Maasai Land Rights Battle Intensifies
According to Tanzania‘s government, spreading worldwide outrage over reports of Maasai pastoralists being forced from their land so wealthy Middle Easterners can have their own hunting playground is gravely inaccurate. But an online petition to “Stop The Serengeti Sell-Off” at activism site Avaaz.org, which launched the global protest at the request of Maasai tribal leaders, has drawn over 863,000 signatures as of August 21, and pressures are mounting on the East African nation.
For their part, the government insists the accusations that “a big-game hunting corporation could sign a deal which would force up to 48,000 members of Africa’s famous Maasai tribe from their land to make way for wealthy Middle Eastern kings and princes to hunt lions and leopards” is untrue.
What cannot be debated is that the Maasai have been in ugly land disputes with the Tanzanian government for over two decades now. Led by President Jakaya Kikwete, the cash-strapped country started allowing foreign investors– the most infamous of the bunch being the Dubai-tied Ortelo Business Corporation– to take over huge plots of land so they could trophy hunt big cats.To clear the land, over 40,000 Maasai were forced from the Loliondo region of Tanzania in 2009.