1 July 2013

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam in Lock-Down for Obama

Photo: Pete Souza/White House
President Obama reviews Tanzanian troops at an airport arrival ceremony in Dar es Salaam.

Dar es Salaam — Dar es Salaam was on a lock down involving tight security for the visit of United States President Barack Obama over the weekend.

Major hotels were fully booked and all access points were blocked by metal detector machines, together with armed security personnel.

Movement for unauthorised persons in some areas was severely limited. Wananchi were advised to stay in their homes during the duration of Obama's visit.

The US president came along with a contingent of around 1,200 people.

At the same time, Tanzania is hosting the SMART Partnership Dialogue meaning another nine heads of states and 800 participants already in Dar es Salaam.

SMART Partnership is a Commonwealth initiative that cultivates business growth through networking.

The US President was accompanied by 500 business people and investors. "All these are looking for investment opportunities in the country because it is stable and peaceful," Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe said in the run-up to the visit.

This gave an opportunity for the local hotel industry to increase occupancy and make some money.

However, hundreds of petty traders and street vendors were being kept away to make it easier in keeping the city clean.

Security has been strengthened in all strategic areas in Dar es Salaam while a number of illegal trade structures removed. The head of state of the greatest nation in the world, who started his African tour in Ghana, South Africa is expected to finalise his African tour in Dar es Salaam before getting back to the US.

During his visit in Tanzania, he will open a popular passageway for VIPs, wedding processions and beach revellers in Dar es Salaam's Ocean Road, which will be renamed 'Obama Avenue'.

Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Saidi Mecky Sadiki, said last week President Obama would inaugurate the road whose name Ilala Municipality has decided to rename 'Obama Avenue' in honour of US president's two day state visit.

During his visit Obama is also expected to be accompanied by his predecessor former US President George Bush's whose remarkable four days visit to Tanzania in 2008 saw the signing of the historic Millennium Challenge Compact worth $698.1million that was aimed at providing good roads, clean water and energy in the country over the next five years through major infrastructure projects.

The US has also channelled around $400 million in 2008 in direct bilateral foreign assistance, making it the largest donor to Tanzania.

The US foreign policy ensures that responsible assistance is channelled to responsible leaders who govern justly, advance economic freedom, and invest in their people.

This however raises questions about Obama's visit especially after his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping whose country is the world second biggest economy paid his visit in Tanzania soon after only a month after ascending the office.

Many observers and activists however argue that such a visit is aimed at grabbing the many resources that Tanzania is endowed that includes vast mineral resources, fertile land, oil and gas resources opportunities as well as a good body of marine water as well as fresh water which is an ideal for both fishing and irrigation.

In his view last week Prof Issa Shivji, the head of the Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam says Obama visit is mainly focused on the scramble for the country's natural resources and not otherwise.

He was quoted in The Citizen last week that the shifting centres of global economic and political power, the growing economic muscle of most of Asia and Tanzania's strategic position and its natural resources abundance are some of the reasons why the US President was visiting the country.

He noted that Tanzania has the longest shoreline on the Indian Ocean after the destroyed Somalia and also is one of the richest regions in the world. "Tanzania itself is rich in natural resources, including oil, uranium, gas and so forth," Prof Shivji said.

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