Arusha’s satellite city dream fades away

Arusha Clock Tower, which is between Jo'burg and Cairo in distance

Tanzania’s central government and the Arusha District Council are headed for a clash over the land where the proposed multibillion-dollar complex for the African Court of Human and People’s Rights will be built.

Divisions are deepening between the central and local governments over the proposed 430-acre site pledged by President Jakaya Kikwete a fortnight ago at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Sources privy to the issue told The EastAfrican that the central government made a unilateral decision by ceding the land, which had already been earmarked by the Arusha council for a satellite town.

To make matters worse, it has emerged that the land in question, in Ilakilak Ward in west Arusha, was also used by the Arusha council as collateral in a US$5.674 million loan issued by the Commercial Bank of Africa. Indeed, Arusha authority had invested the loan in purchasing the 432 acres from a settler as well as planning the area for a modern satellite town.

Originally, officials say, the loan funds were to be recovered through the sale of plots, which was planned to take place in March this year. As things stand now, the plan has stalled pending further directives.

Arusha councillors argue that the move puts other council assets attached to the loan mortgage at risk of being auctioned by the bank to recover the funds.

“We are planning to meet soon to oppose the central government’s unilateral decision. It does not make sense to cede 430 acres for the court alone. We cannot accept this,” said one of the civic leaders, who preferred anonymity.

Officials said the Arusha council was ready to offer the African court up to 30 acres, but not the entire land.

Arusha Rural District Council director Khalifa Hida said the ambitious satellite town project was unlikely to take off following the central government order.

The African Court of Human and People’s Rights, an organ of the African Union, is currently housed in the Tanzania National Parks buildings in the Urundini Majengo area of Arusha, on Dodoma road.

Mr Hida said his authority had purchased the 430 acres for the proposed new city from the Valhala Estate at a cost of $5.674 million in total, and that the proposed satellite town, to be known as “Arusha DC Safari Town,” was intended to ease congestion in the streets of Arusha town.

The new township was initially expected to be completed by September 2013 after a speedy, non-stop construction. All residential houses within the proposed city were to be built by the council and sold off to interested buyers under mortgage and loan schemes.

A firm known as Arusha District Council Trust Company was to be formed to undertake all the tasks involved in putting up the new urban settlement. The Tanzania Investment Bank, meanwhile, was expected to make an additional loan of $5.764 million to enable the council to clear the land purchase bill for the ambitious project.
Source: The EastAfrican,www.theeastafrican.co.ke, reported by Adam Ihucha in Arusha
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