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Human Rights of Indigenous Minorities in Tanzania and the Courts of Law

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image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

Tanzania has several indigenous minorities. They include the Maasai, Barbaig, Hadzabe, Ndorobo and others. Some are still engaged in hunting and gathering, while others are pastoralists. The government is unhappy about their way of life and believes that it has a duty to “emancipate” these “backward” people by “civilising” them through bringing “modern development” to areas they live in. This is through the building of schools and hospitals, the provision of running water, etc. In the process of undertaking this mission, it has negatively affected the lives of these groups. It has destroyed their property, and displaced them from their traditional living areas. This has been done in total disregard to their ways of life, traditions, beliefs and above all the right to own property which is guaranteed by the Constitution. Some of the indigenous minorities whose rights have been violated by the government have decided to challenge the violation of their fundamental rights in the courts of law. This paper examines the handling of the cases related to the rights of indigenous minorities by the higher judiciary in Tanzania, particularly the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Experience indicates that, like the government, the judiciary has been sympathetic toward indigenous minorities.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Former Visiting Professor, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, University of Lund, Sweden


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