Dar es Salaam. Some Maasai people from Ngorongoro have come forward to criticise the manner in which the ‘relocation’ exercise is being implemented, claiming that all indications point to a direction that the exercise is far from voluntary as authorities have repeatedly claimed.
The criticism of the exercise took place during a discussion between Maasai from Ngorongoro that was hosted by a local online media outlet whereas reports of corruption and intimidation were said to accompany the entire exercise of ‘relocating’ Maasai people from Ngorongoro to Handeni, Tanga.
One of those who took part in the discussion is Lushipa Lyeni, a Maasai man from Ngorongoro, who pointed out that the ongoing exercise has every quality but not of being a voluntary one.
“You call a decision voluntary when a person decides to leave of his/her own free will, without being provided with anything. When you leave after being convinced that it is good to do so. Without being bribed. That’s what voluntary looks like,” he said.
But as far as people leaving Ngorongoro is concerned, that’s not what is happening, he added.
“There is a bribe involved,” Lyeni alleged. “That is why you find that people who leave do so and go beyond that by saying bad things about the [Maasai] community. Also, most of these people [who leave] are those without livestock. They are people who just came to Ngorongoro and established settlements there. They are not people who are indigenously from Ngorongoro.”
This, however, is in sharp contrast to what the government said on March 11, 2022, that only people who will willingly offer to move from Ngorongoro will be relocated to Handeni where they will be provided with the land for housing and animal rearing.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said then that a total of 86 households, with over 453 people, have registered themselves, ready to move from Ngorongoro to Handeni.
The government seeks to ‘relocate’ Maasai and other indigenous people from Ngorongoro, arguing that their continued existence there puts the UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage site at high risk of losing its status.
According to the government, the number of livestock and of people have increased on the site, putting it at the risk of losing its status.
But according to Kasale Ng’wana, another Maasai who spoke during the discussion, the number of livestock in Ngorongoro that the government claims does not reflect what actually exists on the ground.
“What happened is that authorities have identified a number of no-go areas for livestock within Ngorongoro,” he says. “This explains why now it is very normal to find livestock along the roads. The number of livestock seems very big because of this imposed condition.”
Pakaso Lemuna, another Maasai man from Ngorongoro, called the claim that the Maasai are responsible for threatening the destruction of Ngorongoro “a holly lie.”
He said that a Maasai never build a house near a source of water or cuts down trees for charcoal.
“If there is anything that will lead to the death of Ngorongoro is the arbitrary investment that is taking place within Ngorongoro, like building big hotels around sources of water,” Lemuna explained. “If you go to the [Ngorongoro] Crater today, there are more than thirty roads. That is what will kill Ngorongoro.”
Lemuna wants the government to stop harassing his community leaders who hold different opinions from that of authorities when they decide to make those opinions public.
Ng’wana, on his hand, sees no problem with the government supporting people who leave voluntarily from Ngorongoro and relocate to Handeni.
“But this support should not come at the expense of those people who chose to remain in Ngorongoro,” he explained. “People who remain should not only be provided with basic social services but also their fundamental human rights should be respected.”