Dar es Salaam. The government of Tanzania is facing criticism from a number of local and foreign actors for its attempt to rid the Ngorongoro conservation area of its native people, which include those from the Maasai tribe.
The widespread criticism follows heightened tension in the Ololosokwan village in Loliondo where police reportedly used live bullets to disperse community members who were protesting the erection of beacons to demarcate 1,500 km2 of village land that authorities want to be turned into a protected area.
The government said Friday that the exercise seeks to evict nobody and it only aims at protecting the area used for wildebeest migration and animal reproduction from human and livestock activities, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told lawmakers.
Despite Mr Majaliwa’s insistence that there was no fighting going on in Loliondo, tragic photos and videos have been circulating on social media since Friday, showing the native people reeling from injuries.
Some videos showed Maasai people running from what appeared to be the firing of tear gas canisters. A total of 10 native people from the Ololosokwan village were confirmed to have been injured by Friday evening, according to a list of injured people that circulated online.
But Arusha regional commissioner Mr John Mongela doubted the genuineness of the photos circulating online showing injured native people, saying some of them are more than three-year-old.
In a statement published on Instagram, however, Mr Mongela admitted the altercation between police and native people to have taken place, leading to the death of one police officer who was attacked with a spear.
Mr Mongela did not dismiss the fact that there might be native people who may have been injured in the fracas, calling on any native person who might have sustained an injury to come forward so that the government can take care of their medical needs.
“That is the direction of our government,” Mr Mongela told journalists in the early hours of Saturday. “Our government operates under the rule of law principle and all other principles of good governance. And we would like to see the misleading exercise stop.”
Wave of condemnations
Meanwhile, a number of individuals and organisations have come forward to share their perspectives on the matter, putting on the tables some proposals for authorities’ consideration in their efforts to resolve the issue with the native people of Ngorongoro.
Dr Rose Reuben is the executive director of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), a nonprofit that campaigns for women’s and children’s rights. In a statement, she said that the ongoing situation in Ngorongoro disproportionally affects women and children, calling on the government to return to the reconciliation table with native people and find ways to avert the situation.
“TAMWA has witnessed many conflicts being resolved through dialogue and reconciliation,” says Dr Reuben in a Friday’s statement. “We believe that even this conflict can also be resolved without resorting to the use of force or inciting violence that is smearing the nation with human rights violations.”
Opposition ACT-Wazalendo party called on the government to respect the rights of the indigenous people of Loliondo as well as hold to account all government officials who in one way or another were responsible for Friday’s violence, according to a statement by the party’s spokesperson on tourism and natural resources Juliana Mwakang’wali.
The director of communications and protocols with the opposition CHADEMA party John Mrema said in a statement that the party “strongly condemns” the ongoing violations of human rights in Ngorongoro, demanding authorities respect the right to remain in the area by indigenous people.