Will Tanzania’s capital ever shift to Dodoma?


JF-Expert Member
Feb 11, 2007
Will Tanzania’s capital ever shift to Dodoma?

Shifting the capital of Tanzania from Dar-es-Salaam to Dodoma is one of the longest government projects in the country’s 47-year post-independence history. It must also be one of the most erratic wishy-washy affairs.

The project was initiated by the late President Julius Nyerere in 1972, who liked Dodoma for its central location. The hope was that, centrally-basing the government and related public institutions — including diplomatic missions, international organisations and Tanzania’s development partners — would speed up national socio-economic development.

AFTER YEARS OF FALSE STARTS, THE project’s implementation seemed to take off in 1993. But, not for long. Successive governments under Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa never particularly distinguished themselves in keeping the project rolling.

Indeed, some government offices were transferred from Dar-es-Salaam to Dodoma in 1996. Dar es Salaam appeared to be losing its official status as the nation’s capital. Dodoma also became the legislative capital, hosting parliament. However, Dar-es-Salaam remains home to most government ministries as well as foreign missions and is thriving commercially, socially and politically.

Construction of new, bigger and better offices remains vibrant. State House and the Premier’s Village are still regularly spruced up. And, although the Mkapa Government proclaimed on April 13, 1999 that shifting to Dodoma would be accomplished by 2004 and annual budgets for that continued to be disbursed, this is nowhere near reality four years past that deadline.

On April 19, 1999, the immediate past writer of this column, the late Michael Okema (God rest his soul in eternal peace), stated that “every Government, from that of Mwalimu Nyerere to that of President Mkapa, has pledged to move the capital to Dodoma … those pledges were not kept …”

NOTING THAT TANZANIA HAD CHANGED beyond recognition over the years, Okema said the government needed to revisit the whole issue of the shift to Dodoma.

Enter the Kikwete government in 2005 and 36 years after Nyerere broached the programme and prime Minister Mizengo Pinda throws a spanner in the works. Defending his office budget proposals for FY-2008/09 in Parliament on June 23, Mr Pinda said the government was organising a national debate on the issue. The premier added that legislation on proclaiming Dodoma the capital would be based on the debate’s results.

What if the debate is overwhelmingly against the shift?

And what is the point of staging a debate when attitudes of government officials are not changing?

Indeed, things have changed so much that the original reasons for the shift have shifted like the Sahara sand dunes.

For example, “Capital Dodoma” was conceived when Tanzania was a centrally-planned economy with clout on such matters.

Today, it professes a market economy, subscribing to market forces and private-sector driven development.

DODOMA IS STILL NOTED FOR ITS LACK of social and economic infrastructure, a major disincentive to private investment. If the government will not itself bite the bullet and shift bag-and-baggage to Dodoma, why should the private sector do so?

Some people say moving parliament to Dodoma has already contributed to its development. But will the shift ever happen?

Karl Lyimo is a freelance journalist based in Dar.
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