Tanzania’s Maasai people have faced a violent crackdown from police over the past two weeks, amid plans to evict them from their ancestral homeland in parts of the Serengeti National Park to make way for trophy hunting and conservation zones.
Human rights organisations and the Maasai people have accused Tanzanian police of using teargas, live bullets and beating protestors who oppose the planned development in the Ngorongoro district near the village of Ololosokwani.
So far, at least 700 Maasai villagers have fled across the border to neighbouring Kenya as refugees, while dozens have been wounded by police. The response by the Tanzanian authorities has been condemned by the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights who called on the government to halt the ongoing forcible evictions and to open independent investigations into the violence against the Maasai people who should be consulted and allowed to review plans to establish the conservation area.
According to a report by Al Jazeera last week, the protests erupted after police began to demarcate 1,500 square kilometres (540 square miles) of land to make way for the reserve, to be operated by a UAE-owned company.
The government denies accusations that it is trying to evict the Maasai from their ancestral land, and has claimed they will still have access to 2,500 square kilometres of it.
The East African Court of Justice is to rule on a legal challenge to the planned evictions, but is likely to rule in favour of the controversial move, which could displace up to 70,000 people but will be a major contribution to the country’s vital tourism sector.