Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Done Deal?

Kipawa, a district of Tanzania's Dar es Salaam, used to be a lively neighbourhood, home to about 1,300 families. Many residents had lived there for most of their lives. More than 480 families protested against a proposed compensation package that, they said, undervalued their homes by 50% and was based on an obsolete land acquisition act dating from 1967. Nevertheless, in February 2010, the eviction was carried out suddenly. Teargas was used and more than 300 buildings were demolished within two days. Many people became homeless overnight, according to the Legal and Human Rights Centre, a Tanzania-based NGO.

Now, the area has been completely demolished and fenced in. A sign on the fence says a Chinese company, China International Fund, is to construct a terminal building here as part of a project to extend the country’s main airport. It is almost two years since the community was evicted to make way for the development, and yet there are no signs of construction in Kipawa. The displacement may turn out to be pointless, since the Tanzanian government has admitted the investment for its airport projects is not yet in place. The area has become a deserted field. Most former residents were relocated 36km to the west; they no longer have access to electricity, clean water, roads or schools, and they face long journeys.

 In March 2007 Chinese businessman Sam Po flew his private jet into Tanzania. Po represents the 88 Queensway Group, a body of companies – including the China International Fund (CIF) and China Sonangol International Holding. He offered to upgrade Julius Nyerere international airport and revive Air Tanzania, the national flag-carrier. Po promised six other projects.  A few months later  China Sonangol was granted licences to explore two oilfields in the Lake Rukwa basin in south-west Tanzania. It is clear the two deals were linked. Sonangol has been granted oil concessions outside normal procedure in 2009. A year later, the parliament forced the authorities to withdraw the oil licences granted to the Chinese company.

Meanwhile, the 1,300 families evicted from Kipawa are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

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