Tanzanian government seals off national park

A means to cover up the expulsion of the Maasai

A few days ago the Tanzanian government stopped granting observation missions access to the Ngorongoro National Park in the north of the country. According to local sources, the government is responsible for an escalation of violence against the Maasai – an attempt to drive them out of their traditional settlement areas. “The arrests, harassment, and threats of last weekend show why the Tanzanian government decided to seal off the Ngorongoro National Park since last week,” stated Sarah Reinke, head of the human rights department of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). “The police forces and rangers in the parks – partly financed with grants from Germany – are using brute force against Maasai who refuse to leave their land. The German KfW should freeze these funds, or it will be partly responsible for the violence.”

This weekend, the Tanzanian human rights lawyer Joseph Oleshangay, who will be honored with the Human Rights Award of the City of Weimar in December, stated: “On Saturday, the entrance of the Ngorongoro Parks was guarded by around 60 armed security forces when I wanted to visit the park with my family of 8. They blocked the entrance. They told us ‘If you gain access somehow, we will carry you out as corpses’”. Over the last three weeks, 53 Maasai were arrested in the town Endulen alone, including the political and traditional representatives of the community. Last Saturday, two women – a nursing mother and a 66-year-old – were arrested. One of the women had spoken out against the ‘resettlement’ to Msomera on social media.” 

“Nobody is allowed to get their own picture of the situation – and even delegations of representatives of the European Parliament and UNSECO were denied access. German money should not play a role in financing the violence. The Tanzanian government is committing serious human rights violations under the guise of nature conservation,” Reinke added. “Germany must stop all financial transactions and demand a full investigation into the violence at Ngorongoro National Park. We also emphasized this in a letter to Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze.”

Apparently, the concerted expulsion campaign is getting more and more violent. Thus, there have been systematic measures to keep the Maasai from getting medical aid through the “Medical Flying Doctors” over the last 16 months. The government prohibited 146 emergency flights and the treatment of 9,294 patients. It was not possible to vaccinate 31,628 children and to examine 7,192 pregnant women.

The government of Tanzania is planning to establish a “natural reserve” in the north of the country. To this end, local security forces are driving away the Maasai by force. According to the government’s current plans, 80,000 people are to be forced to leave the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Federal Republic of Germany is one of Tanzania’s most important international sponsors. Thus, the KfW provided 45 million Euros for nature conservation projects in 2021 alone.