Tanzanian human rights lawyer Joseph Moses Oleshangay was awarded the Weimar Human Rights Prize in Germany on December 10, 2023, which also happened to be International Human Rights Day, as declared by the United Nations.
According to the Human Rights Organization Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker, Oleshangay was recognized for advocating for the rights of the Maasai community in Tanzania, including their fight against forced relocation by the government.
“I feel honored to have been awarded the Weimar Human Rights Prize for 2023. It means a lot to me and the people we work with to stop the displacement of the Maasai community in Ngorongoro and Loliondo. Above all, it means everything to the Maasai, the victims of impunity and lawlessness, who lost their land and property. We will not leave our ancestral land,” he emphasized in his speech as he received the award.
Oleshangay, who comes from the Maasai community, has been campaigning against the government authorized expulsion of the indigenous ethnic group for many years.
As a participant in the Legal and Human Rights Centre, one of Tanzania’s most important human rights groups, Oleshangay offers legal counsel and participates in the documentation of human rights abuses in the country.
Oleshangay has also been the target of state repressive measures on several occasions, including a failed assassination attempt.
Gundula Gause, the patron of the Weimar Human Rights Prize, emphasized the global threat to human rights. “Beyond all immediate violence and destruction, there are wars and crises in many regions. There is poverty, hunger and homelessness. That’s why every commitment to human rights counts.”
Eight nominations in total were submitted for this year’s Human Rights Prize Award. Those proposed came from Iran, Palestine, Maldives, Greece, Myanmar, Tanzania and Nicaragua.