Recent arrests have intensified tensions in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where 39 members of the indigenous Maasai community and a parliamentarian, Emmanuel Lekishon Shangai, were detained in Endulen. Their current locations remain undisclosed, denying them access to their legal representatives.
Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, urgently addressed the situation, stating, “This new wave of arrests and detentions represents continued suppression against the Maasai Indigenous Community.” Chagutah further urged the Tanzanian government to “reveal the location of the detained individuals, ensure they have access to legal counsel, and promptly process their cases through the court system.”
The recent crackdown on the Maasai has historical roots, stemming from a long-standing dispute that spans over a decade. Indigenous Maasai inhabitants face threats of forced evictions from their ancestral lands in Ngorongoro. The intended objective behind these evictions is the creation of a game reserve and a protected conservation area. According to reports, the Maasai community has neither been consulted nor granted free prior and informed consent regarding these projects.
Background events leading to the present situation trace back to 15 August 2023. A congregation of Maasai community members at Endulen Market aimed to address what they perceived as the government’s media manipulation to endorse their removal from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Following altercations that led to the ousting of journalists from this assembly, security forces, comprising local police and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) rangers, initiated their crackdown against the Maasai community.
Emmanuel Lekishon Shangai, the MP for Ngorongoro, became a prominent figure entangled in this situation when he was arrested on 21 August 2023 at his Karatu residence. His initial detainment at the Karatu Police Station for questioning quickly turned ominous when he was transferred to an undisclosed location.
Amnesty International has been actively spotlighting the predicament in Ngorongoro. A report released by the organization on 6 June 2023 detailed the abuse, forceful tactics, unwarranted arrests, and forced evictions targeting the Maasai Indigenous community in Loliondo, a part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.