Remarks by Ambassador Wright at Center for Foreign Relations Conference on U.S.-Tanzania Diplomatic Milestones

Ambassador Wright’s Remarks
Conference at Center for Foreign Relations
December 20, 2021

Your excellency President Kikwete,
Ambassador Salum Ali
Ambassador Kaniki
Dr. Mmari
Members of the diplomatic corps
Faculty
Students
Honored guests

It is truly an honor and a privilege to be here with you this morning.

I would like to begin by thanking former President Kikwete for participating in today’s event, and for his steadfast efforts – over the course of decades in public life – to strengthen the ties between the U.S. and Tanzania. Mr. President, thank you.

I want to also extend my deepest thanks to Ambassador Kaniki, Director of the Center for Foreign Relations, for hosting us and giving us this wonderful opportunity.

I would be remiss if I did not also thank Dr. Mmari and the whole team from REPOA, who have done a great job organizing this event, and more broadly for expanding the role of research organizations and think tanks in Tanzania.

Finally, let me say thank you to all our guests, especially young diplomats-in-training. There is no work more important than the work of diplomacy – or, “waging peace” as former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower called it – so we thank all of you and wish you the best in your careers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A few days ago on December 9 we celebrated a momentous occasion: Independence Day, the 60th anniversary of Tanganyika’s independence. On behalf of the U.S. government and the American people, let me take this opportunity to express our most sincere congratulations on this historic milestone.

As a footnote, December 9, 1961 was also the beginning of official diplomatic relations between the U.S. and newly independent Tanganyika. That was the dawn of a relationship that has grown and deepened over sixty years and produced enormous benefits for both our peoples.

So, it is very fitting that we gather here this morning to look at some of the milestones and successes of that relationship.

As I said, it is such an honor to have President Kikwete with us and I am very eager to hear what he has to say, and I also want to hear from you in the audience, so I won’t speak for very long. But in the few minutes that I have, I’d like to talk in broad strokes about three things:

  • First, how the U.S. has supported Tanzania’s development priorities since Independence.
  • Second, how the U.S. and the world benefit from Tanzania’s leadership.
  • And lastly, the values that our nations share and which form the bedrock of our friendship.

Let’s begin with examining how the U.S. has supported Tanzania. For six decades, the U.S. has stood side by side with the people of Tanzania in support of achieving the nation’s development goals. Our assistance has always been driven by the priorities identified by Tanzania’s leaders. A few examples:

  • When newly independent Tanzania needed help expanding its infrastructure, the U.S. responded, building thousands of kilometers of roads, most notably the Tanzania-Zambia highway which helped connect Tanzania’s southern agricultural corridor with international markets.
  • To help realize Mwalimu Nyerere’s vision of increasing access to education for Tanzania’s people, the U.S. sent Peace Corps Volunteers to rural schools, and helped build numerous higher learning institutions, including Sokoine University of Agriculture, the College of African Wildlife Management at Mweka, the Institute of Public Administration, and teacher training colleges in both Iringa and Dar es Salaam.
  • When President Ali Hassan Mwinyi decided to pursue economic and political reforms, the U.S. was a strong partner in achieving this vision. Our programs helped enlarge the private sector and strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations and the free press.
  • When President Mkapa committed Tanzania to combatting the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, the U.S. joined the fight by launching the PEPFAR program, the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in human history. Since PEPFAR started in 2003, AIDS-related deaths in Tanzania have declined by almost 75 percent.
  • When President Kikwete told President Obama about the need to expand access to electricity to rural areas and boost agricultural productivity, again the U.S. rose to the challenge. The $700 million Millennium Challenge program launched in 2008 enabled the installation of 3,000 kilometers of power lines and built 800 power sub-stations, while the Feed the Future initiative begun in 2012 has benefited 800,000 Tanzanian farmers by harnessing technology to boost agricultural productivity.

These are just a few of the highlights from our six decades of partnership, and, of course, our cooperation continues today just as strongly under the administration of President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m extraordinarily proud to talk about the ways that the U.S. has supported Tanzania. But one thing I don’t think gets mentioned enough is how grateful the U.S. is for Tanzania’s leadership and engagement through the decades.

A prime example of this is Tanzania’s legacy of using diplomacy and mediation to resolve conflicts among neighbors. Perhaps most well-known among these efforts is the role President Nyerere played over a period of decades to secure independence from minority rule for Southern African states.  Our Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Dar three times to meet with Mwalimu Nyerere during intense periods of negotiations on this issue, and he wrote in his memoirs of his admiration for Nyerere’s political skill and his passionate commitment to African liberation.

