Tanzania prevents MEPs from investigating Maasai abuses

September 6, 2023

The German ambassador celebrates the conservation partnership with Tanzania in April 2023, just months after authorities violently evicted Maasai in Loliondo in the name of conservation. © https://twitter.com/GermanyTanzania/

Tanzania has prevented a delegation of MEPs from visiting the country, despite previously agreeing to allow them in to investigate human rights abuses against the Maasai in the name of conservation.

The Greens/European Free Alliance group of MEPs has called the government’s move “an incomprehensible decision.”

The Maasai have lived for generations in the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania and have shaped and protected these lands, preserving wildlife and biodiversity in areas such as Loliondo, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the now Serengeti National Park.

However, they have been systematically marginalized and violently evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for conservation projects, tourism, and trophy-hunting schemes, violating their human and constitutional rights. 

This has also happened with the support of conservation NGOs like the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), and European funding.  

There has been a rise in human rights abuses against the Maasai in recent years, including forced evictions from their ancestral lands using violence and intimidation; shooting; unlawful arrests and detentions; and torture.

The Tanzanian government has also stopped access to vital social services, such as health services in Ngorongoro, as a weapon to force the Maasai out of their ancestral land.

Joseph Oleshangay, a Maasai Human Rights Lawyer, said today: “Yet again, we have witnessed the MEP visit be halted by the Tanzania government. In May, 2023, Tanzania's ambassador promised in broad daylight that they would not block the visit by MEPs. These broken promises are just a little of what is befelling the Maasai from a repressive regime that wants to dispossess us of the land in favor of luxury hunting groups and hotel investment. But this is yet more evidence - they have so much to hide. The situation on the ground is indescribable. They can only allow a visit if they can use it as a rubber stamp. We thank the MEPs for standing by principles.”

The head of Survival’s Decolonize Conservation campaign, Fiore Longo, said today: “It’s the elephant in the room: the land theft and abuses against the Maasai are obvious - as is the unwillingness of the Tanzanian government to finally respect the rights of the Maasai. Western governments and conservation organizations like the Frankfurt Zoological Society, however, continue with their racist and colonial behavior, pretending everything is fine. They are again leading the way with money and “expertise”, as the rights of Indigenous peoples are trampled upon in the name of “nature conservation”.”