Civil society groups across Africa have petitioned the World Bank to stop financing a project in Tanzania that purports to protect the environment but has been linked to grave human rights violations.
In its latest report, Unaccountable & Complicit, Oakland Institute blames the Bank, which is taxpayer-funded, of “enabling” evictions, rapes and murders.
Ruaha National Park is at the center of the scandal. The protected area in the geographical heart of Tanzania is home to many millions of savannah animals, from antelopes to zebras, and is a hotspot for birds – numerous white storks from Europe migrate there for the winter.
The Tanzanian government plans to double the size of the park from one to over two million hectares and increase the number of park rangers. The $150 million REGROW program of the World Bank is financing this project. In October 2022, Minister Angeline Mabula announced the evictions of more than 20,000 people in connection with the expansion.
Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute said:
“The REGROW project is not about protecting wildlife or conservation. Instead, the Bank is financing an oppressive and violent economic growth model based on boosting tourism revenues.”
According to Oakland Institute, local people accuse Bank-funded park rangers of murder, sexual violence and other brutal assaults. Large numbers of cattle are being seized an effort to destroy the livelihoods of villagers.
This strategy of violence and eviction is nothing new for Tanzania’s Indigenous peoples: More than 100,000 Maasai are fighting for their land and livelihoods at the Ngorongoro Crater and near the Serengeti.
Ifeoluwa Adediran, gender focal person of Nigeria-based Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI) said:
“Across Africa we have observed a growing number of projects like the REGROW that have the backing and support of multilateral institutions who turn a blind eye to impunity like what is happening in Tanzania. This must stop”
Two villagers have submitted a complaint to the World Bank on behalf of their communities and 852 villagers filed a case at the High Court of Tanzania at Mbeya.
The government plans to evict over 20,000 people under the pretext of conservation by doubling the size of Ruaha National Park. The World Bank is enabling this move, which will trample the rights of Indigenous people and local villagers. The World Bank is a taxpayer-funded body – so it’s up to us to end its complicity.
In the petition to World Bank President, Ajay Banga which has garnered nearly 30,000 signatories the pettioners note that although Bank documents state that the project will not result in resettlement, on October 25, 2022, the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Human Settlements Development (MLHHSD) publicly announced that the government will forcibly evict over 20,000 local people in the area to facilitate RUNAPA’s expansion.
Villagers accuse REGROW-funded rangers of the national park authority TANAPA of murders and numerous acts of violence since the project began in 2017. The authorities are also confiscating and auctioning off cattle in large numbers, severely impacting the livelihoods of pastoralists. The violence and seizures are most likely conducted to force the pastoralists to abandon their land.