There are no logical humanitarian reasons for the displacement of the Maasai from their ancestor’s land. There are even fewer justifiable environmental reasons for drawing boundaries that will limit the Maasai’s access to their ancestor’s land.
However, there are environmental and humanitarian reasons which are justifiable enough for any well-meaning person with integrity and courage to defend the land rights of the Maasai and to protect the natural ecosystem of the Maasai land.
Displacement is a human rights issue because of the negative impacts it imposes on the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the host communities where the IDPs end up.
Displacement or the displaced person refers to people who have had to leave their normal environment, most often because of war or natural disasters.
Currently, when we speak of the Maasai displacement, we are referring to the internal displacement of persons from the Maasai tribe whereby they are being forced to leave their natural environment by means of forceful coercion from the Tanzania government, specifically under the leadership of Samia Suluhu Hassan, who is sadly the first female president of the United Republic of Tanzania.
- Did the Tanzanian government conduct research to find out how the Maasai and the host regions would be affected by the internal displacement before reaching the decision?
- Which indicators did they use to measure the social impacts? How did they determine the criteria of the indicators?
- Did they examine the psychological impacts of forceful displacement?
- What about the direct and indirect impacts of displacement anger?
Poor Governance can be as Bad as Ill-fitting Diapers
Out of ignorance, we may refer to the Tanzania “governance system” thinking it is a system as per our normal understanding of the word.
Governance refers to a clear, controlled, operating mechanism or system of governing within a nation or any organization. It is a system that belongs to a specific group of people and is used to hold its people accountable.
The elements of a sound governance system may include participatory decision-making, representation, fair elections, compliance, accountability, ethical behavior, efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, freedom of speech, the rule of law, competency, capacity, continuous improvement, innovation, openness to change, and securitization.
Having said that, it is quite clear that the government of the United Republic of Tanzania, under the leadership of Samia Suluhu Hassan, does not possess any of the elements which are measurable indicators for good governance.
Poor Governance: A Trademark of Tanzania’s Government?
The citizens of Tanzania have repeatedly seen their government prioritizing personal gains above their interests.
As a country, Tanzania experiences taxpayers’ money being misused, election votes being stolen, opposition party members being harassed, individuals being made to disappear, free speech condemned, opposition leaders imprisoned with false charges, and so on. The list is exhaustive.
The latest of this long list of injustices is the forceful displacement of the Maasai from their ancestral land. The displacement of the Maasai from their ancestor’s land will make them internal refugees within their own country of Tanzania.
A refugee is not only an asylum seeker, although that is the most popular understanding. Refugees can also be people who are (internally) displaced.
The population displacement of the Maasai from their natural environment to another region, even if it is within the same country, is displacement, and therefore, the term “refugee” is apt.
Saying that the actions of the Tanzanian government will inevitably turn the Maasai tribe into refugees within their own country of Tanzania may seem preposterous simply because, as far as most of us know, it has never happened before. But there is a beginning for everything.
The very idea that any Tanzanian, let alone a whole tribal population within Tanzania, can be turned into refugees goes against the Tanzanian culture and against the human rights principles which were promoted by our founding father, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. He identified and chose to use freedom, unity, and peace (Uhuru, Umoja, na Amani) as the foundation stones for building the young nation of Tanzania.
Displacement of any person or persons creates social, economic, political, and environmental instability.
An example of social and economic instability on a family level could be if a father, mother, or child is forcibly removed (displaced) from a family for any reason.
The social and economic impact will be felt on the family and community of which the person comes from, and on the family and host community where the internally displaced person (IDP) will eventually end up.
This simple example of displacement on a family level. If a person who earns an income for the family is removed (displaced), that would mean that the impacts on the family he/she has left behind will have to earn a living to pay the bills for their home, water, electricity, food, and other needs.
It might also mean that if there are children, they might have to stop school to start earning an income, legally or illegally, depending on opportunities and their unique capacity. This means there will be burdens on the children as well as a burden on their community.
For the person displaced, there will be a need to find their place in their new home environment on different levels.
