Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu has been visiting Europe, and making history in her wake.
Apart from breaking from the mode of her predecessor, John Pombe Magufuli, who had made it a point to not travel to foreign countries, Samia is showing herself to be a stateswoman and diplomat who is engaged in the efforts to make this world a better place with her country in it.
This is no mean feat. The five years or so that Magufuli was at the helm of Tanzanian affairs marked a withdrawal of this country from world affairs, in some aspects even risking becoming an international pariah. Samia is effectively reinserting her country into international and diplomatic affairs.
This is just part of it. Far more than this, the president took the opportunity of her visit to meet and talk to the most prominent Tanzanian living in exile since the end of 2020, a man by the name of Tundu Antipas Lissu, who was Magufuli’s main opponent in the 2020 General Election but fled the country after the polls, citing fears for his life.
Truth be said, the president has pulled off what I consider more than a political and diplomatic coup. That she is reintroducing Tanzania into the comity of nations is something that has to be lauded by all right-thinking people observing political developments in the country.
By doing what she has just done, the president is reclaiming Tanzania’s space lost in the half decade of her predecessor’s rule.
Since our independence as Tanganyika in 1961, this country has always placed itself at the centre of international efforts to bring about concord in the world by ridding it of the injustices plaguing it and promoting cooperation and mutual assistance.
Indeed, the mantra repeated by Tanganyikans since 1958 “ will put a torch on top of the Kilimanjaro and let it shine beyond our borders to bring hope where there is despair, love where there is hate, and dignity where there is humiliation.”
It was on the basis of this philosophical world view that we stood with our brothers and sisters in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau and East Timor against Portuguese colonialism; those in Southern Africa against apartheid; our kindred in Palestine against Jewish apartheid; Vietnam against American aggressive imperialism, etc.
Any attempt to withdraw our commitment to that principle, as Magufuli did in many aspects, is to go against the grain of what being Tanzanian entails.
It is against that supreme injunction, “Binadamu wote ni ndugu zangu na Afrika ni moja!” (All humans are my kin, and Africa is one.”
These are beautiful words, denoting beautiful thoughts. Why would anyone in their right minds seek to abandon them? The Tanzanian president is only reminding us of our moorings and bidding us to go back to our founding principles. Some of these principles we had been made to forget in the madness that overtook us between 2015 and 2020.
But then Samia did something even more significant. By accepting to meet and talk with Lissu in Brussels, she lifted a heavy weight from the shoulders of Tanzania’s psychology.
Lissu left the country in particular circumstances, which made it clear that it was not realistic to expect him to come back home any time soon without some kind of assurance as to his safety.
Let no one forget that this is a man who was hit by 16 bullets in broad daylight and in the “safety” of government premises some five years under the watch of John Magufuli.
That no one has been apprehended for that grave crime; that the police have never shown interest in such a shocking case; that the CCTV videos supposedly in place at the time of the attack have gone missing; that the guards had conveniently been removed before the attack… the combination of these factors should raise at least an eyebrow.
By granting an audience to Lissu, Samia seems to be saying that he had something to say that was worth listening to, and according to Lissu, who tweeted in detail about what he said to the president, he indeed had something of import to say.
Lissu says that he asked the president to look into ways to get rid of the “terrorism” trial facing the chairman of the main opposition Chadema, Freeman Mbowe; opening up the space for political activities in the country, which were banned by Magufuli since the 2020 election; allowing political exiles who fled after that election to come back home; and ending the continued membership in parliament of 19 women who have been disowned by their party but are kept in parliament by the Speaker’s fiat.
For obvious reasons, Lissu milked the exceptional opportunity he got and poured his heart out to Samia, and I would not have expected anything less from this indefatigable campaigner. Whether the president accedes to Lissu’s pleas or not that is a different matter. The important thing is that the president has been seized of the matter(s) and that she had the graciousness to take time to listen to one of her citizens who, to say the least, had a case which did not want in merit.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]