Dar es Salaam. Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi enumerated Tanzania’s good governance record at the United Nations General Assembly but critics back home said the minister fell way short of tackling the real challenge that the government was facing.
Prof Kabudi was in New York to represent President John Magufuli and used the opportunity to highlight the administration’s democratic record and the protection of the right to freedom of expression, areas that have lately seen Tanzania receive negative publicity abroad.
The minister spoke about media freedom, political situation, rule of law and good governance, business and investment environment in the country, utilisation of natural resources, reforms in the health and education sectors as well as improvement of various infrastructures.
It was Prof Kabudi’s first address at the UN General Assembly since being appointed to the position early in the year. He said President Magufuli was committed to enhancing good governance, rule of law as well as freedom of expression. He pointed to the large number of radios, newspapers, television stations and number of political parties as evidence that there is a freedom of expression in the country. He told the assembly that there are a total of 152 radio stations, over 15 newspapers and 34 television stations. Prof Kabudi said the State owned a small chunk of the media. He further noted that there are 21 political parties with permanent registrations.
But the minister’s stance was quickly challenged, with his speech said to lack the transparency to reflect what was happening on the ground.
Those who spoke to The Citizen, were of the view that the speech may not have been open enough to answer to the skeptics on press freedom, human right situation as well as suppression of the opposition in the country. Legal and Human Right Centre executive director Anna Henga said Kabudi’s take on freedom of expression, good governance and rule of law was “superficial” and only meant to woo the international com-munity.
“That would not be enough to win over partners who know what is happening and have closely followed the issues at stake.”
Ms Henga said rather than using international podiums to defend itself against some of accusations leveled against it, the government should work towards addressing the issues raised by stakeholders both from inside and outside the country.
Tanzania Editors Forum Secretary Nevile Meena, said: “To have many media outlets does not mean that there is press freedom; Press freedom can only be measured by how free journalists are to practice.” Media Council of Tanzania Executive Director Kajubi Mukajanga said it was not the first time that government leaders were advancing the same position as Kabudi’s at such fora.
Chama cha Umma (Chauma) president Hashim Rungwe said the ban of political activities by the opposition proves that there is no freedom of expression or democracy. Chadema Secretary General Dr Vincent Mashinji said it was clear to all what the country is undergoing. “There are reports rights violations almost every day and therefore the minister was deceiving the world,” Mashinji said.
Kabudi said the government has been working on improving business environment to attract investors. He told the assembly that the government has scrapped 154 nuisance taxes. The minister said the government wanted locals to benefit from the country’s resources. He said the National Wealth and Resources Sovereignty Act of 2017 was in line with the 1962 UN general assembly charter.
He also spoke about Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo situation. He called on UN to make sure that sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are lifted because they have not only hurt the vulnerable especially women, elderly and children but also other countries.
On DR Congo, Prof Kabudi said it is time that UN in collaborations with other organs find a lasting solution for the conflicts, which have engulfed the country for far too long.