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‘East or West, Arumeru is indeed the best’

Arumeru, located on the windward slopes of Mount Meru, dates back to the early 70s when the precinct, which used to be part of what is now known as Arusha-urban was spilt to become an independent district.

The area’s earlier history is enough to make a script for horror movie, to mention but a few past episodes involving cold-blooded murder of missionaries who dared venture into the area in the pre-colonial era, rivers that turned red from blood spilled from tribal warfare and other real tales from the crypt.

Civilization saw Arumeru developing into a district that produced learned people, export-quality coffee and remarkable modern development without sacrificing its culture, tradition and customs. Standout scholars include the late Dr Peter Pallangyo who wrote the “Dying in the Sun” together with its Kiswahili version, “Kivuli cha Mauti” both of which were published under the Chinua Achebe founded, African Writers Series (AWS).

Ghanaian author, Mr Ayi Kwei Armah who authored the novel; “The Beautiful Ones are not yet born!” had to swallow his words when he visited Arumeru in the seventies and married a wife from there. Arumeru was also a very big district, surrounding Arusha-urban from all sides and boasting a population of nearly 600,000 while the whole of Arusha region had 1.7 million people in total.

The two Arumeru district councils boast more than 200 primary schools out of the 570 found in the entire Arusha region consisting of seven districts. Politically Arumeru was divided into two constituencies; Arumeru-East and Arumeru-West, even before the division into two councils. The East section consist of mostly the Wa-Meru people while the West being predominantly a Maasai precinct.

The tale of two councils began in 2007 it was eventually decided that Arumeru was too large a district something which made its governance difficult so it was divided into two councils, the East becoming “Meru District Council” while the West adopting the “Arusha (Rural) District”.

Initially the two councils were meant to be known by their constituencies’ names Arumeru East and “Arumeru-West” but reports had that, the Maasai of the West did not like the “Meru” tag in “Aru-meru” so they opted for “Arusha-rural” instead. It later became very confusing because Arusha (Rural) District council sounded like Arusha (Urban) which despite the fact that it is called a “City,” it also happens to be a fully-fledged District, completed with a District Commissioner, in this case Mr Raymond Mushi.

And while Arusha Rural and Meru Districts each had its own council and executive director, they are still sharing a single District Commissioner whose office continues to regard the precinct as “Arumeru!” Recently the “Arusha-Rural” district broke the seven-year silence and petitioned that it was high time the precinct was granted total sovereignty, which will enable it to have an independent District Commissioner of its own.

The Arusha-Rural District Executive Director Mr Halifa Hida stated in an official report that, the current Arumeru District Commissioner Mrs Mercy Sila who presides over both the East (Meru) and West (Arusha DC) is being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the combined two councils, therefore another DC is needed. Mr Hida added that Arusha-Rural has already met the conditions of being made full-fledged district; including surpassing the required population of 100,000 people, saying the ARD has a total of 328,996 residents, more than three times the required number.

Earlier on through an official letter number MM/AR/C.50/6/57 the Arusha-rural District Council wrote to the Regional Commissioner’s office requesting autonomy. The Arusha Regional Commissioner’s office responded via official letter number CEA.23/45/06/6 informing the council that the Regional Administration and Local Government Ministry had turned down the request until the Arusha-Rural has fulfilled various conditions including that of population size.

Arusha-rural was also directed to ensure that the precinct have at least 50 villages, 15 Wards and 5 divisions while its geographical size must be 5000 square kilometres in addition to be economically stable and as far as Mr Hida is concerned, they have already met all these conditions.

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Mwandishi: MARC NKWAME in Arusha

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