14 January 2013

Tanzania: Mwalimu's Portrait Back At AU 'Big Five' Line-Up

AT last, the portrait of Tanzania's founding president and one of the pioneers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) - later renamed African Union (AU) - Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is back at the reception gallery of the Union's headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Tanzania - and most of Africa - had 'taken to arms' during the Union's 19th Ordinary Session over what was described as "notable absence of Mwalimu's portrait in the lineup of OAU pioneers in the new AU headquarters and demanded an immediate reinstatement.

Foreign Minister Bernard Membe and Ambassador to Ethiopia Joram Biswaro had led the campaign last July that was supported by most African countries. Rising on a point of information during an AU ambassadors' meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Tanzania's Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr Joram Biswalo, had expressed concern over the omission of Mwalimu's portrait in the lineup.

He had called for an immediate reinstatement. An explanation that the portrait lineup represented African zones - and that Emperor Haile Selassie, represented others in 'their' zone, including Tanzania, had failed to convince the Tanzanian delegation, compelling it to press hard on the matter.

The rest of Africa supported Tanzania. Dr Biswaro's concern was shared by several speakers from other African countries who felt that it was not right to exclude Mwalimu Nyerere from the portrait lineup of pioneers of the continental body, geographical representation or not, judging from the Tanzanian leader's key role in the liberation of the continent.

AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had on December 28, last year written to one of the campaigners in the portrait's reinstatement crusade, Tanzanian scholar and author who resides in London, UK, Mr Harid Mkali, saying that Mwalimu's portrait is "now among the other five leaders who were initially selected on the basis of regional representation.

The letter, with reference number BC/Z/1881/12.12, signed by the commission's Chief of Staff, Bureau of the Chairperson, Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Natama, on behalf of Dr Dlamini Zuma, informed Mr Mkali that the 'situation has been accordingly rectified."

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa, with 32 signatory governments, including Tanganyika (later renamed Tanzania). It was disbanded on July 9, 2002 by its last chairperson, South African President Thabo Mbeki and replaced by the African Union (AU).

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