This could also leave the IDP with displacement anger, or other psychological displacement issues. Such issues may be perceived as a danger by the host community and could put internally displaced persons in a vulnerable position socially, economically, and politically. This is why there are relocation processes for most internationally displaced persons who are political refugees.
The relocation process starts from the minute they choose to flee and continues until the moment they reach their host communities as final destinations. The final process of integration usually requires investments of various resources, including professional guidance and other support services.
Forceful displacement of the Maasai population from their natural environment to any other region within Tanzania is an example of bad governance.
Good governance requires that the process and the results are in alignment with what the people need without compromising the future generations from enjoying the same level of satisfaction with their environment.
Anything less than that will not be sustainable because there will be long-term issues between the internal displaced persons and the host communities.
Custodians of Ngorongoro and Loliondo Are Worsening the Social Plight of Indigenous People
Tanzania is a member of the United Nations. As a member of the United Nations, Tanzania has ratified the human rights treaty, which binds all nations which have endorsed it to comply with the standards of universal human rights as agreed.
Human rights are fundamental to all human beings, without discrimination of race, gender, nationality, religion, status, or (with reference to Tanzania) tribe. They include the right to a life of freedom.
Because of the injustices impinged by the government, it is inevitable for the forecasted issues between the Maasai, as IDP, and the host communities to spread throughout the neighboring communities and thus to further attack our society‘s pillars of Uhuru (freedom), Umoja (unity), and Amani (peace).
Attacking the Maasai and forcibly displacing their tribal population is an attack against their freedom and, therefore, a violation of human rights and the international human rights treaty, which Tanzania has ratified as a United Nations member.
How can there be true freedom when one is uncertain of their place in society?
- Are the Maasai not part of the United Republic of Tanzania and, therefore, part of the United Nations?
- Are they not part of a unity that makes the country of Tanzania?
- Are we willing to sacrifice peace because of poor judgments made by the government leaders?
The domino effect of allowing bad governance to grow roots and thrive means:
Tanzanians and the rest of Africa must bear in mind that if we allow the Maasai to be dispossessed of their lands today, this will not be the end of land being dispossessed from other tribes.
If we allow bad leaders to sow the seeds of injustice, disunity, and disharmony, then we are allowing the roots of our own destruction to grow and spread.
Plainly speaking, if the Maasai are not an important part of the unity of Tanzanians today, the rest of the tribes will surely be seen as even less important tomorrow. Peace cannot thrive where there are injustices.
This could be the beginning of a new history, a history whereby leaders who are supposed to be responsible for the welfare of their people are the same leaders who will turn their people into refugees or beggars.
I am saying this with trepidation because the displacement of the Maasai will not only affect their cultural practices and disconnect them from their roots and their ancestors, but it will also compromise their capacity for earning a livelihood.
The Maasai people have lived closely intertwined with their environment for several centuries. They are dependent on resources that are found only within their environment, as much as their environment depends on the Maasai to remain unchanged.
Forcibly disconnecting the Maasai from their natural environment might be psychologically traumatic and might cause them displacement anger, because such bad governance will disempower them by exposing them to the unknown.
Forceful displacement will also make the Maasai vulnerable to diseases, exploitation, poverty, and other unforeseen negative aspects.
Such population displacement will inevitably cause strained social-economic relationships between the internally displaced people and the host communities, which have different tribal practices and have original ownership of their land.
Within strained and restrained contexts, the Maasai and the host communities will have to compete for the same limited economic resources for their livelihoods and for supporting the life they have been accustomed to.
Such a situation is not sustainable because the carrying capacity of an area must be equivalent to the population and their regular practices. Introducing a wholesome population within a host community will inevitably also increase environmental impacts, given the fact that Environmental impacts = number of population and resources used per head x the type of technology used.
Due to the Maasai’s nomadic lifestyle, competition for the limited natural resources such as land and water will also increase the risk of civilian conflicts and thus reduce society safety within the uncontrolled chaos.
