Arrests of Maasai in Tanzania

Massive doubts about the reasoning of the authorities

Two dozen of the Maasai who were arrested as of June 28, 2022, are still in jail. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the circumstances under which they were arrested give rise to the assumption that there are political reasons behind their prolonged arrests. „The arrests took place in the course of protests against the ongoing expulsion of many Maasai people. There are plans for a luxurious hunting resort in their traditional settlement areas – mainly for tourists from Dubai,” stated Nadja Grossenbacher, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. Apparently, a policeman was killed with a spear in the course of the protests. Among the many Maasai who were arrested, there are ten Maasai leaders, including the elders of three villages that had successfully brought legal proceedings against the planned eviction before the East African Court of Justice.  

The arrestees are accused of a conspiracy to murder. The court proceedings are scheduled for Friday this week. The ten leaders were arrested following a meeting with the district commissioner, who had subpoenaed them. On the same day, ten more people were arrested and brought to Kisongo Prison. According to reports, they were initially accused of illegally passing on information regarding the protests – for which they are said to have been tortured. Later, they were added to the proceedings regarding the alleged conspiracy to murder. Two days later, 5 more people were arrested – and another two five days later. Three of these 27 Maasai have meanwhile been released.

„Due to the circumstances of the arrests, the entire lawsuit appears to be construed. It is hardly believable that 24 persons could have conspired to commit a single spear attack, but the fact that the elders of several villages – those that initiated a lawsuit – are among the defendants makes the arrests even more suspect,” Grossenbacher added. „It is more plausible that the authorities are trying to intimidate the Maasai protesters to ensure a timely opening of the profitable trophy hunting facilities.” The forced eviction of up to 150,000 Maasai is to be seen as a clear violation of international law and a violation of a ruling of the East African Court of Law in 2018. Against this background, the STP demanded the 24 arrestees to be released immediately.