Just a quick post to report on developments in the ongoing saga of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania, and their struggle to hang on to their lands, which look set to be handed over to the Abu Dhabi royal family, in a lease agreement with the Tanzanian government – the royals already use another area in Tanzania for this purpose, but their fondness for hunting has meant that the area they currently lease is no longer sufficient to cater for their recreational needs.

Foremost to their defence in the blogosphere is Chris O’Brien at Northstate Science, who not only has written several pieces on this subject, but has also worked with the Hadza in the past – check his site for earlier posts, and for the time being, here’s an update on the situation from him,

Well, once again, thanks to all who took the time to spread the word about the current plight of the Hadzabe. Duane at Abnormal Interests actually took the time to call the US State Department and was successful in reaching two individuals in the Bureau of African Affairs. You can read more about it at Duane’s blog. I received an email from the State Department in response to my email inquiries, but it was the usual bureaucratic form letter along the lines of “thank you very much for your concern…the State Department values all feedback…should you require further assistance…yada, yada, yada…” – so, altogether not very helpful. Duane’s efforts I’m sure made more inroads. I have heard nothing from Cultural Survival nor Survival International.

A visit to Abnormal Interests revealed the following from Duane,

I decided to go to the website for the US Embassy in Tanzania to see if they have a public position on the attempt to displace the Hadza. They don’t. An Embassy will seldom react to a local issue without direction from Washington. Assistant Secretary Dr. Jendayi Frazer leads the Bureau of African Affairs and Barbara Yoder is the Country Officer in the Bureau of African Affairs for Tanzania and Uganda.

I decided to call Yoder. She indicated that she was unaware of the issue. She said that our conversation was the first she heard of it. As far as she knew, and she would know, there is no US Government position with regard to the possible displacement of the Hadza. She directed me to Joseph Sokoine, Political Counselor for Tanzania in the United States. He was aware of the issue and seeking a position from his government. He hoped that that position would be available within the next few days. He plans to make it public. Both Yoder and Sokoine where extremely polite and neither seemed at all defensive. But of course, those qualities are part of their job.

Contact details for the people mentioned can be found towards the end of his post, though it does increasingly look as if this is a done deal, with little or no interest being taken in official or governmental circles, which given various track records in the past, will come as little surprise to many. Without a high profile campaign, I get the impression that this is being hurried through on the quiet, and by the time the rest of the news media catches on, it will be too late to effect any change. But even if this land lease deal has gone through, there is still time to get it reversed, but time is of an essence, as the longer the Hadza are deprived of their way of life, the harder it will become to revitalise their culture, particularly if one or more generations are affected by this.

Much has been written on this and similar subjects, particularly with regard to the everyday living conditions amongst some tribes, including this report from 2002 – for example the Tanzanian government states that it is mainly trying to help the Hadza by implementing such amenities as roads, housing, and education, and that leasing their land will ameliorate the lives of the tribespeople, which is all well and good. However, the living conditions of these and other tribes have been deliberately left to deteriorate over many years, giving the general impression that there is a wish to extinguish the hunter-gatherer life-style, which is evidently regarded from on high as being primitive.

There are ways of supplying aid in the guise of proper water supplies, health-care, education and so on, without the need for wholesale change which destroys culture, which is almost impossible to resurrect in its original form – and in this respect, Africa is no different from many other places in the world, from the Americas, across Asia and into Australia and Tasmania, where incoming foreigners, often Europeans, have gone about systematically destroying any culture that was deemed to be in some way inferior, lacking moral rectitude, or generally at odds with what was considered to be a civilised way of life.

I happened across a website called Saharan Vibe, on which is posted this illustrated article, Vanishing Hadzabe Culture, and I later came across a page at Soho Salon, ‘Living Among The Hadzabe‘ by James Stephenson, from where the accompanying image is taken.    (TJ)

see also: Bradshaw Foundation – Rock Art in the Lake Eyasi region

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