Tanzania Is Uprooting 40,000 People For the Most Despicable Reason

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

More than 40,000 indigenous Masai people are going to be evicted from their ancestral homelands in Tanzania's Serengeti national park by the end of the year. But instead of the usual culprits of mass displacement — conflict, drought or environmental degradation — the indigenous people are being driven from their home because the Dubai royal family wants to make the Masai's land into their own private reserve.

The reason isn't to admire animals either, or protect the dwindling populations of beautiful wildlife that dot the plain. No, it's so the royal family can continue one of their favorite activities: hunting big game.

Source: Getty Images


Last year, the Tanzanian government resisted the purchase, proposing a "wildlife corridor" instead. But the deal, brokered by the luxury safari company Ortelo Business Corporation, is back on the negotiating table, the Guardian reported. The company was created by an official from the United Arab Emirates who has close ties to the royal family.

The government offered the Masai an estimated $463,000 in compensation last year, an amount that would be funneled into socioeconomic development projects. The Masai rejected the offer, sending one message: Money can't buy their ancestral homelands.

"I feel betrayed," Samwel Nangiria, coordinator of the local Ngonett civil society group, told the Guardian. "One billion is very little and you cannot compare that with land. It's inherited. Their mothers and grandmothers are buried in that land. There's nothing you can compare with it."

The Guardian reached out to Tanzania's natural resources and tourism ministry and the response was telling: "It's the first I've heard of it. I'm currently out of the office and can't comment properly," the representative said.

As negotiations continue, the Masai will pursue other methods of protest, including a court injunction on the purchase. They may also become an influential voting bloc in next year's elections.

Source: Getty Images

In an effort to bring international pressure, the online activism site Avaaz is leading a campaign against the hunting reserve. Its online petition Stop the Serengeti Sell-off has attracted nearly 1.8 million signatures. In 2013, a concerted effort between international activists including Avaaz and the Masai led to a land rights victory. Both are hoping to repeat the success.

"The Masai stare out from every tourism poster, but Tanzania's government wants to kick them off their land so foreign royalty can hunt elephants there," Alex Wilks, the Avaaz campaign director, told the Guardian.

h/t Salon

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Coleen Jose

Coleen Jose is a multimedia journalist and documentary photographer based in New York City writing on international news and U.S. foreign policy for Mic. Previously, she reported across the Philippines for GlobalPost and Scientific American. She has also reported on environmental exploitation as a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and examines the role of climate change in global security.

MORE FROM

Twin bombings in Pakistan market kill at least 15

This story is breaking.

Federal judge blocks deportations of Iraqi Christians

The ACLU celebrated the decision as a "life-saving action" temporarily keeping Chaldean Christians from facing religious persecution in Iraq.

Johnny Depp jokes about assassinating Donald Trump

"It's been a while," Depp said, "and maybe it's time."

Trump says he finds special counsel Mueller's relationship with James Comey "bothersome"

Trump says "virtually everybody agrees" that there's been no collusion or obstruction of justice.

'Hot Mic' podcast: GOP Senate health care, Comey tapes, 2016 election data stolen

The important stories to get you caught up for Friday

Watchdog groups sue Trump for deleting tweets, allegedly violating Presidential Records Act

Trump's deleted tweets may come back to haunt him.

Twin bombings in Pakistan market kill at least 15

This story is breaking.

Federal judge blocks deportations of Iraqi Christians

The ACLU celebrated the decision as a "life-saving action" temporarily keeping Chaldean Christians from facing religious persecution in Iraq.

Johnny Depp jokes about assassinating Donald Trump

"It's been a while," Depp said, "and maybe it's time."

Trump says he finds special counsel Mueller's relationship with James Comey "bothersome"

Trump says "virtually everybody agrees" that there's been no collusion or obstruction of justice.

'Hot Mic' podcast: GOP Senate health care, Comey tapes, 2016 election data stolen

The important stories to get you caught up for Friday

Watchdog groups sue Trump for deleting tweets, allegedly violating Presidential Records Act

Trump's deleted tweets may come back to haunt him.