Hear me out: The untold story about Ngorongoro disputes

Hear me out: The untold story about Ngorongoro disputes

In the past week, pictures and video clips showing scenes of the injured Maasais in Ngorongoro conservation area in northern Tanzania, bordered by Kenya, circulated online and sparked a wide controversy amongst activists calling for an end to the allegedly forceful eviction of the Maasai by the police from the area. 

Unfortunately, the flood of information shared online by local and international human rights activists seems to contain a scant actual truth about the eviction of the Maasai from Ngorongoro.

However, trusted sources from prolific security officials have revealed two reasons for the eviction of the Maasai, including national security and environmental factors. 

The environmental factor, known to many, is just the tip of an iceberg behind the actual truth that most of you may probably not have heard about. Thus, in this article, we will explain both reasons for relocating over 150,000 pastoral Maasai to the coastal district of Handeni in the Tanga region. 

Ngorongoro is indeed overwhelmed by more people and cattle than it should have been. Between 1959-2017 the population of people in the NCA jumped from 10,000 to 100,000.

Not only that, the number of cattle has been dramatically rising too, to around 250,000 per year. This is not healthy for NCA’s sustainability and tourism’s future, which contributes over 17% to Tanzania’s economy annually.

In the meantime, due to the overwhelming number of cattle and people in the NCA, wild species such as Thompson gazelle and giraffe – in and around the Ngorongoro crater have declined or remained stagnant. 

Such sharp decline has been attributed by both natural stressors, such as changing rainfall patterns, and human stressors, for instance, competition over grazing land. 

The overwhelming number of cattle in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) threatens the park’s sustainability. Let alone the staggering cattle in Tanzania, but Kenyans as well have been crossing their herd in Tanzania for pasture. 

Crossing cattle or animals into the Tanzanian border is a matter of national security. Tanzania’s Animal Disease Act, No 17 of 2003, bans the importation or movement of live animals into the country without a permit.

The unfavourable grazing environment in Kenya, Narok county adjacent to Ngorongoro, forces them to cross their cattle to Tanzania, which has been done for years. In 2017, Kenyan Maasai herders crossed to Tanzania with 1000 cattle for pasture, and the herders were arrested with their animals.

President Magufuli ordered the cows to be auctioned while accusing Kenyan pastoralists of denying Tanzania’s tourism revenues and added that for so long, Kenya had made Tanzania a grazing field, and Tanzania shall never tolerate that. 

However, Kenyan herders have been violating Tanzanian laws by sneaking their herds into Tanzania. Prominent politicians and wealthy men from the Maasai pastorals Kenya-Narok have been subverting Tanzania, taking advantage of the shared cultures and tradition to attain public support and influence within communities of the Maasai in Tanzania.

In 2018, the former Minister of Livestock and Fisheries visited Mwanga district in the Kilimanjaro region and found destruction caused by 6000 cattle from Kenya. In the same years, over 18000 cattle from neighbouring countries hab been found in Arusha, Mara, Kilimanjaro, Songwe and Kigoma.

Tanzania claims that more than 10000 hectares of land have been destroyed by the animals, putting water sources, roads and green pastures at risk. As a country, Tanzania had to endure this kind of infliction from Kenya.

Upon the current eviction of the Maasai in Ngorongoro, the Maasai community in Kenya had joined its counterparts in Tanzania to protest against the removal undertaken by the government in the name of defending the ancestral land.

For protesting the eviction, what interest do Kenyan pastoralists, including prominent politicians, have in Tanzania? Moitalel Ole Kenta, a politician, Narok North MP in Kenya, who owns a massive number of cattle, is the leading critic of Maasai eviction from Ngorongoro. 

Mr ole Kenta did not end there, he even led the filing of the case to ICJ against Tanzania to oppose the eviction of Ngorongoro. Security officials confirm that Mr ole Kenta has been clandestinely sneaking thousand of a herd in Tanzania for pasture for so long.

There has been a massive online campaign condemning Tanzania’s action to relocate the Maasai in the bid to protect the environment before the situation gets worse. 

The Tanzania Maasai along the Kenyan border serve as a passage for Kenyan cattle to cross over to Tanzania for pasture. Relocating the Maasai to Handeni is a colossal blow to Kenyan pastoralists since it would be easy to identify and track in Tanzania. 

After a clash between the police and the Maasai that ended with the death of one policeman and scores of injured Maasai, the Maasai involved in the conflict fled to Kenya, Narok, to receive treatment. Why?

According to security reports, most of those who fled to Kenya for medication are not Tanzanians but Kenyans living in Tanzania amongst the Maasai communities in Ngorongoro. Their main task in Tanzania was to receive the herds of their fellows in Kenya and graze them in Tanzania. 

The government of Tanzania has relocated the Maasai to Msomera village in Handeni – Tanga region. The government has ensured the placement of all basic needs for any human survival. The government intends to construct 101 three-bedroom houses, with 336 plots for social services such as schools, health centres and water systems,” in Msomera.

Also, People will be granted title deeds, houses, and land for grazing. Reports indicate that TSh1.2 billion [US$515,907] of public funding has been allocated for the first stage of housing construction in Msomera for resettlement volunteers.

The government has been drilling for water since March 20, 2022, in Msomera’s Orkung sub-village, about two kilometres from Msomera. Jumaa Aweso, the Minister for Water, claims TSh300 million [US$128,976] had been disbursed for a dam project capable of storing 700 million litres of water in Msomera.

This article purposely shows the hidden side of the incidence of the Maasai’s eviction from Ngorongoro. The media is filled with a flood of deception and propaganda, having various unspecified political and economic interests.

With millions of content shared online daily, as social media users, we are advised to research to verify contents we counter before sharing to avoid any misinformation.