Are Animals More Important Than Human Beings?

Article excerpt

The Maasai people of Tanzania are not happy with the "Anglo-Maasai Serengeti Agreement" of 1959 which moved them off their ancestral land for the creation of the 14,000 sq km Serengeti National Park. They were promised land in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but the promise was not kept. Now Moringe ole Parkipuny (photo right), the former MP for the Ngorongoro District, who has been fighting for the rights of marginalised people for years, says the current sorry plight of the Maasai is because they have been denied their rightful share of the earnings accruing from their ancestral land, and they want justice now. Navaya Ole Ndaskoi went to interview him in Liliondo. Here are excerpts.

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Q: You were elected as an MP in 1980, is that right?

A: Yes, in October 1980. I was in parliament for two terms, from 1980 to 1990. I decided not to run for a third term in 1990. People insisted that I should continue, but I refused.

Q: Why?

A: I was fed-up with the system. There were lots of problems facing my constituents, and for 10 long years I made every effort to seek solutions, but the government would not listen. The system, the party, the state, did not listen. The system even became hostile to me. I was accumulating enemies. So I decided not to run, out of frustration.

Secondly, I realised that that avenue of representing the people was not the right one. We were under a one-party system. It was impossible to achieve anything the way I saw it. Thirdly, I thought I could find better ways of working effectively for the community. Fourthly, hostility was growing against me because of the work I was doing for my people--hostility from the state. I could see that my life was in danger.

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Q: What were the "better ways of working for the community"?

A: I started three projects immediately after my departure from parliament. I spent much of 1989 outside the country, travelling in Europe, North America and Australia. In the course of that tour, I managed to get some resources to establish the first secondary school in the Ngorongoro District, Emanyata Secondary School at Ololosokwan, on the fringes of the famous Serengeti National Park.

I also started a Pastoral Resources Management Centre adjacent to the secondary school. The third was a research project on the documentation of the Maasai use of plants for medicinal and nutritional purposes, or ethnobotany if you want. We carried out a study in Loliondo and Sale divisions, all the way to Lake Natron and beyond, including Malambu, Piyaya and the Loliondo highlands.

In fact, to be exact, my second project after leaving parliament was a pastoral hunter-gatherers civil society movement. We registered the first pastoral community-based organisation in Tanzania in 1991 called the Korongoro Integrated Peoples Oriented to Conservation (KIPOC).

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Q: In 1991, the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development published your ground-breaking paper titled "Pastoralism, Conservation and Development in the Greater Serengeti Region," in which you traced the history of wildlife preservation starting from 1492.

A: You are going to the global framework. The origin of wildlife preservation and protection at the exclusion of local human interest started in the US. There used to be a huge migration of bison, or American buffalos, in the US. The population was as large as 60 million, but the hunters there wiped this population out. The migration used to move from northern Canada all the way through the US to Mexico.

The hunters exterminated these wild animals. When they saw migration of animals in the Serengeti, out of guilt, they were captivated. "This is what America used to be," they said. "We must protect the Serengeti. The migration should not be wiped out like the one in North America. …