Tanzania has expressed its intention to build an ultra-modern and purpose-built structure for the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights in Arusha, the northern safari capital, which will reflect justice for the whole of Africa.
By agreeing to host most of the human rights institutions in Arusha, we know that we are putting our own country's human rights record under close scrutiny
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mathias Chikawe revealed this in Arusha on Sunday while addressing judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Permanent Representatives' Committee (PRC) of the African Union (AU).
He said that the building will be built in Kisongo area, on the outskirts of Arusha city, and is set to put up enough space for facility to accommodate future requirement of the African court.
"We're working closely with the Court to construct the permanent premises," Chikawe said, adding that the government has already identified a piece of land for the purpose.
"We have received the proposed concept for the architectural design sent by the court two weeks ago, and we will engage with architects to come up with a proper design that we will share with the court and the African Union authorities. As soon as we agree on the design, we will commence construction," he said.
He said that the court had requested for a 50 hectares piece of land on which the premises should be constructed.
"We are still considering that request and a decision will be made based on the needs presented by the court. And we'll also take due cognizance of the fact that the jurisdiction of the court will be extended to include criminal matters that may necessitate more staff and extensive facilities," the minister said.
The Arusha-based African court is currently operating in the buildings owned by Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), located along the Babati highway.
As part of implementing the idea, Tanzania's government and the court have established a Joint Facilitative Committee, a brainchild of President Jakaya Kikwete, to ensure the effective implementation of the host agreement, and deal with whatever challenges may arise from the implementation of the same.
"The first successful meeting of this Committee took place in May this year at the premises of the court. We are hopeful that through such a mechanism, the welfare of Judges, staff and those coming to perform activities of the court, will be properly discussed and improved," Chikawe said.
"By agreeing to host most of the human rights institutions in Arusha, we know that we are putting our own country's human rights record under close scrutiny.
This is a great challenge for us, as a government, as a country and as a people..we are prepared to face that challenge.
And we believe that this is yet another important contribution we have to make to the development of the continent," he said.
"If Tanzania wants to be seen and to be known as the Justice and human rights capital of Africa, we must face up to this challenge. We know that the building of an effective human rights system cannot be done overnight, and it cannot be done by bringing all the institutions in one capital, neither can it be done by one country or region alone. It must be a collective endeavour," he added.
African leaders have established the African Court to serve as the 'Palais de Justice' in Africa, and for it to discharge that mandate, it needs the support from all stakeholders, especially member states of AU.
The decision was made in 1998 to establish an African Court to complement and reinforce the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights which is based in Banjul, Gambia.
"This is because we saw value addition in the establishment of the court," the minister said. More than 14 years after the adoption of the protocol establishing the court, only 26 states, less than half of the member states of AU, have ratified the protocol.
It is even more striking to note that of the 26, only five have made the declaration accepting the competence of the court to receive cases from individuals and NGOs.