The development follows the alleged encroachment on traditional Maasai land and dwellings, and the possible eviction of 150,000 members of the tribe, to make way for a game reserve in the north of the country.
In a statement, the group of nine rights experts cited reports that Tanzanian security personnel had fired live ammunition and “tear gas” at Maasai guarding land earmarked for development in Ngorongoro district.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the best-known sites in East Africa and is home to the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, a protected volcanic area that provides a refuge for wildlife and is the centerpiece of the surrounding UNESCO World Heritage Site. , which borders the Serengeti National Park.
dozens of injured
The confrontation resulted in the death of a policeman and with a balance of some 30 people injured, according to the experts, who affirmed that the Maasai representatives alleged that “there were no genuine efforts to consult them” and that they have learned the details of the eviction. provided. of leaked documents.
The press release issued on behalf of the experts by the OHCHR human rights office said that on June 6, following a closed-door meeting, the Arusha Regional Commissioner announced the decision to convert 1,500 square kilometers from 4,000 square kilometers of designated village land comprising Loliondo Controlled game area, in a game reserve.
“The change would involve evictions from the villages of Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo and Arash, that could displace up to 70,000 indigenous Maasai”, the statement said.
The decision was made despite a 2018 injunction from the East African Court of Justice and the fact that the Court is expected to rule on June 22 on a legal challenge to the eviction of the Maasai from their land in this area.
Around 700 members of the security forces were deployed to the area, where they set up tents to start demarcating the land, and on June 9 the police put up markers to delimit the game reserve, but the local Maasai removed them and they stayed overnight to guard the site. .
When the security forces returned at dawn, they began firing live ammunition and tear gas against the Maasai, according to the OHCHR press release.
Another situation has been developing in the adjacent Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where authorities have reportedly been advance plans to evict some 80,000 Maasai from their ancestral lands.
“Under such conditions, it seems impossible to guarantee that the relocation of the Maasai from the area will not lead to forced evictions and arbitrary displacement under international law,” the UN experts noted.
“We are concerned about Tanzania’s plans to displace some 150,000 Maasai from the Ngorongoro and Loliondo Conservation Area without their free, prior and informed consent, as required by international human rights law and standards.
“This will cause irreparable harm and could amount to dispossession, forced eviction and arbitrary displacement prohibited by international law.”, the UN experts warned.
‘Physical and cultural survival’ on the line
“It could endanger the physical and cultural survival of the Maasai in the name of ‘nature conservation’, safari tourism and trophy hunting, ignoring the relationship the Maasai have traditionally had with their lands, territories and resources. and its stewardship role in protecting biodiversity.
The experts called on the Tanzanian government to “immediately halt plans for the relocation of people living in Loliondo and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and begin consultations with the Maasai Indigenous Peoples, including direct contact with the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council.” , to jointly define the current challenges for the environment. conservation and the best ways to solve them, maintaining a conservation approach based on human rights”.
They also urged the Tanzanian authorities to “demonstrate transparency” by accepting requests for external scrutiny, including responding to country visit requests from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. Rights of indigenous peoples.
The special rapporteurs appointed by the Human Rights Council are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Council. They work on a voluntary basis, are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their investigative work.