Tanzania hosted the 39th Southern African Development Community (SADC), Ordinary Summit which ended with the country’s host president, Dr John Magufuli as the Summit Chairperson. The president and the country had a very good time.
For starters, the government was impressed with the work of the media, and praised them with how they covered the event in very positive light.
The list of former leaders of this country, from presidents to prime ministers, who were in attendance was equally impressive. This showed continuity for the ruling elite of this country, and demonstrated that the country’s commitment to the south is too deep.
It was as if they were telling the rest of us to blame the gods for playing tricks with our geography but never doubt their commitment to regional causes. I am not sure whether the East African Community (EAC) attracts the same levels of attendance or emotions among retired leaders of this country.
It was impossible to be in this country and not have even a faint idea that there was a SADC summit going on.
An opposition leader tried to drive his message across all the good coverage but that did not work out as intended.
After all, most of the countries which had gathered in Dar share the same past, and their present is still dominated by liberation parties, with the exception of a few countries. Some of these leaders were on a political pilgrimage in this country.
Their visits to this country were emotional affairs. They will always be so regardless of who takes power in those country for as long as liberation movements hold sway.
Even in those few countries where liberation parties have long lost their way like Zambia, or their countries had been ruled by despots and have no liberation movement parties to speak of in the same way as South Africa or Namibia, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the new man in Kinshasa is not one to break traditions of the past, and seeking regional engagement in several fronts including membership in the East African Community (EAC).
Former presidents and some of the presidents who had come to attend the Summit, spoke at length with the media about the historic role this country played in what eventually came to be the present-day Sadc; they were tales of self-sacrifice, and was instrumental in bringing our involvement in the liberation of some countries in southern Africa to a new audience and new generations.
However, it was informative of how one can map the politics of the region and the continued domination of liberation movements and the power of nostalgia.
If only the same efforts could be expended to cover the domestic front as well, that would connect the young and the restless of this country with their roots.
Current political climate
Many do not fully appreciate or even understand why the country is where it is today.
In the current political climate, politicians from opposing sides are easily throwing around casual explanations, rarely linking the past to the present, except in cases where it is politically beneficial to do so.
For a president who rarely ventures beyond our political borders, hosting ten leaders from Sadc member states was in itself an accomplishment but also a good sign that his role as the new Sadc chairperson started on a good note.
He called for the sanctions against Zimbabwe being lifted, a familiar call made by other leaders in the region, including the former Zimbabwe leader, Robert Mugabe who had argued for a long time that the sanctions imposed by Western powers had to be lifted, as they were hurting his country’s economy and the people.
All ended on a positive note for a president whose earlier days in office saw his political opponents in the opposition claim that by rarely venturing beyond our political borders he was “weakening” our diplomatic clout in the region.
It would be interesting to see how many times he travels to the regional body’s headquarters in Gaborone. How times change!