by Ben Taylor
Controversy over new Tanzania Embassy in Israel
On May 9, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, commissioned Tanzania’s new Embassy in Israel. The event took place in Tel Aviv, attended by various dignitaries including Israel’s Minister for Justice, Ms Ayelet Shaked, ambassadors and Tanzanians living in Israel.
In his speech, Dr Mahiga named Israel as a role model country, which, he said, despite facing multiple challenges with some of its neighbouring countries, has made major development strides in various sectors. He also urged the government of Israel to follow Tanzania’s lead by opening its embassy in Tanzania.
Dr Mahiga thanked Israel for its two ministers paying recent state visits to Tanzania, namely Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman, who visited Tanzania in March, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who visited in April.
For her part, Ms Shaked reassured Tanzania that her country was ready to cooperate with Tanzania in various sectors particularly in agriculture, technology and health.
However, the commissioning of the embassy did attract some critical commentary, with some analysts arguing that the move did not fit well with Tanzania’s long-standing support for the Palestinian cause.
Prof Bakari Mohamed of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) said he strongly opposes the government’s move. “I totally disagree with the decision because I believe in the need for Tanzania to uphold principles of human dignity and self-determination. I don’t see any reason to support diplomatic relations with a country violating the two,” he told The Citizen in an interview. He said he was disappointed with the country’s decision to re-establish diplomatic relationship with Israel because the country’s behaviour has changed since the last time Tanzania broke the relations in 1972.
Prof Gaudens Mpangala of Ruaha Catholic University (RUCU) concurred, suggesting that Tanzania should continue upholding foreign policy sympathizing with the weak and the oppressed. He said Tanzania, under the first president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was right to break relations with Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians. “It is difficult to see why the government should make a U-turn and re-establish relations not only with Israel but also with Morocco before the issues that led to the break up in relations were addressed,” he said.
The government, however, argues that its solidarity with Palestine will not be affected by closer ties with Israel. President John Magufuli has said previously that Tanzania did a good job in supporting liberation movements in Africa and elsewhere and that it was time to focus on the country’s economic development
New Centre for Chinese Studies opened in Dar
Dr Mahiga also spoke at the launch of a new Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) at the University of Dar es Salaam, describing the centre as an opportunity “for Tanzanians to learn how China advanced from a poor country to an economic powerhouse.”
The Chinese ambassador to Tanzania, Wang Ke, said the centre will play an important role in introducing Tanzanians to the Chinese way of life,” she said. “To better understand China, you need to be objective and independent in thinking. Only in this way you can present the real China to the people of Tanzania and other African countries.”
Wang further explained that the centre will enable Tanzanians to conduct in-depth research on the relevance of China’s development experience to Tanzania and Africa in general. “Development is the biggest challenge facing the world, and China’s experience in development may be helpful to African countries,” she said.
The CCS in Tanzania is the third such institute in Africa specialising in Chinese studies.
Dr Mahiga used the event to re-state Tanzania’s stance of “non-alignment” in foreign affairs and “non-interference” in domestic affairs, explaining that this meant Tanzania “shall not forget the Palestinians,” and “shall not drop the issue of the Saharawians,” even while strengthening ties with both Israel (see previous article) and Morocco (see earlier editions of TA).
Zimbabwe President Emerson Mnangagwa visits Tanzania
The new President of Zimbabwe, Emerson Mnangagwa visited Tanzania in June, his first such visit since taking over from President Mugabe late in 2017.
He was welcomed at the airport by President Magufuli, accompanied by other senior government officials including the Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Suzan Kolimba, and the heads of defence and security forces.
The two heads of state also discussed further cooperation in health, security, tradition, education, and sports.
According to President Magufuli, boosting ties especially in trade between the two countries would be a good way of encouraging and stimulating more development pacts. “Last year, trade between our two countries was at TSh 21.1 billion, up from TSh 18.3 bn in 2016. This is not enough… we need to make more efforts on this front,” said President Magufuli.
President Mnangagwa acknowledged the role that Tanzania played in his country’s independence struggle, including by visiting the Kaole Arts College in Bagamoyo, Coast region. The college had previously been a training college for liberation fighters from the southern part of Africa which Mnangagwa himself once attended.