Tanzania: “UNESCO Mission in Maasai settlement area should be terminated!”
The Zoological Society Frankfurt acts as a stirrup holder for the Tanzanian government and its expulsion plans
From February 3 to 9, the UNESCO mission to Tanzania will investigate allegations of human rights violations against the Maasai living in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). FIAN, Survival International Germany, and the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticized that mission was not publicly announced and that the local Maasai communities were not consulted.
The Maasai had repeatedly submitted reports on – sometimes violent – expulsions, human rights violations, and harassment to various UN bodies, including UNESCO, calling for such a mission; for example in a petition to UNESCO in 2021. On February 4, 2024, they then learned from informal sources that UNESCO was conducting an official investigation on site. Thus, the mission should only be allowed to negotiate with government-appointed representatives.
According to reports, one of the original members of the UNECSO mission was removed at the government’s request, raising further doubts about the independence and transparency of the mission’s work.
However, the government of Tanzania invited the Zoological Society Frankfurt (Zoologische Gesellschaft Frankfurt, ZGF) for talks with the UNESCO-Mission. According to our knowledge, the society provided the UNESCO mission with a biased report highlighting an alleged negative environmental impact of the Maasai’s land use. The ZGF had already criticized the coexistence of the Maasai and the wild animals in the NCA as a “lose-lose-situation” for the Maasai, the animals, and nature conservation efforts.
Thus, the ZGF is apparently once again – willingly – participating in orchestrated measures against the Maasai, in plans to undermine their land rights. The ZGF had repeatedly emphasized that it was not involved in any human rights violations or forced relocations in the course of local conservation work. In 2023, however, the ZGF had supported a land use plan that intended to deprive the Maasai of large areas of land that were originally registered as village land. As a result, the German Development Ministry (BMZ) ended its funding for this process in June 2023.
The local and international organizations that joined the MISA (Maasai International Solidarity Alliance) – including FIAN, Survival International, and the Society for Threatened Peoples – are now calling on UNESCO to immediately ensure that the affected local communities will be heard. If UNESCO is unable to ensure the transparency and inclusivity of this mission, it should abandon the mission and work towards creating a legitimate framework in which the Maasai can participate in an open process based on the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), as was previously demanded. The German Foreign Ministry – which is responsible for matters concerning UNESCO – should intervene immediately and ensure a mission in accordance with UNESCO’s rules of procedure.
Further detailed information (in German) can be found in MISA’s monthly newsletter: https://www.fian.de/was-wir-machen/fallarbeit/tansania-maasai/misa-newsletter/
Roman Herre, FIAN Deutschland: +49 1520-7067302, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christoph Hahn, Society for Threatened Peoples: +49 551/49906-27, email@example.com
Linda Poppe, Survival International: firstname.lastname@example.org