Misery of broken families as evicted Maasai take cover

Juma ole Sampuerrap, a nurse at Enkitoria dispensary in Narok, attends to Pantalal Parmuat, 38, who was shot during the evictions. [Jacinta Mutura, Standard]

When Pantalal Parmuat left Tanzania in June, he did not know where his family was. He escaped to Kenya wrapped in a shuka after being shot on the leg by security officers.

Parmuat is among scores of Maasais from Loliondo in Tanzania who fled to Kenya with gunshot injuries after a scuffle ensued between security officers and members of the community.

The community was protesting forceful eviction from a 1,500 square kilometre tract of land in Loliondo allegedly being eyed by private investors for game hunting.

The evictions erupted on June 10 when paramilitary forces were deployed to forcefully demarcate the community's ancestral land, sparking fury and violent protests.

More than 1,000 people sought refuge in Kenyan villages in Narok near the border. Women, the elderly and children crawled through the Tanzania-Kenya border spending cold nights at a time in the bushes.

Most of the exiles fled with gunshot wounds, but they would return to local hospitals in Tanzania for treatment, out of fear of being arrested. Parmuat, who has been in Kenya since June, has not been able to trace his two wives and eight children.

"I was brought here unconscious. The gunshot wound was bleeding profusely. I found myself in a hospital bed in a foreign land. I don't know which village my family is in, but I'm told they also fled to Kenya," said Parmuat.

The 38-year-old was among men who faced the wrath of the security officers for uprooting beacons planted along the demarcated boundaries. He said the exercise was being done without consent from the community, who are the legal owners of the land.

"I am among the people being targeted in my family. Those who went to hospitals in Tanzania were detained. We do not know where they are and I do not want to suffer the same fate," he said.

The disputed 1,500 square kilometre land in Ngorongoro Conservation Area was gazetted as a Game Controlled Area in June and more than 70,000 Maasai were evicted.

Initially, Tanzanian authorities said the community was evicted to protect the area due to the growing population of people and livestock, but human rights activists allege the land is being eyed by a foreign investor for trophy hunting.

The demarcated land covers about 15 villages including Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo, and Arash.

"We demand the government to give us back our land. That is our ancestral land where our forefathers are buried," Parmuat lamented.

Like Parmuat, 64-year-old Ephraim Kaura says he was assaulted by military troops for questioning the evictions.

Norgesheri Negesa at the home of Margaret Lukene where she has been accommodated since June. [Jacinta Mutura, Standard]

"I have been feeding about 20 people in my home for four months now. Our food is depleted. We are relying on well-wishers and churches to donate food. If there is no food, we all sleep hungry," she said.

Women and children who sought treatment at local hospitals in Tanzania were turned away for lack of police abstracts. However, they said that reporting to police would be entrapping themselves.

"Our Kenyan tribesmen have been hospitable. They have been patient with us although we have overstretched their resources. We did not have anything but they have been kind to us," said Norgesheri Negesa, one of the women hosted at Lukene's Manyatta.

At Enkitoria dispensary, nurse-in-charge Juma ole Sampuerrap said the facility has attended to about 138 patients, 18 among them being cases of bullet wounds and deep cuts.

He said women and children who spent cold nights in the forest developed severe pneumonia.

"We treated them and luckily no child died of pneumonia. The adults are recuperating in the manyattas. We didn't charge them for the treatment and those who feared returning home were accommodated in the villages," he added.

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