• Indigenous peoples in Tanzania

    Indigenous peoples in Tanzania

    Tanzania does not recognise the existence of indigenous peoples, even though Tanzania is home to 125-130 different ethnic groups.


Although Tanzania voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and is the home to 125-130 different ethnic groups, the state does not recognize the existence of Indigenous Peoples. There is no specific national policy or legislation on Indigenous Peoples, but Akiye, Hadzabe, Barabaig and Maasai have organized themselves and their struggles around the concept and movement of Indigenous Peoples.

In addition, various policies, strategies and programs are continuously being developed that do not reflect the interests of Indigenous Peoples in terms of access to land and natural resources, basic social services and justice. Resulting in an increasingly political environment, hostile and deteriorating.

Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania

It is estimated that Tanzania has a total of 125-130 ethnic groups, which fall 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 organized 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 it is difficult to arrive at exact figures since the ethnic groups are not included in the population census, it is estimated that the Maasai in Tanzania has 430,000 people, the Datoga group to which Barabaig belongs has 87,978 people, the Hadzabe 1,000 and the Akiye 5,268 people.

Although the means of subsistence of these groups are diverse, they all share a strong attachment to the land, different identities, vulnerability and marginalization. They also experience similar problems in relation to the insecurity of land tenure, poverty and inadequate political representation.

Violations of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania

Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania continue to suffer human rights violations. The human rights situation of pastoralists in the Morogoro region worsened at the end of December 2016 and the beginning of 2017, when Indigenous Peoples were evicted in the districts of Kilosa, Mvomero and Morogoro Vijijini.

This was driven by a recent eviction operation declared in December 2016 by the Regional Commissioner of Morogoro, the Minister of the Interior and the 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 pastoralist pastures in Western Kilimanjaro is one. There were other attempts to grab land related to attempts to annex pastoralist villages to national parks and game reserves, such as the case of the village of Kimotorok in northern Tanzania.

The eviction attempts in Loliondo were concealed within the broad justification for the "conservation of wildlife" of the Serengeti ecosystem, an excuse that has long been used to undermine pastoral livelihoods in the Loliondo area.

The development of infrastructure also causes the dispossession of lands for Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania. One of the most serious cases is the conflict in Hai district, in northern Tanzania, between seven mainly Masai pastoralist villages, on the one hand, and Kilimanjaro airport, on the other.

Maasai in Loliondo win important appeal

On 29 November, four Maasai Indigenous communities in Loliondo, Tanzania celebrated a rare win on their long road to justice as the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) upheld their appeal of a September 2022 case.

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Maasai delegation meets with European governments and politicians on eviction crisis

02.06.2023 (EUROPE) -- A Maasai delegation concluded a two-week tour in Europe, where they engaged with government and European Union (EU) representatives, faith-based and civil society groups across Germany, Austria, Italy and Belgium. The delegation aimed to secure international support against the ongoing evictions from their homeland in the Loliondo and Ngorongoro areas of Arusha Region, Tanzania. The advocacy tour generated an important wave of solidarity from European counterparts.

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The Indigenous World 2023: 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 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 Akie and Hadzabe, and the pastoralist Barabaig and Maasai.

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The impact of conservation on Indigenous Peoples: a case study of the Loliondo pastoralists in Tanzania


In Africa, the protected area model known as "fortress conservation" is encroaching on Indigenous lands and infringing on their rights. A very clear case is that of the Maasai people in Loliondo, in whose ancestral lands and territory the Tanzanian government wants to create a conservation area in the form of a Game Reserve. As a result, the Maasai communities have suffered forced evictions and human rights violations. Instead of recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge about how to protect nature, the fortress conservation methods regrettably undermine Indigenous ways of life and endanger the balance of their ecosystems.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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