SADC SUMMIT 2019: Tshisekedi, retired leaders steal show

Sunday August 18 2019

Senior government officials and retired leaders

Senior government officials and retired leaders sing the national anthem before the start of the two-day Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | ZANZIBAR STATE HOUSE 

By Zephania Ubwani @TheCitizenTz newsi@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. He stood tall among his fellow leaders.

But when he was formally introduced, the fully packed Selous Hall at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) exploded into cheers.

That was how President Felix Tshisekedi was treated at the start of the 39th summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

There were reasons for that. The new DRC leader is on the list of new presidents of the member countries in the 16 nation bloc. According to the new Sadc Chair, President John Magufuli, six nations held elections “peacefully” in the past one year, and one of them was DR Congo.

Although this was his second time to land on Tanzanian soil as head of state, for Tshisekedi, this was his first time to attend the Sadc Summit.

It is an ample opportunity for his country to lay the carpet for potential investors from within the region -- especially from the economic giant South Africa - to his resource-rich country.

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There were a total of eleven presidents in all - including the host Dr Magufuli.

They were introduced one after the other. The list included the Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein.

The introduction also covered prime ministers, vice presidents and ministers from five other countries whose heads of state and government could not make it to Dar .

It was not by coincidence that Tshisekedi was applauded. The Congolese have always been associated with the music industry. The burly Tshisekedi could have been the natural focus of the large audience. He has recently been much in the news, especially after his election and how he outmaneouvred his opponents who challenged his election.

And he was one of the high profile speakers yesterday, leave out Dr Magufuli and Namibian President Hage Geingob.

The cheers received by the DRC leader can compare with what Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwe leader, received in 2003 when Tanzania hosted the Sadc summit in Dar es Salaam.

At that time Zimbabwe was under siege from the western world and there was a blockade not only on the country but a ban on the country’s senior officials, including Mugabe, to visit the western countries.

Tanzania’s retired presidents, vice presidents and prime ministers were also in full attendance and were among the personalities specifically introduced to the audience.

They included Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Benjamin William Mkapa and Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

Also formarly introduced was the former Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume and the former vice president Mohamed Gharib Bilal.

Ex-prime ministers in attendance were Cleopa David Msuya,Joseph Sinde Warioba, John Samwel Malecela and Mizengo Peter Pinda.