German president not ′lecturing′ in Tanzania | Africa | DW | 06.02.2015
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Africa

German president not 'lecturing' in Tanzania

While visiting Tanzania German President Joachim Gauck called for more investment in the country, more commitment to civil rights and the creation of an EU-style East African Union. DW's Claus Stäcker accompanied him.

German President Joachim Gauck's five day state visit to Tanzania ended with a safari. In Kiswahili, the word 'safari' simply means 'journey,' but in the Serengeti - which covers northern Tanzania and southwest Kenya - tourists can find Africa much as they picture it back home.

A folklore group appears. Elephants, buffalos and giraffes stand in a row as if the head of protocol had personally herded them into line. The highest ranking official in attendance -Tanzania's Minister for Water Jumanne Maghembe - believes he has done what was expected of him for the presidential safari. It was not very easy, the minister humorously observed, "to arrange for a herd of elephants to greet the president, with giraffes as eye-witnesses, or persuade the lions to wait on the side of the road until the president arrives." He was clearly grateful that the animals behaved as cooperatively as they did.

Serengeti, which includes two World Heritage Sites and two biosphere reserves, was an impressive finish to Gauck's visit. During a short stop to admire a picture postcard view of the landscape, complete with canopied tree, the German president experienced one of those emotional 'Africa, Oh Africa,' moments which have moved so many visitors to the continent in the past.

German President Joachim Gauck on safari in Tanzania

The German president was overwhelmed by his visit to Serengeti

Gauck said he was overwhelmed and very grateful "to all the people who have banded together to ensure that this great gift to humankind is preserved. Long may it remain so."

Serengeti without elephants?

The German government-owned development bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) has funded repair work on a main water pipe through Africa's most famous national park at a cost of 2 million euros ($2.3 million).

The Frankfurt Zoological Society has also just handed over a poaching surveillance center, which will go into operation in a few months time. This, too, was largely funded by the German government.

Poaching is a serious matter. Every day at least 300 gnu and zebra are stolen, 40 traps are discovered and at least three poachers are arrested. If poaching persists at the same rate, the next generation in 25 years time will never see an elephant or a rhinoceros in the park.

Germany has earned a reputation as a credible partner in the struggle to conserve this ecological world heritage and its officials are therefore welcome in Tanzania one hundred years after the end of German colonial rule.

The theme of partnership recurred frequently during Gauck's visit. "Learn to look, listen and understand" were the words the German president employed in a speech to representatives from the East African Community - the regional bloc encompassing Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda with its headquarters in Arusha (Tanzania). Gauck said that cooperation in a spirit of partnership also meant "not passing judgement until one had recognized that there existed more than one's own perspective."

Partnership and stability

Gauck hit the right note. In the presence of President Jakaya Kikwete, he praised Tanzania as a reliable partner and a source of regional stability. But he also spoke of the need for media freedoms and democratic values and - to Kikwete's displeasure - held meetings with civil rights activists and members of the opposition. Gauck did not lecture his hosts. He was dismayed when the highest-ranking Muslim cleric at the Interreligious Council for Peace in Zanzibar asked him for "instructions."

Gauck did not travel to Africa to issue directives. Drawing on his own experience of a society in transformation (an East German who became president of re-united Germany), he seeks to use his powers of persuasion to generate enthusiasm for democratic change. At the African Court of Human Rights in Arusha, he proposed that every African citizen should be able to have recourse to it.

President Gauck inspects the guard of honor in Dar es Salam at the start of his visit

President Gauck inspects the guard of honor in Dar es Salam at the start of his visit

Young East Africans support regional integration

Addressing the East African Community, he spoke ardently of the need for youth exchange schemes and regional integration. Politics, he told five youth ambassadors in the auditorium, was a wearisome business, but it was worth the effort. Mukazi Ndekezi Peace from Rwanda said she drew strength from the president's speech. In spite of all its difficulties the European Union was able to guarantee economic and political stability. It was an important role model for East Africa. "We believe in the future of the East African Union as a federation, in other words as a single country," the young student said. She said the president's speech was a source of hope. "He explained that we must concentrate on the positive sides so that we can bring together the best from our respective countries." Brimming with self-confidence, Jacob Eyeru from Uganda said "as the political leaders of tomorrow we do not wish to depend on the favors of one or two national politicians. We want to create a regional leadership for all East Africans that serves the interests of the people."

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