Tanzania: McEnroe Brothers' Tennis Tour Risks Whitewashing Maasai Forced Evictions

Tourism Needs to Respect Indigenous Communities’ Rights

This week American tennis players – brothers John and Patrick McEnroe – are set to host a luxury tennis-themed safari tour in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), where Indigenous Maasai people are protesting the Tanzanian government’s forced eviction of them from their ancestral homes.

The “Epic Tanzania Tour” is organized by Insider Expeditions, a private travel company, and the Tanzanian government. President Samia Suluhu Hassan has endorsed the tour. According to the tour’s itinerary, the tourists will also visit a “Maasai Cultural Village”, while the McEnroe brothers will conduct a tennis lesson for Maasai children.

For decades the government has used concerns over the increase in population and livestock to justify blocking the pastoralist Maasai communities – many who rely on cattle farming for their livelihoods – from living in and grazing animals in parts of the NCA, including the Ngorongoro crater.

Unlike the Maasai people that have lived there for decades, the tennis players and tourists will be allowed to access the crater, the world’s largest volcanic crater.

Around 2021, the government devised a plan, without properly consulting the community, to “voluntarily” relocate all 82,000 residents of the area about 600 kilometers away to Handeni district in eastern Tanzania by 2027. To get residents to leave, the government reduced important health and education services, and defunded the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council, which provided critical social support to communities there.