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.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’m currently out of the office and can’t comment properly,” a spokesperson for Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism said.
Masai people living in northern Tanzania are facing eviction from their historical homeland, as the government has reportedly reneged on a promise and is proceeding with plans to remake the land into a hunting reserve for Dubai's royal family.
There are about 40,000 Masai people living on the 1,500 square kilometer “wildlife corridor” bordering Serengeti National Park. They are known for their semi-nomadic ways and have their own distinctive culture.
The original proposal by a company based in the United Arab Emirates to turn the land into a commercial hunting park was turned down last year.
But the deal seems back on track now and the Masai people were notified to leave their ancestral lands by the end of the year, the Guardian reported.
Tanzania’s prime minister, Mizengo Pinda, is scheduled to meet with the Masai’s representatives, who will speak out against the decision.
In their view, the sale of the territory will in some way or another impact the lives of at least 80,000 people and will leave those residing on the land without their heritage or livelihood, as Masai are reliant on the livestock living on the land.
In return for the sale, the government has proposed to offer an investment of one billion shillings (US$590,000) into socio-economic projects, which the Masai people have refused.
Those who speak out publicly against the deal in Tanzania get killed by local authorities, a local said, adding that his life was threatened as well. “For me it is dangerous on a personal level.
Last year, an international media campaign against the hunting reserve proposal was led by the online activism site Avaaz.org.
The organization was behind the ‘Stop the Serengeti Sell-off’ petition, which gathered more than 1.7 million signatures. It also organized protests against the move.
Meanwhile, Tanzania’s authorities have denied the existence of renewed plans.
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