Villagers leaving near Kilimanjaro International Airport and whose houses have been marked for demolition are appealing to President Samia Suluhu Hassan as their only remaining hope.
Concrete beacons are meanwhile being erected along the perimeter surrounding Kilimanjaro International Airport.
The landmarks seem to annexing large portion of land previously settled by villagers.
In addition, hundreds of houses belonging to residents of surrounding villages have now become a bone of contention.
The houses have also been marked with special numbers in red.
The meaning here is that all doomed buildings will be demolished and owners must also fill special forms.
“We have not been told why we must fill the forms,” lamented the villagers.
Yuster Thomas who hails from Masama Rundugai Ward says they are now forced to live in fear as cops and police trucks are patrolling the entire landscape.
“For over a week now we cannot sleep well or even attend daily chores, because the menacing soldiers are everywhere,” says another resident, Aziza Juma.
On his part, Swalehe Hussein Msuya says they have been told that the cops are around to safeguard the ongoing exercise of evaluating properties for compensation.
“How are they evaluating houses, commercial buildings, schools, dispensaries, churches and mosques as well as farms, not to mention our parents, grandparents and ancestors’ graves, livestock and other properties without involving their owners?”
Some villagers say their homes are located more than 10 kilometers from Kilimanjaro Airport and wonder why the terminal needs such a big chunk of land.
Especially because the airport’s expansion and rehabilitation projects have already been accomplished.
The Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner, Nurdin Babu, says the exercise to demarcate land and evaluate properties is now a new development.
“All residents in the area have been kept up to date with the plans, their Parliamentary Representative has been holding series of meetings with villagers and even myself visited the precinct to talk to the residents,” points out RC Babu.
“The villagers should understand that the land belonging to Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company must be vacated and the affected residents will be compensated,” adds the Regional Commissioner
For months now, the residents of eight villages surrounding the Kilimanjaro International Airport have been up in arms against what they describe to be a proposed move by local authorities to have them evicted from their customary land.
Expressing views during a series of public gatherings and indoor meetings, the villagers insist that they have legal title deeds to prove their rightful residence in the area.
“We have been living on this land long before Tanganyika’s independence and years before the airport was constructed,” they explained.
One of the village representatives, Jakobo Palangyo, points out that all villages have legal; title deeds.
The area also features registered schools, officially recognized houses of worship and business entities.
As far as the villagers are concerned it is thus a crime to grab the land away from them.
“We are prepared to travel all the way to Dar-es-Salaam and lodge our grievances and complaints to President Samia Suluhu Hassan,” he stated.
The villages currently at loggerheads with the management of Kilimanjaro Airport include, Sanya Station, Mtakuja, Tindigani, Chemka, Majengo, Malula and Samaria.
Between them, the villages are home to more than 2000 residents.
Some of the residents keep livestock and they own more than 100,000 livestock.
The villages also have 18 Primary and Secondary Schools, Business properties, Dispensaries, Churches and Mosques all of which could face demolition if authorities launch operations against the helpless people.
Another resident, Elia Mollel, says the exercise to erect beacons around their rightful lands is uncalled for and appealed to higher authorities to halt the process.
The Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner, Nurdin Babu who recently visited the area declared that the government was planning to survey the area and plots surrounding the airport.
Babu said the exercise will culminate with planting of beacons to demarcate the precinct so as to be certain which parts belong to the people and what lies within the Airport authority.
The local residents fear that the move targets to remove their homes from the area. They argue that they have been living in the precinct since time in memorial and that the airport found them there.
Other than owning the place, the residents claim that it was actually their fathers and grandfathers who donated land to the government for the construction of the country’s second largest air terminal.
Currently running under the management of Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company (KADCO), the terminal, popularly known as KIA was inaugurated in December 1971.
The airport stands at the exact center between Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions. Part of its real estate also falls into the Manyara Region.
The official opening of Kilimanjaro International Airport was graced by the then Tanzanian President, Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) was built in 1971 to mark the tenth anniversary of the country’s Independence.