• Indigenous peoples in Tanzania

    Indigenous peoples in Tanzania

    Tanzania does not recognise the existence of indigenous peoples, even though Tanzania is home to 125-130 different ethnic groups.


Although Tanzania voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and is the home to 125-130 different ethnic groups, the state does not recognize the existence of Indigenous Peoples. There is no specific national policy or legislation on Indigenous Peoples, but Akiye, Hadzabe, Barabaig and Maasai have organized themselves and their struggles around the concept and movement of Indigenous Peoples.

In addition, various policies, strategies and programs are continuously being developed that do not reflect the interests of Indigenous Peoples in terms of access to land and natural resources, basic social services and justice. Resulting in an increasingly political environment, hostile and deteriorating.

Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania

It is estimated that Tanzania has a total of 125-130 ethnic groups, which fall mainly into the four categories of Bantu, Cushite, Nilo-Hamite and San.

While there may be more ethnic groups that identify themselves as indigenous peoples, four groups have organized themselves and their struggles around the concept and movement of Indigenous Peoples. The four groups are the hunter-gatherer Akiye and Hadzabe, and the pastoralist Barabaig and Maasai.

Although it is difficult to arrive at exact figures since the ethnic groups are not included in the population census, it is estimated that the Maasai in Tanzania has 430,000 people, the Datoga group to which Barabaig belongs has 87,978 people, the Hadzabe 1,000 and the Akiye 5,268 people.

Although the means of subsistence of these groups are diverse, they all share a strong attachment to the land, different identities, vulnerability and marginalization. They also experience similar problems in relation to the insecurity of land tenure, poverty and inadequate political representation.

Violations of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania

Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania continue to suffer human rights violations. The human rights situation of pastoralists in the Morogoro region worsened at the end of December 2016 and the beginning of 2017, when Indigenous Peoples were evicted in the districts of Kilosa, Mvomero and Morogoro Vijijini.

This was driven by a recent eviction operation declared in December 2016 by the Regional Commissioner of Morogoro, the Minister of the Interior and the District Commissioners in the region.

Land grabbing and land conflicts in Tanzania are also a great challenge for Indigenous Peoples. They are often related to the expansion of national parks, and the invasion of pastoralist pastures in Western Kilimanjaro is one. There were other attempts to grab land related to attempts to annex pastoralist villages to national parks and game reserves, such as the case of the village of Kimotorok in northern Tanzania.

The eviction attempts in Loliondo were concealed within the broad justification for the "conservation of wildlife" of the Serengeti ecosystem, an excuse that has long been used to undermine pastoral livelihoods in the Loliondo area.

The development of infrastructure also causes the dispossession of lands for Indigenous Peoples in Tanzania. One of the most serious cases is the conflict in Hai district, in northern Tanzania, between seven mainly Masai pastoralist villages, on the one hand, and Kilimanjaro airport, on the other.

Tanzania: CSOs protest renewed harassment of pastoralists in Ngorongoro

On May 12, 20 civil society organizations issued a joint declaration requesting the government of Tanzania to take action and make sure that the rights of the pastoralists in Loliondo are respected.

The concern of Tanzanian civil society has been raised after the report of a range of new cases of human rights violations, involving extrajudicial detentions, intimidations and mistreatment of local pastoralist from Loliondo in Ngorongoro District in northern Tanzania.

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EU Parliament passes key resolution on land grabbing in Tanzania

The EU Parliament passed a resolution strongly condemning the practice of land grabbing in Tanzania on Thursday (March 12). They released a press release stating that members of the Parliament (MEPs) strongly condemn the "illegal displacement of local rural communities, the destruction of their villages and traditional way of life, and the violation of their basic human rights.”

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Tanzania: Report documents human rights violations

A survey conducted in ten districts of six regions of mainland Tanzania reveals deterioration of the situation of indigenous peoples and gross violations of their human rights. Evictions that take place with impunity are among the most serious problems found. Reports of various enquiry commissions are apparently simply shelved by the responsible authorities.

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Deadly violence targeting Maasai & Datoga citizens in Tanzania must end

IWGIA recently published a briefing note calling for urgent action to halt the deadly violence targeting Maasai and Datoga citizens in Tanzania.

Maasai and Datoga citizens living in the Morogoro region of Tanzania were recently victims of deadly, ethnic violence. According to local media, the assaults were instigated by public figures interested in acquiring land, and state authorities have not intervened to protect Maasai citizens. Police protection has instead been given to others who are illegally cultivating officially registered Maasai land.

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'Climate change should not separate us from our environment'

Edward Porokwa is a Maasai pastoralist and the Executive Director of the indigenous umbrella organisation, PINGOs Forum in Tanzania. He is in Bonn to lobby his government and get them to listen to the voices of indigenous peoples in both local and global Climate Change negotiations.

Below is an interview conducted by Cæcilie Mikkelsen of IWGIA, about climate change in Tanzania and how it is affecting the indigenous population.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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