cultural survival.”

“This will cause irreparable harm, and could amount to dispossession, forced eviction and arbitrary displacement prohibited under international law,” they said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Tanzania has historically allowed indigenous communities such as the Maasai to live within some national parks.

But since 1959, the number of humans living in Ngorongoro has shot up from 8,000 to more than 100,000.

The livestock population has grown even more quickly, from around 260,000 in 2017 to over one million today.

One officer was killed and several protesters were injured during demonstrations in Ngorongoro district’s Loliondo town last weekend.

The protest broke out over the government’s push to cordon off 1,500 square kilometres (550 square miles) of Loliondo to create a wildlife protection area.

Amnesty International said Wednesday the “unlawful forced eviction” in Loliondo was “shocking both in its scale and brutality.”

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