A promising development in Tanzania, as the new government takes action to end the yearlong land dispute in Loliondo. It could be a historic turning point, says Julie Koch, IWGIA’s Executive Director.
Indigenous peoples in Tanzania
Even though Tanzania voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and it is home to 125-130 different ethnic groups, the state does not recognise the existence of indigenous peoples. There is no specific national policy or legislation on indigenous peoples, but the Akiye, Hadzabe, Barabaig and Maasai have organised themselves and their struggles around the concept and movement of indigenous peoples.
Moreover, a number of policies, strategies and programmes that do not reflect the interests of the indigenous peoples in terms of access to land and natural resources, basic social services and justice are continuously being developed, resulting in a deteriorating and increasingly hostile political environment for both pastoralists and hunter-gatherers.
Indigenous peoples in Tanzania
Tanzania is estimated to have a total of 125-130 ethnic groups, falling mainly into the four categories of Bantu, Cushite, Nilo-Hamite and San.
While there may be more ethnic groups that identify themselves as indigenous peoples, four groups have been organizing themselves and their struggles around the concept and movement of indigenous peoples. The four groups are the hunter-gatherer Akiye and Hadzabe, and the pastoralist Barabaig and Maasai. Although accurate figures are hard to arrive at since ethnic groups are not included in the population census, it is estimated that Maasais in Tanzania count 430,000 people, the Datoga group to which the Barabaig belongs count 87,978 people, the Hadzabe 1,000 and the Akiye 5,268 people.
While the livelihoods of these groups are diverse, they all share a strong attachment to the land, distinct identities, vulnerability and marginalization. They also experience similar problems in relation to land tenure insecurity, poverty and inadequate political representation.
Human rights violations of indigenous peoples in Tanzania
Indigenous peoples in Tanzania continue to suffer from human rights violations. The human rights situation of pastoralists in Morogoro Region turned from bad to worse at the end of December 2016 and the beginning of 2017, when indigenous peoples were evicted in Kilosa, Mvomero and Morogoro Vijijini districts. This was fuelled by a recent eviction operation declared in December 2016 by the Morogoro Regional Commissioner, Minister of Home Affairs, and District Commissioners in the region.
Land grabbing and land conflicts in Tanzania are also a great challenge for indigenous peoples. They are often related to the expansion of national parks, and the invasion of the pastoralist rangelands in West Kilimanjaro is one. There were other attempted land grabs related to attempts at annexing pastoralist villages into national parks and game reserves, such as the case of Kimotorok village in northern Tanzania. The eviction attempts in Loliondo were veiled within the broad justification of “wildlife conservation” of the Serengeti ecosystem, an excuse that has long been used to undermine pastoral livelihoods in the Loliondo area.
Infrastructure development also causes land dispossession for indigenous peoples in Tanzania. One of the most serious cases is the conflict in Hai District in northern Tanzania between seven villages of mainly Maasai pastoralists, on the one hand, and Kilimanjaro Airport, on the other.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area receives alone around 30 million US dollars a year from tourism. Still, one-third of the population, including indigenous communities, live in poverty.
According to reliable information received by IWGIA, forced and illegal evictions of Maasai pastoralists and serious human rights violations are happening in Tanzania. These violations take place on registered village land in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region.
A member of the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) has been awarded with the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa, the world’s largest award honoring grassroots environmental activists, the UCRT writes yesterday in a press release.