afrol News, 7 June - The Hadzabe indigenous people of northern Tanzania are facing "a direct and serious threat to the survival" as their hunting and gathering grounds are falling prey to powerful safari organisers. Royals from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and their UAE Safari Ltd count on Tanzanian government support to drive out the Hadzabe, also called "Bushmen".
Last year, the Lower Yaida area in Mbulu District- around 200 kilometres west of Arusha - was ceded to an Abu Dhabi-based hunting company known as Tanzania UAE Safari Ltd. A second application was submitted to attain the remaining part of the Lake Eyasi basin in Karatu District. In end-May this year, the Karatu District Council rejected the deal, citing concerns over the well-being of the Hadzabe people. However, a new round of negotiating appears to have stronger government support.
The application by UAE Safari for a hunting concession encompasses an area of 3,975 square kilometres, including Lake Eyasi. UAE Safari is allegedly acting on behalf of UAE Prince Hamdan bin Zayed and Mohamed bin Zayed, who is chief of staff of UAE Air force. Both Prince Hamdan and Mr bin Zayed have visited the Yaida Valley.
The Hadzabe hunter and gatherer community, whose population ranges between 2,500 and 10,000, has organised its resistance to the concession of their ancestral lands, counting on the support of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC) and the Hunter-Gatherer Forum of East Africa (HUGAFO). But this resistance has come at a high price.
On 21 May, Tanzanian police arrested Richard Baalow, a Hadzabe spokesperson and activist who has been trying to help the community express their opposition to the sale and dialogue with local government. Tanzanian human rights organisations see this as a form of intimidation to ensure compliance with the decision to contract with the UAE safari company.
While the Hadzabe still fight for their lands in Karatu District, in neighbouring Mbulu, the battle is already lost. In acrimonious circumstances, the Mbulu District Council last year agreed to sell 4000 square hectares to the UAE company. UAE Safari has already set up a camp on the concession, from which it soon is to start a commercial hunting and sports enterprise. The Hadzabe are asked to vacate the area.
Now, despite the ruling by the Karatu District Council, the Hadzabe are concerned that a decision on the Yaida Valley is going to be made by higher levels of government to alienate their land and resources without free prior and informed consent.
According to the Hadzabe, they are seeking a way to negotiate a sustainable solution between themselves, the District Council and the UAE safari company, which will conserve nature, provide incomes from the sustainable use of natural resources, and nurture their unique cultural and knowledge systems in their aboriginal territory. The Hadzabe are not necessarily disputing the deal with the UAE, but are arguing that the deal should not put the Hadzabe at serious risk of displacement and cultural disintegration.
But the Hadzabe activists and the organisations supporting them increasingly feel they are met with intimidation. Mr Baalow remains in police detention. The Tanzanian press reports that Mbulu district authorities have already issued several ultimatums for the Hadzabe to vacate the area where UAE Safari has set up its camp.
According to IPACC, the pressure against Hadzabe lands "presents a direct and serious threat to the survival" of this indigenous people, which is one of Africa's oldest surviving language and ethnic groups. "Loss of the Yaida Valley would devastate the Hadzabe and lead to their disappearance; a fate already experienced by the Aasax and Akiek peoples," the group adds.
IPACC Director Nigel Crawhall told afrol News that, although the pressure against the Hadzabe is increasing, international protests against the land-grab is also growing. The case has now been presented to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, Rodolfo Stavenhagen.
Mr Stavenhagen is currently waiting for a green light from the Hadzabe to take their case further, Mr Crawhall said. The UN Special Rapporteur already has much experience with land conflicts concerning East African hunting and gathering societies. On a Kenya visit in December last year, he met with Ogiek, Sengwer, Elmolo leaders, discussing similar problems.
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