Dar es Salaam — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ended a three-day State Visit to the United Republic of Tanzania with a call to strengthen Tanzania-Liberia relations.
According to a Dispatch from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the visit was an opportunity for enhancing and strengthening the brotherly relations that so happily exist between the two countries. President Sirleaf visited Tanzania at the invitation of her counterpart, His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, from July 17 to 19.
On Tuesday, July 17, President Kikwete received the Liberian President and delegation at a colorful ceremony at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, with hundreds of well-wishers in attendance, including Government officials, members of the Diplomatic Corps, representatives of development partners, women's groups, youth and students organizations, traditional leaders, civil society and traditional dancers, and more.
The two leaders later held closed-door talks, followed by bilateral talks in which officials from both sides participated.
Speaking during the talks, President Kikwete welcomed the Liberian leader and indicated that the visit was long awaited. He recalled that President William V. S. Tubman was the last Liberian leader to have ever visited Tanzania. "African States usually support each other in international affairs, and thus the visit to Tanzania is in the right direction," President Kikwete said. He also recalled the excellent relations that existed between Presidents Nyerere and Tubman, which led them to take steps to establish the Organization of African Unity. "Let's continue the good relations," he added.
He also reminded the Liberian leader that Tanzania contributed a military battalion during ECOMOG's peacekeeping operations in Liberia, saying, "I have followed Liberia with great interest, from Doe and Taylor and now President Sirleaf." He assured President Sirleaf that he will reciprocate the visit next year.
For her part, President Sirleaf thanked the Government and people of Tanzania for the warm reception accorded her and her delegation, and said she felt honored to be in familiar territory. She reminded her host that, while working in Nairobi, Kenya, over 15 years ago, Tanzania was among the many countries she covered.
She expressed surprise at how much the Tanzanian capital has changed for the better, with huge development all across the city. She informed President Kikwete that Liberia's case was different due to the war, and because the forefathers of the land spent more time liberating countries in Africa and paid little attention to domestic responsibilities. She said that Liberia has now embarked on the formulation of a new development agenda which will seek to transform the country to a middle-income nation. "The last six years of my administration was a period of stabilization, and this final term is the transformation period," the Liberian leader told her colleague.
President Sirleaf also expressed her joy at having taken over the leadership of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) from President Kikwete at a time when a lot of systems are in place to keep the institution vibrant. "Your leadership at ALMA was exemplary, and I can say that I accept the responsibility and will seek to build upon your achievements," President Sirleaf promised.
At a State Banquet later in the evening, President Kikwete again used the occasion to welcome the President and party to his country and wished them a pleasant stay. He praised President Sirleaf for her excellent leadership, adding, "You are a role model for the African continent with regards to good and democratic governance. African women can cook very well, but I know they can also hold trusted public offices as shown by President Sirleaf," President Kikwete said.
President Sirleaf was quick to recognize the presence of the former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Madam Asha-Rose Migiro, and an array of representatives of foreign embassies and development partners who attended the banquet.
Africa's first female President observed that the continent had made history at the African Union, with the election of South Africa's Home Affairs Minister, Madam Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as President of the African Union Commission.
On Wednesday, July 18, President Sirleaf, joined by President Kikwete, opened the ALMA Headquarters, in Dar es Salaam, at a ceremony graced by Government officials, UN representatives, development partners and foreign embassies, among others.
President Kikwete expressed joy for ALMA's accomplishments, particularly with the opening of a new office complex and the scorecard initiative meant to track progress in the battle against malaria. He thanked President Sirleaf for accepting to lead the Alliance, and its secretariat for the great job done thus far.
President Sirleaf, for her part, accepted the challenge of providing leadership for ALMA, and promised to work towards meeting the set goals and targets of the initiative. She called for the support of all Member States of ALMA, as well as leaders and countries yet to hold membership. "Malaria is an ailment that kills mainly women and children, and we must do all we can to eradicate it," the President told the audience. She also stressed the importance of the newly developed scorecard which will help leaders to monitor progress of their respective governments and countries.
Later in the day, the Liberian leader participated in an interactive session at the University of Dar es Salaam. The President spoke about the Millennium Development Goals - their impact, implementation and the way forward after the 2015 end date. She spoke on "The Role of Women in African Development." Attending were students, government officials, diplomats, development partners, professors, women's advocates, and civil society groups. President Sirleaf fielded dozens of questions from the participants, and described the exercise as very fruitful and rewarding
During the program, President Sirleaf was awarded the "University of Dar es Salaam Golden Jubilee Award," in appreciation of her outstanding achievements in both her public and private life. In the citation read out to bestow the University's highest honor on President Sirleaf, the Vice Chancellor recounted he many rewards already won by the Liberian leader, including the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, which she shared with two other women, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen.
The President and party, escorted by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Health, Gender, Community Development and Children's Affairs, along with a host of other officials, then departed Dar es Salaam for Arusha, where they were met on arrival by the Regional Commissioner of Arusha, Honorable Magesa Stanslaus Mulongo, and other Regional Government officials at the Kilimanjaro International Airport. A huge crowd of citizen-based groups were on hand to receive the President and delegation.
While in Arusha, President Sirleaf and entourage visited the A to Z Textile Mills, the producer of Olyset Mosquito Nets. They also toured the African Technical Research Center, engaged mainly with malaria-related and agriculture-based research work, and the mill facilities where the mosquito bed nets and other textiles are produced. CEO Anuj Shah used the occasion to appeal to the Liberian leader and ALMA Chairperson to serve as an advocate and Ambassador of the factory that needs help badly. He said that its mosquito net production capacity dropped from over 30 million per annum to just 10 million. President Sirleaf accepted the request, and immediately called on leaders of the continent, the world, and development partners to support the initiative.
Later in the afternoon, President Kikwete joined the Liberian leader in Arusha for an elaborate and colorful departure ceremony. The President and party departed Arusha for Monrovia. A final communiqué was signed between the Governments of Liberia and Tanzania at the end of the three-day visit.