- Published on Friday, 14 September 2012 01:00
- Written by FAUSTINE KAPAMA
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LOSS of revenue and bleak future is likely to face the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) following the eminent closure of its two major tenants, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the East African Community (EAC).
The ICTR, a UN backed Tribunal mandated to prosecute key perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda , is the biggest occupant at the AICC. The Tribunal, which occupies 60 per cent of the AICC office accommodation facility is now in process of slowly vacating the premises and return it to the owner.
It is scheduled to finish its first instance trial at the end of this year and the exercise will be completed by 2014 when the Tribunal will have concluded its mandate after the determination of all appeals cases. According to the AICC Managing Director, Elishilia Kaaya, over 32 million US dollars have been paid to the AICC for the past 18 years for hosting the Tribunal. It may not be a big amount of cash but getting it constantly over the years is equally not a small deal.
For the EAC, according to its Senior Estate Management Officer, Dr Phil-Makini Kleruu, the Community was due to start shifting to its new headquarters, adjacent to the AICC building on Plot Number 12, Block 111 in Sekei Ward, Arusha Municipality this month.Being the second major tenant of the AICC, it is reported that the EAC Secretariat pays annual rent amounting 450,000 US dollars (nearly 600m/-).
Though the AICC Boss (Kaaya) denies any loss that could be observed upon vacation of the two institutions, other sources are of the different views on the matter. Commenting on the eventual departure of ICTR, the Chief Executive Officer of the International Business and Management Consultants Limited, Simon Mapolu, says: “If AICC starts now looking for a replacement after ICTR departure, it’s too late.’’
He explains that currently there is a stiff competition in the real estate business in Arusha more than ever before following a chain of hotels, lodges and many other office accommodation and modern conference facilities in town.‘’If I were the AICC proprietor, I would change the market strategy on how to run it. I would opt to lower rent and at the same time increase the marketing budget,’’ Mapolu suggests. He adds, ‘’to fill this animal (AICC) is very difficult. I don’t see bright future for AICC.’’
An official with the AICC, who preferred anonymity, says loss of revenue is inevitable after the departure of the two institutions. He explains that the time which AICC spends in scouting around for alternative tenants is already a loss of income. ‘’In fact to get another tenant with similar standard and calibre like ICTR is a big issue. The way forward is for the government to step in by persuading other international organizations to rent AICC office facility,’’ the officer points out.
He says, “to leave the whole thing on the hands of AICC alone is wrong.’’ The officer recalls preliminary efforts made by former Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, who had plans to lobby for alternative tenants for AICC after ICTR departure.
‘’Her efforts died a natural death after being appointed Deputy UN Secretary General,’’ the official elaborates. AICC is the government institution under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations. According to the officials, no one has ever attempted to lobby for the AICC at the ministerial level after Migiro.
The AICC Chief, Mr Elishilia Kaaya, says 13 per cent of the premise rented by ICTR has already been vacated and returned to the landlord. He denies that his institution is incurring any loss at the moment. ‘’I can’t really talk of a loss that will arise following vacation by ICTR, partially or even finally whenever it may happen, since AICC has not experienced any difficulties in securing alternative tenants in the process,’’ he says.
He went on explaining: ‘’AICC has and will fill any vacated space in a spar of a moment. I receive so many requests for space even though we have not made the eventual ICTR exit public. AICC is ready for it.’’It is worth noting that following the scheduled closure of ICTR, the United Nations in 2010 established the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) which will inherit some essential functions that will be left by its two Tribunals.
These are the Arusha based namely ICTR whose Mechanism’s branch commenced functioning on July 1, 2012 and that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, expected to start operations on July 1, 2013.
It appears that the Mechanism will not inherit office space left by ICTR at the AICC since; already there is a plan in place to construct its own building within the city of Arusha . According to a UN report, the AICC, where the ICTR is currently located, would not be suitable for long-term use by the Mechanism, owing to security, functional and programmatic requirements.
The United Nations General Assembly has already allocated three million US dollars, as initial amount for construction of the new UN premises.
Whereas, the government of Tanzania has provided a land on the outskirts of Arusha, about 18 kilometres from the city centre, where the Mechanism’s Branch for ICTR will be located.
Apart from offering the land, the Tanzanian government has also pledged to offer any other necessary connections facilities, such as electricity, water supply and drainage and sewerage system at no cost to the UN for the proposed building.