by Ben Taylor

Joseph Moses Oleshangay – photo Mahsa Nejadfallah

Joseph Moses Oleshangay, a Tanzanian lawyer and activist campaigning for the rights of the Maasai people, has been awarded the 2023 Weimar Human Rights Prize. In accepting the award, he vowed to continue the fight, describing the award as a recognition for his work. Mr Oleshangay is an Arusha-based lawyer with the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), a leading human rights organisation in the country.

The Wiemar prize is awarded annually to people, groups or organisations committed to protecting and enforcing fundamental human rights worldwide. It is presented on December 10 yearly to coincide with the United Nations’ International Human Rights Day.

The prize recognises Mr Oleshangay’s fight to protect the fundamental rights of his Maasai people in Ngorongoro and Loliondo, where authorities have been trying to “relocate” them to other parts of the country.

Authorities say the human population in the areas has unprecedently shot up, putting both the lives of human beings and wildlife in jeopardy.
Despite calls for the government to stop its controversial exercise, the work has continued and the authorities are determined to “relocate” as many people as possible from Ngorongoro to designated areas of Msomera, Saunyi and Kitwai. Chief Government’s Spokesperson Mobhare Matinyi said in December that more houses are being constructed in the designated villages to receive more people expected to relocate from Ngorongoro.

“With all the challenges we have found ourselves in, I am still hopeful that though we do not know when this is going to end, I believe it’s going to crash one day,” said Oleshangay. “This repression will crash because it’s against the law, against human rights and known standards. It really defies logic in displacing thousands of people and replacing them with businesses like hotels.”

“It can’t be tolerated that 10,000 people get expelled from their lands,” said Michael Brand, a German politician who spoke at the award ceremony. He described Oleshangay as a “defender of human rights” with “impressive civility, experience and spirit.”

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