There are numerous other examples I could cite – so many they deserve a separate conference I think – but among a few highlights are the efforts to broker a peace in the conflict in Burundi that culminated in the Arusha Peace Accords as well as efforts led by President Kikwete in 2008 to end the violence that erupted in Kenya following disputed presidential elections. In all these efforts, Tanzania has been, to quote former President Bill Clinton, “a cause of peace and cooperation across the region.”

Tanzania also provides vital stability for the region through its troop contributions to peacekeeping missions under the auspices of the United Nations.  I understand that currently Tanzania has over 1,400 troops assigned to peacekeeping missions in Central African Republic, DRC, Lebanon, and South Sudan. This work is vitally important, and the world is indebted to these brave troops.

And, of course, when speaking about the gratitude the U.S. feels towards Tanzania, I would be highly remiss if I did not mention the aid and comfort provided by the Tanzanian people after the bombing of our embassy in 1998. Despite the grief for the lives lost, that tragedy bonded our nations together in solidarity and shared purpose as never before.

Ladies and gentlemen, so far I have spoken about how America and Tanzania have supported each other through the years. Before I conclude, I also want to talk about the values we share, and which truly form the heart of the unshakeable bond between our peoples. I categorize these values as:

  • Democracy
  • Equality
  • And the belief in progress

Let’s start with democracy. The U.S. is well known as the oldest constitutionally-enshrined democracy in the world. Our belief in government by the people was first elucidated in the Declaration of Independence, which Mwalimu Nyerere called “one of the greatest documents of all time.”  Nyerere understood the value of democracy, and supported Tanzania’s transition to multi-party democracy under the stewardship of President Mwinyi in 1992.  Tanzania’s multi-party democracy grew and strengthened over time, with opportunities for those with opposing views to air them in the public square, including under the leadership of my friend, President Kikwete.  Democracy can be messy.  It can sometimes fall short of its ideals.  But democracy is resilient, and it can help propel people and nations to new heights.  While there is no denying that both our democracies have been tested and challenged – especially in recent years –we will continue to adapt.  This is the nature and the strength of democracy, and it is why, fundamentally, democracy remains the most effective system to realize the hopes and aspirations of our peoples. This isn’t just what I believe, it is what Tanzanians think. More than 75% of Tanzanians in a poll taken this year said democracy is preferable to any other form of government.

Yet, as President Biden recently remarked, autocrats around the world, sitting atop systems that repress their people, suggest they have a better way.  They seek to advance their own power, export and expand their influence around the world, and justify their repressive policies and practices as a more efficient way to address today’s challenges.  That’s how it’s sold.  But the people of Tanzania and the United States know better.

They know that “Democracy is not a state, it is an act,” as the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis once said.  It needs to be tended to, nurtured, supported and strengthened every day.  Mwalimu Nyerere knew that.  President Kikwete knows that.  We are all the stewards of our democracies.  Yes, political leaders are critical to a health democracy, but so is an active and vocal political opposition, a free and independent media, a civil society empowered to speak their minds.  And, perhaps most important, each and every citizen whose election day vote helps choose who will lead them, and who can use his or her voice to hold those elected leaders accountable each and every day thereafter.  President Hassan knows that.  And we look forward to working closely with the president and her government to strengthen Tanzania’s democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and improve the freedom of expression for the benefit of all Tanzanians and the broader democratic world.

Now, let’s turn to equality. The notion that all people are created equal is very famously captured in America’s declaration of independence, and in many ways the whole history of our nation has been an effort to live up to this principle. Each day we learn from our past and do better. Yet, the fact remains that America is one of the most diverse countries in the world, where people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds comprise the beautiful mosaic of our national life. In this, Tanzania is also an example for the world. Few, if any, countries have been able to meld so many ethnic, tribal, and religious communities together in solidarity for national unity. Indeed, at one point early in Tanzania’s history, President Nyerere threatened to resign if Tanzanians from different ethnic backgrounds were not allowed to be part of the government. This commitment to equality, unity, and respect for diversity remains a pillar of Tanzania’s governing philosophy and is a source of great strength and admiration around the world.

Finally, I believe we are united in our belief that progress is not just possible, but inevitable, and that our nations have a unique role in achieving that brighter future. In the U.S., the symbol of this belief is the iconic statue of lady liberty holding aloft the torch of freedom that stands in New York Harbor. In Tanzania, it is symbolized by the freedom torch first lit on Independence Day 60 years ago on the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. These have been and will continue to be beacons for freedom, hope, and justice around the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that America and Tanzania share a history and a set of values that bond us together. I would argue that that today we have an extraordinary opportunity to deepen our relationship and expand our partnership for the greater good of both our nations and the rest of the world. Let’s not allow this opportunity to go to waste. Let’s work together to take our friendship to even greater heights during the next 60 years, and beyond.

Tulikuwa pamoja, tupo pamoja, na tutakuwa pamoja