Chinese firm CRJE (East Africa) Ltd has been awarded the contract to build headquarters for the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, further establishing China’s position as the main backer of recent moves by continental organisations to secure their own premises.
Total cost estimates have been put at Tsh61 billion ($25.79 million), with host Tanzania pledging about Tsh9.4 billion ($3.7 million) to the project. The court said it planned to raise the rest of the money from other “partners”.
CRJE will carry out the project on 24 hectares of land offered by Tanzania in Laki Laki on the outskirts of Arusha and the project is expected to be completed within two years.
The African Court, which was established in 1998, has been a tenant in the Tanzania National Parks headquarters building since it moved its permanent seat from Addis Ababa in 2007, a year after it formally started operating.
However, despite the latest show of commitment, Tanzania’s own relationship with the court has been somewhat rocky, mainly thanks to Article 34 of the protocol establishing the court which gives it the mandate to hear petitions filed directly by individuals and civil society organisations without first exhausting all domestic court channels.
In November 2019, Tanzania formally announced its withdrawal from the controversial clause citing dissatisfaction with the way it was being implemented, particularly in relation to cases challenging the government.
Of the 34 African countries that have so far ratified the African Court protocol, only eight are understood to have accepted Article 34. Rwanda also formally withdrew from the clause in February 2016.
The proposed headquarters will be close to the current UN Mechanism for International Tribunals (formerly International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) premises.
In April, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation won a $45 million tender to build the new headquarters of Igad in Djibouti.
According to consultancy firm Deloitte, in 2020 Chinese companies were responsible for 31 percent of large-scale infrastructure projects valued at $50 million or more in Africa, up from 12 percent in 2013.
By contrast, the percentage of these projects handled by Western contractors dropped from 37 to 12 percent during the same period.
This is the latest addition to China’s growing portfolio of strong involvement in helping continental bodies realise their ambitions to set up own premises.