About 48,000 members of the Maasai tribe may be forced off their lands in Tanzania to allow for animal shooting sprees for foreign royals, pending a deal from a big-game hunting corporation and approval from the president.
According to the petition, if Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete approves a deal from a big-game hunting corporation, royalty from the United Arab Emirates would be allowed to “hunt lions and leopards” on Maasai land.
“Experts say the Tanzanian President’s approval of the deal may be imminent, but if we act now, we can stop this sell-off of the Serengeti,” the petition reads.
The Maasai are a group of semi-nomadic people living in Tanzania and Kenya, numbering between 500,000 to one million, according to BBC News. Known for being herders and warriors, the Maasai are highly focused on raising cattle, a primary source of food.
The petition explains that a similar “landgrab” in 2009 generated global controversy that pressured Kikwete to stop the plan.
“The last time this same corporation pushed the Maasai off their land to make way for rich hunters, people were beaten by the police, their homes were burnt to a cinder and their livestock died of starvation,” the petition reads.
The original goal was to collect 150,000 signatures and generate enough media coverage to pressure Kikwete once again to abandon the invasive plans. Desmond Tutu, who chairs the Elders, has encouraged fellow global leaders on the council to sign the petition as well.
However, the Tanzanian government denied that the Maasai were facing eviction, reported The Guardian on August 15. A spokesman for the resources and tourism ministry took exception to the campaign’s slogan “Stop the Serengeti Sell-off,” saying people do not settle in the Serengeti and no evictions are in the works there.
Campaign director Emma Ruby-Sachs responded to Tanzania’s resources and tourism ministry in The Guardian: “The Maasai lands in question are commonly understood to be within the Serengeti ecosystem. If the government does not believe there is any threat to the Maasai lands, it should be easy for it to commit to a policy of not forcibly evicting any of its people to make way for foreign interests.”