Well, I just sent this letter to the UAE and Tanzanian embassies and cc'd the US State Department, Cultural Survival, Survival International and the IPCC. Hopefully someone will take notice:
12 June 2007
To: Embassies of the United Arab Emirates and United Republic of Tanzania
RE: Plight of the Hadzabe Tribe of northern Tanzania
I am writing regarding the reported effort by members of the United Arab Emirates’ royal family to purchase rights to land in the Lake Eyasi region of northern Tanzania. I am greatly concerned that this deal will adversely affect members of the Hadzabe (Hadza, Watindiga) tribe who make their homes in the area. Reports are that the Hadza were not consulted on this issue and that they will effectively lose their right to subsistence hunt. Media reports have further painted the Hadza as “primitive” or “savage” in an effort to culturally excuse the effort by the UAE and Tanzanian government to deny the Hadza their traditional homeland. I find it ironic that these governments would invoke the same language of cultural division used by every conquering society throughout history as justification for taking tribal land away from native people. I would ask if members of either government (UAE or Tanzanian) see any connection at all with their current behavior toward the Hadza and the Arab expansion, conflict and slave trade across East Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries.
I am not an outsider unfamiliar with the area or its people. I lived and worked with the Hadza and other Eyasi people from 1988 through 1993. The Hadza want nothing more than to continue their traditional cultural practices within their traditional homeland. The efforts of the rich to seek their own pleasure at the expense of those wishing only to practice their traditional culture amounts to a human rights tragedy of epic proportions. This travesty has not gone unnoticed amongst the internet blogging community and word is spreading worldwide quickly. I implore both the UAE and Tanzanian governments to cease further consideration of selling or leasing Eyasi region land instead take legal steps to insure that the Hadza may continue their cultural traditions without interference.
I would be happy to offer further insight and discussion on this matter.
Christopher O’Brien, Ph.D.
Susanville, CA 96130
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania
U.S. State Department
Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee