“Arabs don’t want to see cows and Maasai when they go hunting in Tanzania”

It is known as one of the wonders of the world. Around the verdant mountain ranges of the Rift Valley and the endless plains of the Serengeti Game Park, and at the bottom of the massive Ngorongoro Crater, the nomads of northern Tanzania shared a Garden of Eden with zebras, lions and wildebeest. But white conservationists, Arab hunters, and a growing population undermined coexistence. A crisis erupted in June when riots broke out killing one, displacing people and setting dozens of Maasai shelters on fire.

The Maasai have to leave two areas: in the Loliondi game park they have to make room for hunters, in Ngorongoro for tourists. “The government is selling us to the Arabs,” complains Paul Ole Sarabi in Arusha, northern Tanzania. He is from the Maasai tribe and has just returned from Luliondo, which borders the Serengeti Wildlife Park. This morning he woke up with an elephant in his barn with a fenced yard. “Wild animals feel safe with us, but the Arabs come to shoot them,” he quipped. “The government has started defining our grazing areas for the Arabs, who want to expand their hunting grounds. We oppose it and the government is acting harshly against us. All Maasai are afraid now. If we see a government car, we run. Our area is under martial law.”

According to Tanzanian President Samiya Sulu Ho Hassan, nature in Ngorongoro is in danger if the crater is not depopulated now. “We agreed at the time that Ngorongoro is a special area where people and animals coexist. But now it seems that there are more people than animals. In 1959 eight thousand Maasai lived there, now about a hundred thousand. The government wants to reduce that to about twenty thousand. That means That only Maasai beads are left for cultural tourism.

NRC 121222 / LvdZ / Source: Mapcreator.io

NRC 121222 / LvdZ / Source: Mapcreator.io

Ngorongoro, Lolliondo and Serengeti in northern Tanzania and the neighboring Masai Mara in Kenya form a unique ecosystem in the world. But the question arises again and again whether people actually belong there. In and around Ngorongoro, the government wants the majority of the Maasai – officially on a voluntary basis – to leave the area and settle south in settlement villages established by the government.

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Wild animals and humans don’t get along, many animal conservationists, most of them from Europe, claim. German professor Bernard Grzemek was one of the founders of the Ngorongoro and Serengeti game park protected areas. He wrote 70 years ago: “For a national park to retain its essential character, it must remain a pure wilderness. No one, not even indigenous people, is allowed to live in it.” According to this idea, the colonial government expelled the Maasai from an area of ​​14,763 square kilometers in the Serengeti in the late 1950s. They were said to pose a threat to animals and were not allowed to live in and around the Ngorongoro Crater, an 8,300 square kilometer reserve. Scientists have now come to the conclusion that involving local people is essential for nature conservation.


“What is happening is another theft of land by the Maasai,” says Tanzanian opposition leader Tendo Lesu from his exile in Belgium. “The war against the Maasai has been going on since colonial times.” Warrior peoples ruled East Africa until the end of the nineteenth century. However, in the competition between man and animal, wild animals still had the upper hand. Since then, the Maasai in Tanzania have lost 60 percent of their land to wildlife parks. However, they still dominate the plains of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya with their red and blue shawls. But their little ones no longer walk behind cattle, but ride bicycles. Their savannas are now dotted with schools, churches, and mosques. Factories appear, ancient customs such as female circumcision disappear, agriculture is introduced, and many Maasai are now part of a vocal elite of lawyers and politicians, the pride of their community. The nomadic stereotype is no longer valid.

Also read: Kenyan nomads stopped due to drought: “I wish I had sold my cattle much sooner.”

The highlands around Ngorongoro and Lolliondo have not been affected by the drought, which has killed large numbers of livestock elsewhere in East Africa for years. Still a wonderful green. Around this time each year, more than a million wildebeests and zebras come from the Serengeti to graze and calves before beginning their annual migration to the north.

