DESPITE his humble beginning in Ruvuma Region, Ambassador Charles Asilia Sanga, the youngest son for his father, made a name in international diplomatic circles yet still remained a son of the soil.
His father, a farmer and entrepreneur, had five wives, amongst who his mother was the last of them. This meant her three children were the youngest amongst 15 in total. When his father passed away in 1960, the young Charles was 12 years old. In one of the recent conversation with the 'Daily News on Saturday,' Amb. Sanga said that he was basically raised-up by his father, who took him wherever he went before he started full-time schooling. This is how he got to be such a lover of farming, which he claims to have inherited from him.
Amb. Sanga maintains that he keeps reminding his children that the only thing he can give them, as an inheritance is an education, of which he says he had a good beginning at Nakawale Primary School before moving onto Kigonsela Minor Seminary. Actually, the first time he came to Dar es Salaam, was as a student at Minaki High School in 1970, where he completed his Form Five and Six levels. This was followed with the then customary year stint of National Service.
Then he succeeded to enter the Institute of Development Management (IDM-Mzumbe) in Morogoro Region, on a three-year Diploma in Public Administration course. This started a series of higher learning that includes a BA in Economics from the University of Dar es Salaam before going for his Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. A Masters from St. John's University in New York, USA, followed this with a stint at Rutger's University New Jersey, New York, USA at their Beijing, China branch.
When the 'Daily News on Saturday' caught up with the approachable Ambassador during the week he referred to himself as being, "A retired civil servant." There turned out to be more to this title than first understood, for he is kept busy as the current Chairperson for the Governing Council at the Centre for Foreign Relations and since 1995 he has held a similar post with the Tanzania Youth Alliance's board and the Tanzania Tourist Board from this year.
At the same time he is also a Resource Person for the China-Africa Think Tank Forum from 2009 and the same post from 2010 for the Rockefeller Foundation Asian Drivers Programme. As from May, this year, his latest venture has been at the Tanzania-China Promotion Centre. They asked him to give a helping hand, as an advisor in law to see how they can promote cooperation between the two countries.
To date, the centre has received much support from the Chinese Embassy here in Dar es Salaam and the Ministry of Education. Actually this is the organisation that was responsible for organising and coordinating the visit of 19 Chinese universities here last May. Amb. Sanga seems to have a thing for education and said one of the main features they really want to encourage and promote is to send students from here to go and study in China.
In the time being it seems many people here keep opting to send their children to the West and not many are looking towards the East, which he thinks has reached its time now. No wonder he spoke of pride when he said he's very proud of his wife, who having qualified as a nurse and midwife, went back to her studies later in life to get her masters in Public health.
Then it was not surprising to hear that their first two children have finished their first degree in Business Administration and the third is currently in the second year on a law degree. Such facts should help dispel such popular notions that nothing good can come out of locals.
At times it becomes hard to remember that Amb. Sanga had started his working life as an Assistant Planning Officer in Manyoni, Rural Singida and Iramba districts in Singida Region respectively between 1975 and 1979 before moving to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as a Foreign Service Officer, from 1981 for two years before taking-up the post of Diplomat at the embassy of Tanzania to China in Beijing.
This was from 1985 and he stayed for three years before he was moved to the Tanzania Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, USA, for four years. He then returned to Tanzania in 1992 to take-up the post of Personal Assistant to the late Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for seven years.
"Frankly speaking, when I was asked to do this I was surprised; that is pleasantly surprised, for I thought, what I could do for this man, who was very experienced and knowledgeable. I was in New York and the way in which he took me from the very beginning, I thought this man was very unusual. He was very humane, very understanding, like a grandfather talking to a grandchild. In the entire period of eight years that I worked for him we had a very good cooperation and relationship, which I never expected to last that long," Amb. Sanga admitted.
During this time with the Father of the Nation, he also worked as a part-time lecturer at the Centre for Foreign Relations, then in March 2000, he was sent out again; this time as Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, for six years. It was after Mwalimu had passed away that he was sent back to China as an ambassador.
Next it was back home as a Diplomatic Advisor to President Jakaya Kikwete in 2006. December of that year saw him being appointed Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation until 2008 when he retired. To a large extent this is only in line with procedures because of his age, for as mentioned above, Amb. Sanga can be found seating as CEO of the Tanzania-China Promotion Centre, which is situated in the Red Cross Building on the junction of Bibi Titi Mohammed and Morogoro roads.
Despite his busy schedule, Amb Sanga says he finds time to read books, newspapers and journals, together with writing the occasional article. Listening to national and international news is also one of his hobbies, together with farming and gardening. In fact, he claims, "My father loved farming and cultivated that spirit in me. When I was in the seminary I played all the wind instruments but now play the piano and enjoy listening to all types of music, watch traditional dances and movies."
Then it did not come as a surprise to hear that his two daughters and son can also play the piano, although it seems one of them who plays in church seems to be taking it more seriously. Currently, he is very much into church music and finds time for playing golf and driving, which he also enjoys doing.
On another occasion he told the 'Daily News on Saturday' that he had found his first posting very challenging although enjoyable. His life after this, at the ministry was a new feature and he had an eye-opener when he went to China, where he witnessed great cultural difference before going to New York, which presented another picture altogether.
"Each stage of my life was a new challenge for me. My life in the seminary was a challenge, trying to see what type of life I would like to have. Then coming out and going to the public was another challenge. Then more soul searching thinking came later, as to whether to marry or not," Amb. Sanga explained.
The challenges he saw in Singida was poor people in rural areas. In the ministry of Foreign Affairs it was how to deal with diplomats. In China it was to reconcile his perception of China because they had built the Tanzania Zambia Railways Authority (TAZARA) and he thought their level of development there would have been very high but it was not then. When he went to New York it was another challenge to see people talking about ideas, which were not really related to the reality. It was for him a contradiction of idealism versus realism. This was a challenge for him mentally but there was still more.
"Working for Mwalimu I think was the most challenging part of my life. Mwalimu was an institution, an academician, a religious man and I don't think the experience I got there could be obtained anywhere else in the world. So for me it was a new type of life and a learning process. I think I was well prepared to take-on the task of an ambassador," he added.