Prosecutors drop murder charges against 24 Maasai


Maasai and government troops in Loliondo, where protests over eviction from their land turned violent on Friday (© Handout)


Responding to the decision by Tanzania’s Director of Public Prosecution to drop charges of murder and conspiracy to murder against 24 members of the Maasai, including 10 leaders, Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said:


“Dropping these charges against members of the Maasai people is unequivocally the right decision. They should never have been arrested in the first place. Their only ‘crime’ was exercising their right to protest while security forces tried to seize land from them in the name of ‘conservation’.


“The Tanzanian authorities must immediately stop their ongoing security operations in Loliondo and ensure that any traditional pastoral lands they have seized are returned to the Indigenous Maasai.


Tanzania should immediately stop suppressing the right to freedom of assembly. The government should instead take steps to protect the right to protest.”


Background


On 7 June 2022, Tanzanian security forces and authorities from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area arrived in Loliondo and began forcefully evicting members of the Maasai people without providing adequate notice, compensation or a chance for genuine consultation to obtain their free, prior and informed consent. In the name of conservation, they seized 1,500 square kilometres of ancestral land claimed by over 70,000 Maasai people.


On 9 June 2022, members of the Maasai from Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo and Arash — four villages in Loliondo that border the Serengeti National Park — gathered to protest against the demarcation exercise by removing markers placed by security forces to outline the boundaries of the land claimed by the Maasai.


On 9 June, police arrested 10 Maasai leaders from Loliondo — a day before the policeman they were accused of murdering was actually killed — and 14 other members of the Maasai, and three others. They were held for around 11 days and denied access to their lawyers and families before arraignment in court.


On 10 June, security forces used firearms and tear gas against protesters in an incident that saw a policeman, Garlus Mwita, killed by an arrow, while 84-year-old Maasai community member Orias Oleng’iyo was disappeared.


At least 32 members of the Maasai also suffered gunshot wounds.


© 2022 Amnesty International