The state visit of the Moroccan King to Tanzania has brought up interesting discussions in the country. Questions raised include Is Tanzania changing its values?, What would Nyerere do? These are legitimate concerns given the founding values of Tanzania’s foreign policy of liberation, dignity, and freedom to all people of Africa and the entire world. By and large, Tanzania foreign policy was arguably informed by post colonialism line of thinking and directed towards the vision expressed by the founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in his 1959 speech titled “Candle on Kilimanjaro”. This explains the country’s solidarity with the South-South movement, the enormous sacrifice it made for the liberation of the Southern African countries, the recognition of Biafra, it’s support to the Palestinian liberation movements against Israel as well as Western Sahara against Morocco. Tanzania had no formal diplomatic relations with Israel and Morocco and so there were no bilateral closeness with either of the two countries. However, as it has been explicit through the activities and speeches of the country’s current Minister of foreign affairs, there is a change in trend. In July 2016, the country’s foreign minister joined other East African leaders to meet up with Israel Prime Minister in Nairobi, Kenya. This week the country gave a state welcome to the Moroccan King, with the Minister justifying his visit for economic purposes.
To understand this possible dilution of Tanzania’s core foreign policy values, it is important to trace this back to late 1980s and 1990s changes. The country underwent economic reforms which also led to change of foreign policy doctrine from liberation to economic diplomacy. Over 30 years now, the economic diplomacy doctrine has incrementally diluted Tanzania’s values and we are now starting to see the visible deviations. With the naked unprocessed neoliberal kind of thinking, economics is given higher priority than values. This is wrong. There is always a need to rethink and carry out a cost benefit analysis even in our foreign policy. The question to guide this analysis could be:
“what is Tanzania’s competitive advantage when it comes to foreign relations”?
I would think, the competitive advantage of Tanzania lies more on its value- it being a candle on Kilimanjaro- than mere economic benefits that have not even lifted majority of Tanzanian out of poverty. For years what had made a poverty striken Tanzania a respected country- and its leader Nyerere to be the most respected African leader was the values that the country stood for. Thus, jumping into economic diplomacy at the cost of our values- may put Tanzania in a more disadvantage position in the global sphere. Moreover, the economic argument for Morocco is not as convincing. Morocco is not a big economic powerhouse and its economic performance has been sluggish in 2016. Thus it cannot be expected to be a sustainable investor in Tanzania. This again comes back to the cost-benefit analysis. I am loudly asking myself, why have we invited Morocco before #Kenya, even if we are thinking purely on economic basis – leave alone values, history, geo-politics, cultural aspects, and geographical considerations?
As a political scientist, I tried to be my own devil’s advocate, out of that devilish critical thinking to my own idea- the issue of Zanzibar came into mind. With the potential future demand for secession, it could be one of the reasons that the state of Tanzania is dealing with Morocco to give an implicit message to Zanzibar that we will not support such movements.
This implicit assumption triggers the competitive advantage argument again- and take us back to recognition of Biafra. Despite the fact that there were Pan Africanism doctrine and support for national borders, Nyerere recognized Biafra purely out of values. The values, which were informed by the vision of “Candle on Kilimanjaro” superseded any other interest be it economic or political.
In International Relations, Foreign Policy change is a huge and complex topic. To gauge the change in foreign policy, one requires empirical evidence and models to determine such. Thus, it is for IR scholars in the country’s institutions- particularly the University of Dar-es-Salaam- to study and tell us whether Tanzania’s foreign policy is changing?
We will be waiting.
Here is Mwalimu Nyerere’s 1959 speech – A Candle on Kilimanjaro
“…I have said before elsewhere that we, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate and dignity where before there was only humiliation. We pray the people of Britain, we sincerely pray the people of Britain and our neighbours of all races to look upon us, to look upon Tanganyika and what we are trying to do not as an embarrassment but as a ray of hope. We cannot, unlike other countries, send rockets to the moon, but we can send rockets of love and hope to all our fellow men wherever they may be…” (Nyerere, Hansard, 35th Session, 22/10/1959)