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Dear Excellencies, the President and Prime Minister, and Honourable Ministers

Violation of African Union and United Nations Standards on Land Governance

We write in urgent response to the actions taken by your government at Loliondo.

We write to you as African experts in the fields of land governance and tenure, natural resource management, economic development, sociology, development studies and political economy, drawn from across the countries of our region. The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape forms part of the African Union’s Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa  (NELGA). Our mandate is to expand knowledge and deepen expertise on land governance in Africa, through training and research at our institutions, in support of the African Land Agenda, which forms part of Agenda 2063 of the African Union, as well as being consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals. As a network, our commitment is to scholarship. Our letter to you, to take a public position on a violation of land rights, is a step we have not taken lightly, and only in view of the egregious nature of the events unfolding in your country.

African and global frameworks

We remind you of the following obligations on your government to comply with international norms and standards for upholding land rights, endorsed by Tanzania:

  1. African Union Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (2009)

  2. AU Heads of State Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa (2009)

  3. FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (2012)

  4. African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981)

  5. The African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (2016)

  6. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)

  7. UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)

Binding obligation 

We draw your attention to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which establishes “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC) as an enforceable right. There can be no development under international law, such as for high-end safari tourism, without FPIC.  of indigenous peoples like the Maasai being involved in every step. These fundamental principles are enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is an enforceable right in terms of UNDRIP. We remind you that the Republic of Tanzania voted in favour of UNDRIP. Article 10 of UNDRIP commits that:

“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.” (UNDRIP 2017: Article 10, emphasis added)

Precedents from jurisprudence

We further draw your attention to the precedent-setting cases in relevant jurisdictions:

2018: Injunction by the East African Court of Justice (EACJ)

The injunction that prohibits the Tanzanian government from evicting the Maasai communities from a vital 1,500km2 of land, destruction of Maasai homesteads, the confiscation of livestock on land, and bans the office of the Inspector General of Police from harassing and intimidating the plaintiffs, pending the full determination of their case.

2010: Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) and Minority Rights Group (on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council), Kenya

The Endorois case set a minimum standard for consent. A process of consent, “requires at a minimum that all of the members of the community are fully and accurately informed of the nature and consequences of the process and provided with an effective opportunity to participate individually or as collectives.

2018: Duduzile Baleni and 128 Others v Minister of Mineral Resources, South Africa

The Umgungundlovu community lives in Xolobeni, where they use the land for housing, water, grazing animals, agriculture, medicine, and tourism generated income. A titanium mine was to be opened on the land of the Umgungundlovu community, which would displace the community and destroy the land in the area. The High Court of South Africa held that the Umgungundlovu’s free prior and informed consent was required, as the mine would deprive the community of their land. The Court stated that consulting a community when developing their land is not sufficient and does not equate to consent.


The specific actions reportedly taken by your government and enforced by your police and army forces which violate the above international commitments are:

  1. Announced change of Loliondo Game Control Area to Game Reserve without “free, prior and informed consent” of affected Maasai

  2. Police units deployed to demarcate land as a game reserve on 9 June 2022

  3. Live ammunition used against protesting Maasai.

Our Call

We therefore call on your government to immediately:

  1. Instruct your law enforcement authorities to withdraw from Loliondo forthwith;

  2. Provide emergency medical care for those injured and assurance of their safety and protection;

  3. Allow independent missions by faith-based organisations, lawyers, civil society organisations, academics and journalists to visit affected communities and areas to gather facts without intimidation and harassment from security forces;

  4. Restart the discussion with Maasai Communities and work on their demands and priorities as per their recent proposals they have submitted to the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania;

  5. Affirm that the continued right of Maasai to settlement and livestock grazing will not be restricted pending full free, prior and informed consent on any changes to the status of the land and the customary land uses;

  6. Prioritise people-centred conservation models which are based on the principles of coexistence between humans and wildlife and avoid over dependence on outdated fortress and exclusive conservation practices.

It is with deep sadness that we see Tanzania, the champion of national liberation, decolonisation and pan-Africanism, act in such a manner, which is contrary to the spirit and legacy of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. In gratitude for all that Tanzania has done for our countries, including in the fight for national liberation and for an end to apartheid, we join with the people of Tanzania, and the Maasai at Loliondo, to remind the Government of the Republic of Tanzania of its political, moral and legal duties, and to implore you to take immediate action to restore your country to its good standing among our nations.

In solidarity with the people of Tanzania, and with the ardent wish that the Government of the Republic of Tanzania immediately desist from any further attacks on the land rights and integrity of the Maasai people.

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies

University of the Western Cape