Dar es Salaam. Amnesty International urged the government of Tanzania on Wednesday to immediately halt “the violent forced eviction of the Indigenous Maasai community in Loliondo,” and launch an urgent investigation into the security crackdown which has left dozens of people injured, many missing and a police officer killed.
In a statement, the international human rights organisation asked the government to end the security operation immediately and suspend any land acquisition plans until the community has given their free, prior and informed consent in genuine consultations.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said in a statement that the “unlawful forced eviction” is “shocking in both its scale and brutality.”
“The Tanzanian authorities should never have allocated this area to a private business without first consulting the Maasai community, whose livelihoods depend on their ancestral land,” Muchena said. “If this land confiscation goes ahead, the Maasai community’s livelihoods and way of life are in jeopardy.”
Muchena said that Tanzanian authorities must halt the ongoing demarcation and security operation in Loliondo, and begin genuine consultations with the community, adding: “They must ensure there are sufficient remedies offered to all affected persons and investigate the appalling violence which has taken place in recent days.”
The government of Tanzania has been facing criticism lately for its attempt to rid the Ngorongoro conservation area of its native people, which include those from the Maasai tribe.
Last week, police reportedly used live bullets to disperse community members in the Ololosokwan village in Loliondo 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 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.
On Wednesday, unconfirmed reports circulated online alleging that some Members of Parliament have been summoned to police for interrogation, accused of sedition and convincing people not to obey the government’s orders.
The MPs – Kitila Mkumbo (Ubungo), Emmanuel Oleshangay (Ngorongoro) and Christopher Ole-Sendeka (Simanjiro), all from the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) – have been vocal in their protests against the government’s plan to ‘relocate’ over 70,000 Indigenous Maasai people from Ngorongoro to designated areas in Handeni and Simanjiro.
Reports on Wednesday also suggested that a journalist with the Wasafi Media Potte Mmanga was arrested in Arusha, although police in the region denied holding the journalist when asked by reporters. It was also not immediately established if Mmanga was arrested in connection with the ongoing Ngorongoro saga.
“Tanzanian authorities must conduct prompt, effective, and independent investigations into this horrific campaign of alleged human rights violations, including killing, arbitrary arrest and detention of people during this land acquisition process,” said Amnesty’s Deprose Muchena.
“Perpetrators must be brought to justice in fair trials,” he added.