In its pursuit of foreign direct investment in the agricultural, mining and tourism sectors, the Tanzanian government carried out violent evictions of minority groups. These were accompanied by rapes and other gender-based violence against the Maasai indigenous community in Loliondo in August and September 2009, the Chair of the African Commission's Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa reported. The government leased out part of the community's land to the Sovereign Emir of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through the OBT Corporation to carry out safari hunting in Loliondo, NGO Survival International said.

This was the latest in a series of such evictions. Land in another village in Ngorongoro, Soitsambu, was allocated to Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) to facilitate barley cultivation in 2003. This was opposed by the Maasai community. TBL eventually leased the land to Tanzania Conservation Limited, a subsidiary of Thomson Tanzania Ltd, for 96 years, IWGIA reported in 2009.

The Barbaig community, another minority group whose land was annexed by the state for private tourism development, has consistently refused to move from the land. They have experienced constant repression by security forces. In April 2008, 14 Barbaig elders were arrested and incarcerated for refusing to accede to an order for the relocation of 45 families out of the leased land.

In the three cases, the Village Land Act of 1992, which was meant to grant security of tenure to communities, seems to have been flouted with impunity, mainly for tourism and mining. In the meantime, the Wildlife Conservation Law enacted in 2008 grants powers to the Minister in Charge of Wildlife to declare any land, including village land, a wildlife protection area.

Compared to some other African countries with a Muslim minority, in Tanzania the debate on Sharia has taken a different dimension, largely due to independent Tanganyika's state policy to take a secularist stand towards religion. Sharia in personal matters was discontinued from application in courts and the Kadhi's courts were abolished immediately after independence, ushering in an era of legal universalism.

This refusal to accommodate the Islamic judicial system, particularly in Dar es Salaam and the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, historically the regions with the highest concentration of Muslims in the country, increased the resonance of demands for separation from the mainland in 2009. Notable is the fact that the national anthem of Tanzania has on occasion been shunned by the Zanzibar House of Representatives in favour of their original anthem and sporadic use of the Zanzibar flag has also re-emerged in 2009, according to interviews conducted for this report. In May 2008, 12 elders from Pemba presented a memorandum to Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the head of the UN delegation in Dar es Salaam. The key point of the memorandum was secession from Tanzania. As was expected, Dar es Salaam perceived these actions as treasonous, arresting and prosecuting the 12. Zanzibar's discontent, although often framed in religious terms, appears to be linked to the unequal share of revenue resources between the island and mainland, especially after the discovery of natural gas in Zanzibar.

This 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.