FOREIGN RELATIONS

by David Brewin

President Magufuli spent his first very active few months in charge after his election dealing with major matters at home. Now the tireless president has begun taking time to deal with foreign relations, particularly foreign financial relations. The results are already beginning to be seen.

China
He has begun by ‘looking East’ for trade especially to China and Turkey. Major issues of interest to Tanzania have been centred on the standard gauge railway, the proposed new port in Bagamoyo and the establishment of up to 700 factories in Tanzania in three years. China has risen from the sixth largest foreign investor in 2011 to second place after the UK more recently.

Mozambique
Mozambique recently expelled about 200 Tanzanians who are alleged to have been living in the country illegally. The Ministry of Home Affairs was said to be verifying claims of abuse against these people including allegations of beatings and rape. The passports of some deportees were seized. The crackdown was conducted in the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado where some 3,000 Tanzanians are said to be living.

Morocco
Following the King of Morocco’s recent tour of Africa, including Tanzania, Morocco has continued its efforts to be re-admitted to the African Union. The country already has the backing of a simple majority of African states following its mobilisation of 28 countries – 52% of the of the AU membership. Morocco withdrew from the Organisation of African unity (OAU) – the precursor to the African Union (AU) – in 1984 when the OAU admitted Western Sahara, a disputed region on the Atlantic coastline between Morocco to the north, Algeria to the east and Mauritania to the south. Morocco’s claim to this phosphate-rich territory in 1975 followed the withdrawal of Spain which had colonised the Western Sahara for many years. Conflict between the different parties was apparently settled in 1990 when it was said that the people of the former Spanish colony would have a referendum over their right to self-determination. But Morocco argued that the Western Sahara is an integral part of its kingdom while the Polisario Front had been campaigning for the territory’s independence. Morocco has repeatedly failed to hold the proposed referendum.

In a recent letter from the King to the current Chairman of the AU, Chadian President Idriss Deby he wrote: “We need to take the path of lucidity and courage, which our elders, the first pan Africans, had privileged. … That is why, on the question of the Sahara, institutional Africa can no longer endure the burdens of a historical error and a cumbersome legacy. Since this so-called state is not a member of the UN, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the League of Arab States nor any other sub-regional, regional or international institution, is not the present situation in clear contradiction with international legality?”

Rwanda and the Swahili language
Rwanda is planning to introduce the Swahili language in its school curriculum by next year as part of plans to adopt it as an official language. At present Swahili is taught as an optional subject at primary and high school levels but French is declining in importance.

Turkey and Portugal
A joint venture between a Turkish and a Portuguese company has won the tender for construction of 205km of the proposed new Standard gauge railway. This is part of the 1,200km stretch that will eventually link Dar es Salaam with the rest of the country as well as with Rwanda and Burundi, is to be constructed at a total cost of US $1.2 billion. Tanzania is hoping to secure soft loans from development partners and financial institutions for implementation of the plan. The Turkish/Portuguese firms which were selected beat 39 other bidders for this project which will take 2½ years to build. It had been widely expected that Chinese firms would obtain the contract, but Turkey’s forceful President Erdogan visited Tanzania recently and things changed. According to The East African, the Turkish president used the opportunity of his visit to Tanzania to ask for a loan from Turkey’s state-owned Export Credit Bank to help finance part of the new rail line.

Israel
Tanzania’s long-standing support for the people of Palestine and coolness towards Israel is changing. President Magufuli, following the opening last year in Israel of a visa processing centre to boost tourism from Tanzania, has now stated his intention to open an embassy in Tel Aviv. Israeli tourist charters are already landing regularly at Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar airports.

Uganda
The latest VIP to come to Dar es Salaam on a state visit has been President Museveni of Uganda. In an official statement in Kampala following the visit, President Museveni confirmed that the major oil pipeline for Uganda oil would be constructed in Tanzania rather than Kenya and that agreement had been reached on the route (Hoima to Tanga) – and costs ($3.5 billion). People in Kampala were talking about the ‘Museveni magic.’ It is hoped that Ugandan oil will be produced by about 2020.

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