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Gauck in Tanzania: 'A change for the better is possible'

German President Joachim Gauck has arrived in Tanzania for a four-day state visit. For Germany, Tanzania is a stable and trustworthy partner. And what’s more, it now offers bright economic perspectives.

Stumbling slightly on the steps that led up to the dais, German President Joachim Gauck gave the audience a brief scare. But the statesman then serenely took his place at his host’s side. Together with Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, he reviewed the troops. He then glanced across to the ocean. That was the moment, Gauck said later, when he wondered "What did our German forefathers see and feel, what hymns did they sing, when they first arrived in this place in the days of the Kaiser?" He was referring to the founding of the colony of German East Africa. The German head of state said of his meeting with Kikwete, "We looked at each other and found that it was good to be looking like this at each other today, as partners and friends. Such a transformed world shows us that a change for the better is possible."

State House, now the presidential palace, was built over a hundred years ago by the German architect Friedrich Gurlitt for his colonial masters. Tanzania seems to have made its peace with this chapter of its history. According to Gauck, "the dark side of the relationship" did not figure in his talks with Kikwete, but the bright side did. Kikwete said that "today’s Tanzania would not exist without Germany’s contribution to its development". After all, in the past 50 years Germany donated almost two billion euros ($2.3 billion).

Time to invest more


President Gauck was warmly received in Dar Es Salaam

President Kikwete wants to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation. Currently, there are about 150 German companies in Tanzania, with total investments of 300 million euros. According to Kikwete, "Germany can do more: maybe three billion euros, maybe even 30 billion euros. We are extremely hungry for investments. We can handle them."

This is why on his second trip to Africa, President Gauck has brought along a sizable delegation of industry representatives. They are looking for opportunities in East Africa, and since the start of the year, they can apply for credit guarantees which are underwritten by the German government. One of the companies most interested is German Ferrostaal, which has joined a Danish-Pakistani consortium to build a fertilizer plant in cooperation with the Tanzanian Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC). Total investment is said to be around one billion euros. Tanzania’s media had already announced the news, while President Kikwete said only bureaucratic obstacles kept the contracts from being signed. He added, "If all goes well, I’d be very happy before the visit ends if we could witness the signatures. I think that would be the happiest moment for me."

Growing nervousness as elections approach

Kikwete could use some good news. He will reach the end of his second term in office this year and the constitution does not allow for a third one. But no successor has been nominated so far. The Party of the Revolution (CCM), which has been ruling the country since independence in 1961, seems to be growing increasingly nervous ahead of a controversial referendum on the constitution in April and general elections in October. Recently, a registered but unauthorized demonstration by the opposition party Civic United Front (CUF) was violently dispersed by the police and 33 demonstrators were arrested. Kikwete commented laconically that there are laws that govern the right to demonstrate in Tanzania. "It is not possible to just go out and demonstrate. That’s against the law. And that is precisely what happened."


A demonstration by the opposition party CUF in Dar es Salaam on January 28 was dispersed by the police

The president had similar views on the recent ban of the Kenyan weekly EastAfrican newspaper. After publishing some critical articles, the paper was suddenly told by Tanzanian authorities that its license had expired, a detail that had bothered no one in the last 20 years. Kikwete defended the measure. "They have formally now presented an application to register. So it is now in the hands of the authorities concerned. It is not about us restricting the freedom of the media."

President Gauck said freedom of the press and personal liberty were certainly values that Germany supported in partner countries. But he also recognized that Tanzania has made a lot of progress in this field. On the whole, Germany values the fact more that Tanzania is a trustworthy partner, decisive in its fight against terrorism, ready to assume a leading role in the East African Community (EAC) and militarily engaged in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. A member of the German delegation, who wished to remain anonymous, said that in times like these, one cannot be too choosy. Otherwise one will end up with no partners at all.

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