Normally, I love living in Tanzania, surrounded by friendly people, amazing coasts, and almost unrivaled biodiversity. But a story recently published by The Guardian really saddens me.
The short and dirty version (and it’s a pretty dirty story, in my opinion) is that the Tanzanian government wants to sell a massive chunk of land near Serengeti National Park to the royal family of Dubai for their use as a personal hunting ground. The government claims the land will be a ‘wildlife corridor’, but President Kikwete’s representatives have told the Maasai – who have lived and died in the designated part of Tanzania for hundreds of years – that they must leave their land by the end of the year.
Tanzania is offering the Maasai $578,000 in total for the 370,000 acres (150,000 hectares) as compensation. That’s about one Pound Sterling per acre, split among the 40,000 people living there. And the government proposes to funnel the payment through ‘development projects’ instead of direct reimbursement! More bluntly: about US$14 per person for getting kicked off their land.
This same scheme was theoretically halted after large protests and a lot of international media attention last year, but the governing party seems intent on seeing it through. Considering the recent news of government officials’ knowing participation in, and even encouragement of, illegal poaching, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this plot become a staging ground for ivory exports on a massive scale.
If you haven’t heard about this issue before now, I’m hopeful that maybe the renewed public interest will put a halt to this process. But I doubt it.