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Much-Anticipated But Highly Controversial ‘Epic Tanzania Tour’ Launches As Criticisms Heighten

Tourism Minister Kairuki will grace a dinner gala at the famous Gran Melia Hotel in the tourist town of Arusha, where the event will launch.

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Dar es Salaam. Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Angellah Kairuki will launch the much-anticipated and highly controversial luxury tennis-themed safari in Ngorongoro this evening as more human rights organisations come forward to criticise the event.

Last night, Dr Hassan Abbasi, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, received world-renowned tennis legends John and Patrick McEnroe, expected to host the event dubbed the Epic Tanzania Tour, together with 80 other famous people who will participate.

On Friday, a poster the ministry shared on X, formerly Twitter, announced that Ms Kairuki would grace a dinner gala at the famous Gran Melia Hotel in the tourist town of Arusha, where the event will be launched. 

Priced at US$24,990 per person for single occupancy, the eight-day expedition has been marketed as a “truly extraordinary experience to explore Africa’s most iconic landscapes.” 

A partnership between the government of Tanzania and U.S.-based travel firm Insider Expeditions, the tour promises 120 participants a tennis match between the McEnroe brothers, a visit to the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, a hot-air balloon flight over the savannah, champagne breakfasts, and scenic safari game drives.

READ MORE: Tanzania’s Activists Up in Arms Over Planned ‘Epic Tanzania Tour’ in Ngorongoro

But the initiative, which President Samia Suluhu Hassan has welcomed, faces criticisms from human rights groups, describing it as a way for the government to clean its image in the face of its controversial plan to “relocate” indigenous people of Ngorongoro to other parts of the country.

A mockery

In a statement published Friday, Human Rights Watch urged players involved in the tour to use their leverage to call out the government for the human rights violations in the area instead of ignoring them.

The Epic Tanzania Tour risks making a mockery of the plight of pastoralist Maasai communities that live in [Ngorongoro], and sportswashing negative scrutiny of the government’s human rights violations in the area,” the group’s researcher Oryem Nyeko writes.

“Tourism should not happen at the expense of Indigenous communities, who are being forcefully relocated under the guise of conservation,” he noted. The government denies using force in the exercise, claiming that it carries out the activity voluntarily.

The planned event will come after almost two years since the government launched a controversial operation to “relocate” people from Ngorongoro to other areas to ensure proper conservation of the areas most used for tourist and game reserve purposes.

READ MORE: Maasai People Sue Tanzania at EACJ Over ‘Forceful Eviction’ Attempts from Ngorongoro

Authorities say the human population in the areas has unprecedently shot up, putting both the lives of human beings and wildlife in jeopardy.

In the case of Ngorongoro, which UNESCO has inscribed as a World Heritage Site, authorities claim that the human population there has increased from only 8,000 in 1959 to 110,000 in 2022.

The government has identified two areas where people who will offer to leave Ngorongoro  “voluntarily” will be relocated. They are Msomera in Tanga and Kitwai in Manyara.

In Loliondo, the government decided to form a new game-controlled area, the Poloreti Game-controlled area, on a piece of land locals consider crucial for grazing, especially during the dry season.

While authorities say this is to protect an important piece of land, which is the water source in all of Ngorongoro, communities around have been complaining that this is to the benefit of game hunters who now use the area exclusively.

READ MORE: UN Experts Warn of Escalating Violence Amidst Plans to ‘Forcibly Evict Maasai’ From Ngorongoro

On both Ngorongoro and Loliondo, locals and rights groups have slammed the entire exercises as forceful and arbitrary, total violations of people’s fundamental human rights.

Human Rights Watch said it wrote to Insider Expeditions and the McEnroe brothers to share information about these alleged rights violations, asking them to publicly speak out against human rights violations by the Tanzanian government there. 

The group says it didn’t receive a response.


It quotes Edward Porokwa, the director of the Arusha-based Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organization’s Forum, who described the Epic Tanzania Tour as “irresponsible,” noting that the event “highlights how tourism doesn’t care about human rights.”

Joseph Oleshangay, who has been very vocal in his opposition to the “relocation” exercise, told The Chanzo on November 20 that the planned tour is a “mockery” to his Maasai community, which has been complaining about state violence for some time now.

“It just shows you how people are so insensitive to our cries,” Mr Oleshangay, a professional lawyer who works with the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), said during the interview. “It is a mockery to us, the Maasai, but also to every person who has been complaining about the state violence directed at us.”

READ MORE: African Commission on Human Rights ‘Gravely Concerned’ About the Fate of Indigenous People in Ngorongoro

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