Court refuses to stop Maasai eviction from Ngorongoro by the Tanzanian government

Maasai rights activists from the Maa Unity Agenda group march to protest outside the Tanzanian high commission in downtown Nairobi, Kenya on June 17, 2022. [Ben Curtis, AP]

The East African Court of Justice on Friday dismissed a case by Maasai herders who tried to stop Tanzania's government from evicting them from land they have used for generations.

The ruling comes amid new tensions between Maasai and authorities over other land being marked off for a game reserve in one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, the Ngorongoro district, as concerns for wildlife and for traditional communities clash.

The case at the court involved evictions beginning in 2017 of Maasai from 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles) of land bordering Serengeti National Park. The court in 2018 issued an interim order that stopped evictions.

But the court on Friday found that the Maasai failed to show they had been evicted from their village land and not from the Serengeti park itself. The court also found that witnesses who alleged violent evictions failed to give evidence proving injury or loss.

The case will be appealed next week, a statement by the Pan African Lawyers Union representing the Maasai said.

"As we speak, the living conditions in that region are bad. Moreover, there is still continued abuse of human rights," Maasai petitioner Neema Laizer said at the court.

There was no immediate comment from Tanzania's government, which depends on tourism for a significant part of its economy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic system around tourism was the largest foreign exchange earner, the second largest contributor to the gross domestic product and the third largest contributor to employment, according to a World Bank report in 2021.