The Maasai are a pastoralist society, with a strong connection to the land. The Tanzanian government is forcing the Maasai out of their homes
"The Tanzania government doesn't want the Maasai because people coming here don't want to see the Maasai. Before we didn't think too much (or too badly) about tourism but now we understand that tourism is people coming with money, which makes the government think 'If we move the Maasai, more people will come here with money'."
At the start of June, the Tanzanian government announced their plan to "upgrade" Loliondo Game Controlled Area to a Game Reserve: which in practice means that Maasai houses and grazing will be banned.
On June 8 dozens of police vehicles and an estimated 700 officers arrived in Loliondo to mark out this new area.
On June 10 they fired at Maasai who were protesting efforts to evict them: at least 18 men and 13 women were shot, and many more were wounded with machetes. One person is confirmed dead. In the days that followed the police went house-to-house in Maasai villages, beating and arresting those they believed had distributed images of the violence or took part in the protests. A 90-year-old man was beaten by police because his son was accused of filming the shooting. Thousands of Maasai including children are reported to have fled into the bush. A dozen people have been arrested.
The brutality in Loliondo reveals the true face of conservation: daily violations of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities so wealthy tourists can hunt or go on "safari" in so-called "Protected Areas." These abuses are systemic and are built into the dominant racist and colonial model of conservation.
Indigenous Peoples have been living in the most biodiverse places in the world for generations: these territories are now deemed to be important nature conservation areas precisely because the original inhabitants took such good care of their land and wildlife. We can no longer turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed in the name of conservation. This model of conservation is deeply inhumane and ineffective and must be changed now. Protected Areas are failing to save biodiversity and are alienating the local people – those best placed to protect their lands.
As a Maasai leader explained: "Without us the animals will be killed. We are the real conservationists. This is our land, and we won't leave."