Court halts eviction and harassment of Maasai herders from disputed

27Sep 2018
Edward Qorro
Arusha
The Guardian
Court halts eviction and harassment of Maasai herders from disputed

THE East African Court of Justice (EACJ) on Wednesday granted an interim order restraining Tanzanian government from evicting residents of four villages from the disputed 1,500 square kilometers of land which borders Serengeti National Park.

The regional court which is housed inside the East African Community (EAC) headquarters in Arusha further ordered against the destruction of homesteads and confiscation of livestock belonging to residents of Ololosokwan, Olorien, Kirtalo and Arash villages in Ngorongoro District until the determination of the main reference.

Delivering the ruling, the court’s Principal Judge Lady Justice Monica Mugenyi ordered the office of the Inspector General of Police in Tanzania to stop harassing and intimidating the villagers pending the determination of the case.

“An interim order is issued against the respondent, restraining the office of the IGP from harassing or intimidating the applicants in relation to reference number10 of 2007 pending the determination thereof,” reads part of the ruling.

The four villages had last year filed a case at EACJ through application number 15 of 2017, alleging that their eviction from their ancestral land was against the law.

The villagers alleged that torching of their houses, arbitrary arrests and forced eviction from their dwelling areas was against the law as the four villagers had been officially registered.

They further alleged that the government of Tanzania was wrong in revoking land ownership from the four villages and that it is also wronged by changing the land use of the said areas.

The four villages are legally registered owners of land that borders the Serengeti National Park.

However, owing to the sub-division of villages in Tanzania over the years and with a view to ending the ensuing land disputes, the undertook a re-mapping of the disputed land to re-ascertain their boundaries.  

Through the move, people residing in the four villages were advised to remove their cattle and homesteads from the Serengeti National Park, and directed to vacate their residents from areas bordering the said Park.

Majority of the villagers are Masai pastoralists whose livelihood solely depend on livestock and agriculture.

While Wildlife Conservation laws that had been in place since1974 did not prohibit settlement or grazing of livestock on the disputed land, new laws   that were enacted in 2009 purport to restrict settlement or human activities in the Game   Controlled Area.