PRESIDENT John Magufuli has extolled Tanzanians for maintaining peace and unity as the country continues to register post-independence social and economic progress.
The Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces showered the praises yesterday when he led the nation to mark the 58th Independence Anniversary, in a colourful ceremony held for the first time at CCM Kirumba Stadium in the lakeside city of Mwanza.
"Our country stands out as an exceptional example of African countries which enjoy peace and harmony while fostering development of its people after independence," Dr Magufuli told the enthusiastic Tanzanians who braced rains to witness the historic event.
Exactly 58 years ago, when the Union Jack was lowered at the historic Uhuru Stadium and replaced by the Tanzanian green-blue-yellow-and-black quad colour, Africa celebrated the birth of a new nation.
Under stellar leadership of the founding Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the then Tanganyika secured her independence peacefully from the British colonialists in 1961.
The country became a republic a year later and afterwards united with Zanzibar in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
Dr Magufuli was impressed that the country has undertaken various efforts to improve the welfare of the people by implementing various development projects in many sectors of the economy namely health and education, among others.
Among others, he cited construction of roads to ease transportation of people and goods as among major achievements attained during the 58 years of independence.
The network of tarmac roads has significantly multiplied; from 360 kilometres in 1961 to 12,679 kilometres at present. "2,400 more kilometres are under construction while over designing," he explained.
About 8,800 small, medium and large bridges have been constructed across the country since independence while the Tanzanite Bridge across the Indian Ocean and Kigongo-Busisi Bridge across Lake Victoria are under construction.
The health sector is another area where the country has made huge strides; from 1,095 health facilities, including 98 hospitals in 1961, to 7,293 facilities at present out of which 178 are hospitals, 795 health centres and 6,285 dispensaries.
"Soon after independence we had only one university but we now have about 48 public universities. At that time we had only two construction companies but the number has since then rose to 9, 350," he noted.
The life expectancy of Tanzanians in 1961 was just 37 years but that has improved to the present 61 years with the population increasing from nine million people at time to over 55 million people, he detailed.
During the well-attended ceremony, Dr Magufuli recalled how Tanzania became a postcolonial beacon of secular democracy for countries emerging from the tyranny of colonialism.
Tanzania was key player in fostering African Liberation movements and played leading role in formulation of regional and continental bodies within the continent.
These include the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which later changed to become the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC), among others.
Dr Magufuli mentioned other milestone achievements as the ongoing construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) along the central railway line from Dar-es-Salaam-Morogoro- Dodoma at the cost of 7.04trl- as well as construction of the Nyerere Hydro-power plant on Rufiji River at the cost of over 6trl/-.
The litany of development projects, particularly those undertaken during the past four years; include electrification of 8,102 villages up from 2,018 villages in 2015.
He pointed further that the government will continue improving transport infrastructures and generation of more electricity to facilitate industrialisation, noting that over 4,000 small, medium and large scale industries have been constructed during the past four years.
On the other hand, he said efforts undertaken to curb illegal fishing have enabled the country to increase harvests to 448 tonnes in 2018 up from 385 tonnes in 2017. Revenues in the sector increased to 691bn/- from 379bn/-.
During the past four years, six new national parks were established and eventually amplified the number of parks to 22 across the country, in addition to games reserves and other protected areas, he stated.
Revamping of the national carrier, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), through purchase of 11 planes is yet another success story under the current regime.
The new fleet of flights will play crucial role in boosting tourism since studies by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) show that 70 per cent of backpackers use air transport.
Tanzania has unarguably made major strides in addressing three major challenges outlined by the founding Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, namely ignorance, poverty and diseases.
The Uhuru celebrations were spiced up with pomp, fanfare and gallantry as members of the armed forces mounted parades in slow and hard ground-hitting goose march in honour of the Commander- in-Chief amid cheers and applause from the crowd.