Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Tanzania

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Tanzania, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
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 indigenous communities of Tanzania include the Maasai and the Barbaig, both pastoralist groups, and the Hadzabe who are forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers. They are all extremely vulnerable, as their access to their traditional lands is not currently recognized under Tanzanian land laws. For example, a report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (published in May 2008 by Community Research and Development Services, CORDS) described how the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority prioritized conservation and tourism interests over the welfare of indigenous peoples. The Authority has the power to prohibit, restrict, or control residence or settlement in the area; it has used this to restrict the movements of the local indigenous Maasai population and banned them from cultivating certain areas. This has made the practice of pastoralism impossible and denied the Maasai pastoralists their right to livelihood.

On 10 February 2008, more than 5,000 residents of Irkeepusi village within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area threatened to demonstrate against the regulations imposed by the authority. This protest was not able to change the rules, however. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority still reserves the right to decide where the Maasai pastoralists may graze their cattle and the right to evict or relocate families who they deem not to be 'original' inhabitants of the area. More than 40 families have been issued with letters by the Authority warning them of relocation to the Soit Sambu village in Loliondo division, approximately 300 km from their homes. Maasai in Soit Sambu village in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area have also been threatened. MRG has made a submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on their behalf. CERD has responded to the state party, although details are yet to be made public.

Both the Barbaig and the Hadzabe have also suffered discrimination at the hands of the authorities. Attempts to evict the Barbaig from their land have met with fierce resistance, for example their response to the leasing of Barbaig grazing land in the Babati District in Northern Tanzania to a foreign investor to set up a tourist camp. Police arrested 14 villagers, alleged 'ringleaders' undermining the district authorities who were encouraging the foreign investment. The villagers were released without charge but the situation was not resolved and at least 45 families are still under threat of eviction.

The Hadzabe, who live in the Mbulu district in northern Tanzania are both the smallest in number and probably the most marginalized group in Tanzania. In 2007, it was reported that the Mbulu District Council was giving away some of their land to the United Arabs Emirates royal family for hunting. This was supposedly in return for investment in a secondary school, health clinics and roads in the area – but the Hadzabe were never consulted. PINGOs FORUM, an umbrella NGO that advocates for the rights of the indigenous peoples, made an intervention to help the Hadzabe secure their lands. Some activists were arrested on charges of breaching the peace after they voiced their opposition at a meeting.

Other reports of evictions emerged during the course of 2008. A report from the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) published in June 2008 revealed how, from May 2006 to May 2007, large numbers of Sukuma agro-pastoralists and IlParakuiyo, Taturu and Barbaig pastoralists and their livestock had been evicted from the Usangu Plains in Mbarali district. The IWGIA estimates that more than 400 families and 300,000 livestock were moved, and that a large number of livestock had died or been lost in the process: 'The eviction ... was implemented by a heavily armed ... regular police, anti-poaching unit and game wardens ... [at] short notice and [in] great haste and caused a lot of suffering for the pastoralists.'

The report described a range of human rights abuses committed during the eviction: 'theft of livestock; imposition of unjustified fines for environmental degradation; extortion of bribes; subjection of individuals to torture; the forced separation of families; children, women and elderly left without protection and food; disruption of social networks and safety nets, denial of access to education to children; death of large numbers of livestock, and widespread hunger.' A Commission of Enquiry presented its findings to the president in June 2007, but the affected families have neither been compensated nor helped in their move to southern Tanzania. Many are now completely destitute.

Another victimized group in Tanzania are the Albinos who are targeted on cultural (witchcraft) or superstitious grounds. There have been local reports of murders of Albino children. The issue has attracted international attention, and condemnation from the UN and the US government.

Access to education is problematic for indigenous communities, in many cases through sheer lack of facilities. In Ngorongoro, for example, efforts to build secondary schools have been blocked by bureaucratic procedures on the pretext that such areas are ecologically sensitive, though hotels and resorts are being built in places where schools have been prohibited. The president of Tanzania is clearly conscious of the country's need to progress in terms of education, but in March 2008 he pinpointed 'mobility among pastoralists as having the potential of causing failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals as far as primary school enrolment is concerned'. According to CORDS, this attitude reflects a fundamental 'lack of appreciation on the part of the Tanzanian government of the special plight of the indigenous peoples'.

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