Such competition can cause permanent disputes between the Maasai and the host communities, with the primary agent for causing such chaos remaining untouched and thriving from their personal gains.
Land and water disputes tend to turn violent. With reference to the United Nations (UN), “Land conflicts can result from historical injustices, ill-advised government policies, conflicts of interest, corrupt leadership, or more generally from competition over land and resources. “Failure to mitigate the potential land disputes can only be called as such because the United Nations is aware of the situation and the consequences, and it therefore cannot plead ignorance.
The victims within such unnecessary resources, competition, and disputes will be the children, the elderly, and the women.
If the UN is serious about achieving sustainable development goals, then they have to act to ensure that the Maasai people remain untouched and within their natural environment without any aspect destabilizing them.
As for my opinion, anyone who wishes to displace the Maasai is reckless and dangerous. This could be either because they are completely ignorant or because they do not wish well for the Maasai or for Tanzania as a country.
Such decisions should be regarded as serious acts of disrespecting social justice and ignoring the whole concept of human rights.
Killing the Environment: Tanzanian Government is Not the Enemy of Maasai Community Only
Furthermore, the very fact that the Maasai land is “in demand” is because the presence of the Maasai (within their natural environment, which is rich with wild animals) has for many centuries created a healthy, balanced ecosystem due to their traditional practices and the respect of which they treat the land.
By a “healthy ecosystem,” I am not only implying the rich variety of wildebeests, but I also mean the wide variety of natural ancestral medicines which are used worldwide as raw materials for making many of the modern medicines we consume for different ailments.
An ecosystem is what we see as a natural environment because of interactions between the biodiversity of the area, including plants, animals, the soil type, landscape, the weather, the temperature, and the inhabitant’s culture, acting as independent fibers but intertwining to form one fabric.
Ecosystems are not formed overnight. It takes many years, and in the case of the Maasai, it took centuries to achieve such a thriving ecosystem. Any change to an aspect (such as the weather or the culture) within the context will change the natural state of the ecosystem. In some cases, if an invasive aspect is introduced within an ecosystem, the natural species within the ecosystem will perish or move to another ecosystem.
An invasive aspect can be a species that is new to the environment, such as when lice, termites, or cockroaches invade a household and thus cause minor chaos.
An invasive aspect can also be a new technology that makes a certain kind of noise that some species cannot tolerate or survive.
It can be a new plant species that can dominate and kill other species. It can be a new culture that does not nurture the ecosystem and disregards the culture of the natives of the land as inferior.
The Maasai people have a distinctive culture that, by any means, does not match with Arabs, Europeans, or Chinese.
It is their cultural practices that have made the wondrous ecosystem that is now at the risk of being dislodged from their custodianship. In this case, please note that I personally regard the unwanted foreign investors as invasive species.
Destroying The Ecosystems Under Conservation Narrative: Tanzanian Government Is Playing with a Double-Edged Sword
In some (modern) cultures, second cousins are/were expected to marry to keep the wealth within the families.
Cousin’s coupling created genetic abnormalities and increased infertility, caused premature miscarriages, reduced birth rates, and increased mortality rates due to poor heart conditions and poor health for the new generations. Natural environments have similar reactions to human families.
Boundaries anywhere within the Maasai territory will disrupt the natural migration patterns of wildebeests. This means either the animals will have to change routes, or they will be trapped within boundaries that are drawn.
The boundaries will diminish the health of the surviving ecosystem, including the wildebeests, first due to inbreeding which usually leads to inferior health, hereditary abnormalities, poor growth, reduced reproductive efficiency, and increased mortality rates.
Limited grazing grounds for the herbivores will further degrade their numbers by impinging on their health. As the grazing animals are the natural food source for carnivores, the failing health and diminishing numbers of herbivores will further disrupt the food chain and affect the already compromised health (due to inbreeding) of the larger animals.
If the wildebeests change their routes, it will upset the natural balance of the ecosystem, including the plants genome and induce negative impacts on the ecosystem. Within a very short time, similar effects will result as the animal’s health begins to fail, just as in the case of coupling within families.
