40,000 People To Be Evicted From Their Homeland So The Dubai Royal Family Can Hunt

You know it's bad when your own government tricks you into believing their lie and make a fool out of you.

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By the end of 2014, 40,000 Masai people will be evicted from their ancestral homeland in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. And it's not because of conflict, drought or environmental degradation. No.

A photo showing the Masai people. They are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.

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They're being driven from their home because the Dubai Royal Family wants to make their land into their own private reserve

The Masai peole are among the best known local populations due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress.

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The reason isn't to admire animals either, or protect the dwindling populations of beautiful wildlife that dot the plain. No, it's so the royal family can continue one of their favorite activities: hunting big game.

According to a report by The Guardian, in 2013, the Tanzanian government resisted the purchase, proposing instead a "wildlife corridor" dedicated to hunting near the Serengeti National Park. However, the deal, brokered by the luxury safari company Ortelo Business Corporation, will still reportedly go through.

Masai dancers at sunset

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Masai representatives will meet the prime minister, Mizengo Pinda, in Dodoma on Tuesday to express their anger. They insist the sale of the land would rob them of their heritage and directly or indirectly affect the livelihoods of 80,000 people. The area is crucial for grazing livestock on which the nomadic Masai depend.

Unlike last year, the government is offering compensation of 1 billion shillings (US$590,000), not to be paid directly but to be channelled into socio-economic development projects. The Masai have dismissed the offer.

Samwel Nangiria, the coordinator for the local Ngonett civil society group, said the government never truly intended to abandon the scheme but was wary of global attention. "They had to pretend they were dropping the agenda to fool the international press."

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“I feel betrayed,” he said. “One billion is very little and you cannot compare that with land. It’s inherited. Their mothers and grandmothers are buried in that land. There’s nothing you can compare with it.”

He said it had proved difficult to contact the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), a luxury safari company set up by a UAE official close to the royal family. The OBC has operated in Loliondo for more than 20 years with clients reportedly including Prince Andrew.

Activists opposing the hunting reserve have been killed by police in the past two years, according to Nangiria, who says he has received threatening calls and text messages

“For me it is dangerous on a personal level. They said: ‘We discovered you are the mastermind, you want to stop the government using the land’. Another said: ‘You have decided to shorten your life. The hands of the government are too long. Put your family ahead of the Masai.’”

“I will fight for my community. I’m more energetic than I was,” said Nangiria. “The Masai would like to ask the prime minister about the promise. What happened to the promise? Was it a one-year promise or forever? Perhaps he should put the promise in writing.”

In response, Tanzania's natural resources and tourism ministry had this to say:

"It's the first I've heard of it. I'm currently out of the office and can't comment properly," the representative said.

While it would be easy to dismiss this as an example of the rich doing what they do best, trampling over the rights of others in order to have a good time, it's slightly more complicated than that

None of these expeditions would happen without government sanction and, indeed, encouragement. It’s easy money for cash-strapped African treasuries. And if the hunters seem to have no respect for the traditions of those whose property and way of life they know will be sacrificed, that is only because of the eagerness of Tanzanian politicians to strike a deal; for them, the relocation of a few people (40,000, in this case) is deemed a price worth paying.

There is without doubt a “cheque-cutting” relationship between some African countries, specifically those in the east and north of the continent and in the Gulf, where random amounts of money are handed over in dodgy transactions that are neither aid nor debt. And the deals made are usually at the expense of the citizens these governments are supposed to represent.

Meanwhile, in an effort to bring international pressure, the online activism site Avaaz has been leading a campaign against the hunting reserve since 2012. So far its online petition Stop the Serengeti Sell-off has attracted over 2 million signatures.

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The petition reads: “The last time this same corporation pushed the Maasai [alternate spelling] 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.”

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