Last year, Samia Suluhu Hassan granted audience to BBC’s Salum Kikeke. It made sense to give a neutral homeboy the first big “international” interview during such a delicate time of transition.
They could speak in Kiswahili and let the shades and nuances of the language permeate their conversation. This made it easy to pick out the exact moment when Salim stepped in it, so to speak. He probed a touch too far about Freeman Mbowe’s case.
An already calm woman, the President became stiller and calmer. She locked Salim in her steady gaze and proceeded to snatch the interview from his grip. In the most pleasant and even tones possible, of course.
Mr Kikeke was unable to get a definitive answer from Mama Samia about Mbowe, Lissu or the new Constitution. Shivering in the winter of her sudden discontent, he changed tack and got rewarded by the return of her sunny disposition and easy manner.
Really, it was only about seven minutes of footage but it was at that point that I exhaled, you know? We got us a live one here, folks.
Today, the questions of Mbowe and Lissu have been answered. I would venture that the new Constitution process is in development, being a complex political negotiation. What is no longer in question is President Samia’s leadership.
Surviving president’s death
My hope seems to have come true. I gambled nervously that if any sub-Saharan African country was mature enough to survive a president’s death, accept a woman’s leadership and grow a few steps farther in its statehood, Tanzania was it. And we are — ee made it!
To celebrate two years of observing Mama Samia at work, here is what I have to say: Respect.
It is very nice to go back to ignoring my Head of State as a rule, only paying attention when I want to — like a visit from the US Second in Command, or an unusual Chadema Women’s League conference, or touring Tanzania with Peter. Also, have you noticed how the military fetish has receded? I certainly have. Banana republic is not a good look in the 2020s, you know?
There will be articles about the President, fear not. I plan to make fun of her hiring and firing methods via online press releases. I am a staunch feminist, Madam President is not. She is a centrist as far as I can tell on that front. The economy, sports, whatever... there is much to discuss vis-à-vis the President’s performance, but there is no rush.
Mama Samia has given me two years of “no news is good news,” which is a bigger achievement than one might think. That is what I hope to explore at leisure. That we share a healthy obsession with Tanzania and her welfare is a wonderful certainty. Emphasis on “healthy.”
Have a good week, East Africa. It is going to be “boring” in Tanzania, a blessing I have never taken for granted and never will. I wish for you the same dull and predictable safety wherever you are, at least once in your lifetime.
Unless you get an employment or unemployment letter from Ikulu via Twitter at 10am, in which case: Pole sana, kazi iendelee.
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]