Guest Blog: Vidul Vithlani. Why the Masaai deserve our support

My name is Vidul Vithlani and I am studying Politics and International Relations at Kent University. I am on a work placement in John Leech MP’s office. As part of my placement, I am blogging on a topic I care about.

John has blogged about why he supports the government’s commitment to raising International development funding to 0.7% of GDP, and recently won the "Lib-Dem MP of the Year" award for his work with diverse and faith communities in Manchester.

Having lived in East Africa and the Middle East for most of my life, I can the contrasting lifestyles of the U.A.E. and the tribal societies of Tanzania.

In Dubai, there is huge wealth in the hands of the few. Yet it is in Tanzania that the Government is planning to seize national land to develop a hunting safari enterprise, at a massive cost of its tribal Masaai people.

Tazania’s ministry of tourism announced that it will set aside 1,500 kilometres of land bordering the Serengeti national park; this land is part of the Masaai’s ancestral grazing ground for their herds of cattle, their principal and primary means of survival.

While access to these lands will be denied to the Masaai on the basis that the land is “wasted away by overgrazing”, according to the Minister of natural resources and tourism, access will be granted to the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), famously known for their distinguished clientele base.

As a result of this project 30,000 Masaai tribesmen from the Loliondo district will be displaced and affected, losing 40% of the land that has historically been claimed as theirs since before pre-colonial times.

In response to the plan, 55 Masaai leaders have petitioned against the government and have threatened to resign from their posts as local administrators. The hunting lodges in place refuse to hire local people and so the profits of the hunting land does not reach the local tribes folk. The Masaai also forbid the eating of wild game, thus they tend to live a harmonious lifestyle with the wild life of the national park.

While the Tanzanian government remains oblivious to the protests of the locals, they have postponed the plans in response to a global outcry from the international advocacy group Avaaz, where over 1,750,000 people have supported the cause to halt the project.

Sign the petition here


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