Residents of eight villages surrounding the Kilimanjaro International Airport are up in arms against what they describe to be proposed move by local authorities to have them evicted from their customary land.
Speaking during a public gathering, 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, there are officially registered schools, officially recognized houses of worship and business entities, it is thus a crime to try and take 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 Mosque 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.
But are the villagers really being evicted from their land?
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 exercise to that effect was to be executed on November 11, 2022.
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 are the ones 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 exact center between Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions. Part of its real estate also falls onto 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.