Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 07:09 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Republic of Tanzania : Barabaig

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Republic of Tanzania : Barabaig, 2008, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Barabaig numbered at least 30,000 in the mid-1990s and have occupied the plains around Mount Hanang in north-central Tanzania for the last 150 years.

Historical context

In the early part of the nineteenth century Tatoga pastoralists migrated southwards from the Serengeti plains and Ngorongoro highlands under pressure from the more powerful Maasai. Dispersal and separation led to the creation of sub-tribes, among them the Barabaig.

Since 1969 the Barabaig have been in dispute with the Tanzania Canada Wheat Project which has alienated over 400,000 hectares of the best grazing land in Hanang district. The dispute has been accompanied by numerous abuses against Barabaig, including assault, house burnings, shooting and confiscation of cattle, destruction of rights of way and a desecration of sacred sites, including destruction of graves by ploughing.

Legal procedures for alienating the land to which Barabaig had customary rights were improperly applied. In the face of court applications raising these issues the government, in 1989, extinguished customary land rights in the areas a under the occupancy of the para-statal National Agricultural and Food Corporation (NAFCO). The retroactive nature of this legislation violated basic principles of human rights law; it also enabled prosecutions to be brought against Barabaig for trespassing on land they considered their own.

Since then a human rights commission and legal rulings have vindicated Barabaig claims, but compensation has been paltry.

Current issues

In 2005 the African Commission on Human and People's Rights adopted a report of the Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities. The report found that Barabaig displacement has continued to various parts of Tanzania and Malawi, with other communities routinely objecting to their presence. Although NAFCO has abandoned the project that displaced the Barabaig in the first place, the land remains in the hands of the government, with talk of it being sold to willing buyers.

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