Dar es Salaam. Indigenous peoples from Ngorongoro have called for the home to the vast volcanic Ngorongoro Crater to be delisted as one of UNESCO’s inscribed world heritage sites, saying doing so would save them from “the persistent persecution and mistreatment by government authorities.”
The call is one among many proposals put forward by the native people of Ngorongoro in their damning 231-page report submitted to Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa on May 26, 2022, in the capital Dodoma.
Titled The Truth, Falsity and Mismanagement: Need for an Interdisciplinary Community-led Multifunctional Landscape Management Model in Ngorongoro, the report contains residents’ opinions on socio-economic, cultural and ecological status in Ngorongoro.
“Given the fact that crimes against citizens of the United Republic of Tanzania [in Ngorongoro] are committed under the guise of protecting international heritage status,” reads the report in part, “We call for urgent delisting of Ngorongoro as a world heritage property.”
The report notes that the world heritage status of Ngorongoro makes authorities “obsessive” with the area, leading them to employ whatever tactics to “secure involuntary relocation of masses” in order to “protect [the] international status accorded by UNESCO.”
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is one of the seven properties inscribed on the World Heritage List in Tanzania. Other heritage sites include the Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara; Serengeti National Park; Selous Game Reserve; Kilimanjaro National Park; Stone Town of Zanzibar; and Kondoa Rock-Art Sites.
Although when it was established in 1959 as a multiple land-use area it was meant that wildlife would co-exist with semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists practicing traditional livestock grazing, the government wants indigenous people out of the site, arguing that increased human and livestock activities there put its world heritage status at risk.
But the report shifts the blame for the ecological destruction of Ngorongoro from the presence of indigenous peoples there to tourism investments, which it accuses of being inconsiderate of the environment. The report calls the number of vehicles entering the crater “excessive” and their associated environmental disturbance “unbearable.”
“For example, in 2018 the Crater floor received 73,514 tourists, which was about 350 tourists per day in peak season,” the report, reviewed by a team of 23 members drawn from a diverse range of professions, explains. “We suggest limiting [the] number of vehicles to [a] maximum threshold of 50 vehicles per day.”
The number of tourist accommodation facilities has also continued to increase steadily from three in 1960 to existing 58 with a capacity of over 620 beds in 2022, the report charges.
“While many tourist facilities translate to huge cash, most of the facilities are located on ecologically sensitive areas comprising wildlife corridors or animal hideouts such as Ndutu/Masek area and the Crater rim,” the report says. “These facilities have impacted ecological integrity of the area involving drained water sources.”
The report also calls for the repeal of every law in Tanzania legalizing “wildlife massacre” dubbed as trophy hunting tourism. This, the report emphasizes, will ensure better wildlife protection in the country.
Relocation: Voluntary or not?
The government has designated two areas – Kitwai village in Simanjiro, Manyara and Msomera village in Handeni, Tanga – where people who will offer to willingly leave Ngorongoro will be relocated and where volunteers will be provided with housing as well as land for grazing.
While the report recommends the voluntary relocation exercise, it points out that the exercise should be constrained to absolute willingness to relocate, and not accompanied by pushes and intimidation.
The report says that the relocation process must be transparent, inclusive, and adhere to native peoples’ free, prior and informed consent. It should also not involve the denial of basic human services, the report demands.
The report’s proposal follows reports on the relocation of development funds from Ngorongoro to Handeni, including those funds aimed at education and healthcare, something that many activists interpreted as a mechanism to force people out of Ngorongoro by depriving them of basic social services.
Given the fact that some of these funds come from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) COVID-19 relief program, the report calls on international monetary agencies and development partners to stop aiding and enabling the government’s targeting of a section of its population, which is Maasai in Ngorongoro.
“[The] International Monetary Fund should investigate money appropriated to the Tanzania government under the guise of COVID-19 relief but ended up being used to sponsor forceful transfer of population from their ancestral territories,” the report urges.
“We call on the Tanzania government and in particular President Samia [Suluhu Hassan] to halt eviction plan [and] abandon targeting life serving services as a means to secure relocation,” the report pleads. “We call on the government to restore, without condition, the functional health, education and other key facilities that enable life back to normalcy within Ngorongoro Conservation Area.”