AFRICA: An appeal by a group of Maasai villagers who claimed the Tanzanian government used force to drive them off their ancestral grounds in the north of the nation was dismissed by a regional court on Friday.
Rights organisations argued that the decision sent a dangerous signal that native peoples may be driven from their land in the name of conservation.
Four Maasai settlements, according to the government, are situated inside the Serengeti National Park’s limits, which were originally drawn during British military rule for gaming but later changed for conservation by succeeding administrations.
Land issues between the Maasai people and the management of the national park first surfaced in 2012, but by 2017, the government had ordered the locals to leave, and security personnel had later forcibly removed them.
In 2018, the local East African Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction to stop the evictions while it awaited a final ruling.
The communities, according to rights organizations and the Maasai tribe, are outside the park’s boundaries, and the residents were the targets of a brutal police crackdown meant to drive them off their ancestral lands to create room for trophy hunting by tourists and conservation.
Three justices at the East African Court of Justice ruled on Friday that the lawsuit lacked validity because the Maasai had not sufficiently established that the eviction had occurred outside of the park.
They said that a lot of the purportedly violent and gruesome evidence was hearsay or contradictory. A Maasai community representative predicted that the residents will file an appeal.
The Maasai were represented by Jebra Kambole, who stated, “We are not satisfied with the verdict and we believe the court erred in examining the facts we had submitted.”
The verdict was a setback for the Maasai and indigenous peoples all around the world, according to Fiore Longo of Survival International, an organization that advocates for their rights.
According to Longo, “The court has sent a clear message to the world community that evictions and human rights violations against indigenous peoples should be accepted if they are done in the name of conserving the environment.”
The international community has long criticised Tanzania for its use of force against the Maasai. The European Parliament tabled a resolution in 2015 denouncing the administration for breaching its citizens’ human rights.
The government disputes the claim that their rights have been violated.