The reduced health of the animals will also result due to reduced biodiversity along the food chain, including that of plant species which are a natural food source for herbivores, who rely on them for survival and extinction of the insect’s biodiversity since they too rely on plants for food and for laying eggs.
The insects are a source of food for birds; therefore, the extinction of insects due to the extinction of plants will lead to the extinction of birds. Further extinction of other living organisms which depend on plants, insects, herbivores, or birds will result.
In short, the extinction of one species always has a domino effect and unforeseen impacts socially, economically, and environmentally. Naturally, the political dimension will not remain untouched by the escalated impacts.
The cascading environmental effects of removing the Maasai from their natural environment or even setting boundaries are, therefore, too large a risk to take for the sake of making a quick buck from invasive species.
History Will Remember Tanzania Government Atrocities
Other reasons for restraining the Tanzania government from forcibly displacing the Maasai from their natural environment are mainly archaeological. Archaeology helps humans to learn about past societies, and to gain insight into their lives by studying their remains and the remains of their culture.
Archaeological findings within Ngorongoro include fossilized footprints with a link to the evolution of human species within the Olduvai Gorge, such as the Zinjathropus.
According to UNESCO, for over 80 years, Ngorongoro has been subjected to several archaeological research and has yielded results that support the concept of human evolution and the dynamics between humans and the environments collectively over an extensive period of about four million years to the early modern era.
Research within the Ngorongoro continues to discover much evidence linking the modern human with the beginning of human evolution. Such findings have been possible because of the care and respect given to the land by the Maasais, who are the legal custodians of this world heritage we are all proud of.
Displacement of the Maasai will disrupt the natural history of the land. Future generations might be led to believe false narrations of human history and might even wipe out the native Maasai and other natives of the land from historical recordings.
That is a dangerous path to tread, and as custodians of the land of Tanzania and the faithful children of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere as the father of the nation, I would insist that we as Tanzanians have a responsibility, and we should not allow this to happen regardless of the unwanted, outdated Tanzanian constitution which gives the colonizing party of CCM the ultimate power of destruction.
Sustainable development goals (SDG) were created by the United Nations Member States (including Tanzania) in 2015 with the main purpose of ensuring peace and prosperity for the people within the global community, now and for future generations. SDGs cannot be easily accomplished without the pillars of freedom, unity, and peace.
Therefore, while the reasons I have given regarding Maasai displacement might not be enough for Polipricks or any external vultures to respect the Maasai ancestral lands, it is my hope that the reasons will raise public awareness and move more people to raise their voices.
It is important to keep in mind the role that has been played by many generations of the Maasai tribe in maintaining the ecosystem of the Ngorongoro district, which has led Ngorongoro to acquire the status of World Natural Heritage, the pride of Tanzania, and that of Tanzanians who remain Wazalendo (Patriots), wherever we are.
Naturally, there are many ways to look at this issue. Still, I believe the mentioned reasons are objectively relevant and should give those who falsely hold the power of the destruction of our natural world heritage reasons for pause.
If not, then it is my hope that the rest of the world will take action to stop the madness, which will not only affect Tanzania.
If that fails, maybe other tribes within Tanzania should start thinking about whether it is necessary to be part of the United Republic of Tanzania. Maybe the time for decentralization is now. Maybe the whole concept of unity is outdated.
In summary, Ngorongoro and Loliondo should be left to the original people of the community without the invasion of predatory species with potentially detrimental impacts on the Maasai, Tanzania, Tanzanians, and the rest of the world.
Stella is an Environmental management and sustainability expert with over 20 years of experience in professional data collection, assessment, research, analysis and evaluation.
Stella uses her knowledge and experience to advise businesses and NGO’s internationally, with emphasis on The Netherlands and Tanzania market. She focuses on giving advice (consultancy) as her contribution towards reducing social-economic inequalities and influencing sustainable development that incorporates the social-economic as well as the political and environmental perspectives. Capacity building, child rights and gender equality are also within her main areas of focus.