Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu on Thursday assured citizens of civil liberties and vowed to end endemic corruption in the government.
In a speech to mark 60 years of the country’s independence, Suluhu also pledged to fight for her country’s image abroad, including strengthening diplomatic and economic ties in the region and beyond.
“Our diplomacy continues to shine internationally,” the President said in a speech that was televised before the celebrations.
“We are friends with almost every country on the planet. We are not enemies with anybody. We respect the views of those we do not agree with, even as we continue to defend ours as a responsibility passed down from our forefathers.”
Suluhu admitted corruption in past governments was rampant but rejected reports that Tanzania has retrogressed on basic civil rights.
She said in a televised speech before celebrations began that 60 years of independence has seen the country improve its record on civil liberties.
“We all agree that Tanzania has respected systems. That has enabled us to elect leaders every five years,” President Suluhu said.
“In addition to that, our people continue to exercise their basic constitutional rights to vote or be voted for freely.”
Freedom of expression
She added that Tanzanians enjoy freedom of expression, “contrary to what others say”.
“Media outlets operate freely and their numbers have even increased,” the President said at the Uhuru Stadium in commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
Suluhu added that the 270 newspapers registered in Tanzania, from just one at independence in 1961, shows things have improved.
President Suluhu’s predecessor John Pombe Magufuli saw a crackdown on journalists and the media, leading to international condemnation.
She said Tanzania still nurses the ambition and dream of becoming industrialised, adding that the country has succeeded in improving public services, including providing clean water, education, electricity, health and transport.
One of her recent policy reversals that has been hailed in and outside Tanzania is allowing pregnant girls to resume schooling.
Magufuli had decreed that such students would not be allowed to school as they would be a bad example to others, drawing more criticism.
President Suluhu said the changes in her country have improved life expectancy from 37 years in 1962 to 67 in 2021.
Stealing public funds
She also told the crowd that she carries the burden and mistakes made by past governments which she vowed to address.
“The rot you see began years ago. Some people want to blame my government for corruption,” the President said, pledging to ensure officials stealing public funds face the law.
Later, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta joined other leaders in the celebrations at the stadium. Tanganyika, as the mainland Tanzania is known, attained independence in 1961 but later merged with Zanzibar to form Tanzania.
Other Presidents at the ceremony were Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Filipe Nyusi (Mozambique), Azali Assoumani (Comoros) and Democratic Republic of Congo Prime Minister Sama Lukonde.
President Kenyatta, who is on a two-day state visit, was invited to the celebrations by Suluhu in May.
President Suluhu said the celebrations “mark our friendship and the spirit of unity in Africa”.
President Kenyatta is to hold meetings with his host to review the trade deals reached when she visited Nairobi in May.