A grim atmosphere has been created in Tanzania over the debate over nature reserves. The Maasai only want to give information in the back places of Arusha, and they dare not take a stranger to their kral. “The government has a colonial policy of nature conservation,” said Maasai activist and lawyer Joseph Ole Shangai from Ngorongoro. “She says she wants to protect paradise, but it’s not about nature, it’s about money. Tanzania has a lot of wild animals precisely because there are also nomads. We’re not threatening wildlife, we’re natural conservationists.”

In colonial times, Loliondo was reserved for European aristocrats as a hunting ground. Written in the 1950s, hunting authors Ernest Hemingway and Robert Rourke portrayed the population as savages and poachers, called them the brown whopper, and became popular in the white world. President Roosevelt went on a hunting safari there at the beginning of the last century and Winston Churchill shot from the locomotive of the train from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Kenya banned big game hunting in 1978, but the Tanzanian government believes hunting is the best use of land and wildlife. A hunting license can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars; The fisherman brings several times more than one in a million tourists who visit the country every year and leave their mark in the parks with their off-road vehicles, for which large hotels have been built.

landing strip

Since 1993, Ole Sarabi of Loliondo has opposed the arrival of the Otterlo Business Corporation, a tour company in the United Arab Emirates, to which the government has allocated the 1,500 square kilometer Pololeti Game Reserve for exclusive use. Members of the royal family and hundreds of wealthy Arab guests hunt there every year. “The Arabs don’t want to see cows and Masai. They built a luxury lodge in the mountains and a runway where the Airbus can land. When the king hunts there, he takes his army and police with him. In 2007 they first started burning beads to force us to leave the area to the hunters.”

Maasai youths no longer roam after cattle, but ride bicycles

Loliondo became the epicenter of the crisis in June. The Maasai again resisted the evictions and demarcations, and security forces used tear gas and shots were fired. “When we refused to leave, the police started shooting at us,” says Ole Serbaby. One police officer was killed, many injured, and a few hundred Maasai fled across the border into Kenya. “This incident has shocked the entire community; the youth are now ready to take up arms.”

No stone houses

The Maasai first went to court in Arusha in 2017 to stop hunting in their area. The state owns all the land in Tanzania,” but the government can’t just cede land from the Maasai to the Arabs. “The government wants to take over their village land, and that’s against the law,” said Donald Zia, a PALU lawyer who helps with lawsuits. .

Zia considers the current policy of nature outdated and calls it “Keep the castleIt is one of the least densely populated areas in Tanzania, where the Maasai peacefully coexist with wild animals. To protect the Garden of Eden, you have to work with the people, but the strategy is to cleanse the area of ​​people.”

Since its first post-independence president, the socialist Julius Nyerere, Tanzania has always been governed on a strong basis of nationalism, and an aversion to tribalism. The country does not share the special rights recognized by the United Nations for so-called “indigenous peoples”. Nyerere adopted the old Grzimek policy: around the Ngorongoro crater, the Maasai were to remain “primitive”, and were not allowed to build storied stone houses and to farm. A Maasai says, “Don’t enter the reserve with a door or a toilet in front of your house.” “But we also like to ride a bike.”

Expulsion of thousands of Maasai From Loliondo and Ngorongoro they moved to the border area with Kenya, as here in a village in Kenya’s Narok district.

Photo by Daniel Erongo/EPA

A senior official in the region described the matter as a “sensitive matter” and therefore did not want his name to be published in the newspaper. He advocates the displacement of the Maasai tribes who still live around the crater. “They are better off in the new villages the government is building for them now in southern Tanzania,” he says. According to him, the soil is under increasing pressure from people and livestock. “People who say otherwise refuse to change.”

According to the shepherds, there are no indications that the area is being devoured by their livestock due to the increase in population. According to the Masai, the number of wild animals is not declining either. The Maasai do not hunt. They feed their way of life in nature and have intimate knowledge of it. They understand the sounds of birds and animals and part of the year their cows graze next to zebras. “It’s racist,” says Ole Shangai. “There is no better way to explain the insanity of this colonial form of preservation—that we must leave our homeland so that others, whether white tourists or kings or wealthy townspeople, can use our lands as their playgrounds.”

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