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Maasai Leaders Across Tanzania Raise Alarm Over Further ‘Land Grab’ Plans by Govt

They urge authorities to abandon plans to take natives’ lands and turn them into game reserves. The government says it just upholds the law.

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Dar es Salaam. Maasai leaders from different parts of Tanzania came out earlier this week to warn against what they perceive as another attempt by authorities in the East African nation to grab more land their community members use for grazing and turn it into game reserves.

The traditional Maasai leaders, known as Laigwananis, issued the warning during their council meeting on April 14, 2024, in Arusha, where they pleaded with relevant authorities to abandon their plans to prevent conflicts between farmers and herders in the country and further antagonism between their community and the government.

The Maasai community’s leaders’ accusation is based on a preliminary report the government released in January this year to assess game reserves in northern Tanzania as part of its mission to protect the ecology of the respective areas and prevent human-wildlife interactions.

The 70-page report, directed at the Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources Angellah Kairuki, notes an unprecedented human-wildlife interaction in at least five game-controlled areas of Natron, Longido, Mto wa Mbu, Simanjiro, and Lolkisale, which calls for intervention.

The report reveals that about 80 villages have been established in the game-controlled areas mentioned. It advises the government to “do something” to solve the challenge and facilitate proper conservation of the areas without outlining specific measures to achieve that goal.


The report’s ambiguity left Maasai leaders from the mentioned areas worried about their communities’ future. Joseph Laizer, the chairperson of the Laigwananis association in Tanzania, interpreted the suggestion as a possibility for the government to nationalise their grazing areas.

READ MORE: Over 100 Maasai Threaten to Return to Ngorongoro Following Claims of Abandonment

Mr Laizer said that the report gives the impression that these villagers might have invaded these areas, which makes their destruction legitimate. Still, he noted that the villages have been there longer than the game-controlled areas in question.

“When the government drew up the mentioned game-controlled areas, herders were there, but this report suggests otherwise,” Mr Laizer said during the Laigwananis’ council meeting. “If the report is genuine, then we plead to our government to abandon any plan to destroy these villages. Where will our people go should such a plan go ahead?”

During an interview with The Chanzo, chief government spokesperson Mobhare Matinyi did not deny the report’s genuineness. He said that if authorities want to remove people who have invaded a respective controlled area, such an exercise happens lawfully and considers all the rights of relocated people.

No land grabbing

“There is no land grabbing,” Mr Matinyi answered when asked if he considered such an act a land grabbing exercise. “You have invaded a controlled area and are ordered to leave. How does that become a land-grabbing exercise?”

It is the latest episode in the broader discord between authorities and members of Maasai communities nationwide. These communities have been accusing the government of being determined to rob them of their ancestral lands to pave the way for high-end tourism under the pretext of conservation. 

READ MORE: Maasai People From Ngorongoro Yearn for Rights Their Fellow Tanzanians Enjoy

However, authorities have insisted that its wildlife management efforts are not pretence. They note that increased human and livestock populations in the game-controlled areas and game reserves pose a significant risk to the areas’ ecology and sustainability, necessitating measures to prevent further dangers.

Enforcing these measures can turn violent. In June 2022, for instance, violent clashes erupted in the Ololosokwan village in Loliondo after authorities demarcated 1,500 square kilometres of village land and turned it into a protected area. Police had to use live bullets to disperse natives who were protesting against the plan.

One police officer was killed during the violence, with dozens of Maasai people injured. About 20 natives were charged with the murder of the police officer, a charge authorities later dropped following both local and international pressure.

Similar cases

According to information shared during the council meeting of Maasai traditional leaders in Arusha on April 14 this year, several other conflicts of a similar nature have been reported in other parts of the country. 

For instance, authorities are accused of demarcating 115 square kilometres of village land in Kimotoro, Simanjiro, which was added to the Mkungunero Game Reserve and Tarangire National Park.

READ MORE: Think Tank Reveals ‘Serious Issues’ With Maasai ‘Relocation’ From Ngorongoro

Maasai leaders also accuse the government of planning to take the 9989 square kilometres of land belonging to 26 villages, with a population of 126,116, in the Simanjiro district under the pretext of upgrading game-controlled areas, which they claim is against the law.

Maasai leaders claimed that many other land-grabbing activities are occurring across the country, including in Kilindi, Simanjiro, Ngorongoro, Kiteto, Monduli, Hai, Same and Mwanga districts. 

They lay down several recommendations through which authorities can resolve their differences with the Maasai people in the country.

“The government should abandon the recommendations shared by the preliminary report to assess game reserves in northern Tanzania,” the leaders’ statement reads. “It should cease its operations in expanding game reserves into areas used by herders for residence and grazing.”

But Mr Matinyi insisted that the government does not intend to remove the Maasai people from any of the lands they currently use, noting that the ongoing operations seek only to protect designated areas from further damage to their ecology and sustainability.

“The government is required by the law to ensure these areas’ protection,” Mr Matinyi told The Chanzo. “That’s all the government is doing, upholding the law. There’s no plan whatsoever to remove Maasai people from their land.”

Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo’s journalist from Dar es Salaam. He is available at

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