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China-Tanzania relations :Tribute to departing Chinese Ambassasor LU Youqing
2017-09-05 16:29


IF there is a country Tanzania has been very close with - since the end of colonialism over half a century ago - it is the People's Republic of China.

It has since blossomed over the years, starting with the state visit to China by Founder President and Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

This visit, landmark as it was, had provoked the ire of western powers then, whose media even put up commentaries with headlines such as: 'Why Tanzania is turning East...'

Indeed, the outcome of the visit - to a very large extent - had contributed to Tanzania's strides towards Cultural Independence in terms of imbuing a sense of humility in the manner people in leadership positions should appear before their own people in terms of simplicity.

Those in the old generation in this country who were around during the maiden visit of Mwalimu Nyerere to China would remember how modestly Mwalimu chose to appear after that visit - discarding western suits; complete with neckties and opting for simple collarless shirts then known as 'Chou en Lai' by ordinary people here!

As enticed, the maiden visit by the Founding Father of the Tanzanian nation to the socialist People's Republic of China under the leadership of Chairman Mao then, had great influence, not only culturally but ideologically too.

A few years after independence in 1961, Mwalimu Nyerere had in 1967 declared the Arusha Declaration - as the country's blue print towards Socialism and Self-reliance. His visit to socialist China a few years later then solidified and deepened Tanzania's ideological thrust.

It was from this ideological base then that Tanzania and China from that time to this date resolved to work together, starting with China's contribution to the liberation struggle against apartheid and minority rule in southern Africa.

As most Tanzanians and Chinese adore, China's immediate contribution to the liberation struggle in Africa was its agreement to build a railway line between Tanzania and landlocked Zambia, bordering the then apartheid and minority-ruled countries of Southern Africa.

This railway line - TAZARA - was designed to lessen independent Zambia's neighbourhood dependence on the then apartheid state of South Africa and Rhodesia now Zimbabwe. It had greater impact too - improve transport connection

and goods movement from landlocked Zambia to Tanzanian harbours.

Its construction was thanks to the immense sacrifice by Chinese people ferried here by their Government to perform the construction task supported by their local counterparts. It is in place today, both monumental and landmark.

If I have started with TAZARA it is just to illustrate the serious extent of Chinese initial support to Africa especially this country. Tanzania has continued to enjoy continuous support in its development process, deepened even more by the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries over the last four decades.

Ours have been an allweather traditional fraternity concretised by envoys appointed to man respective embassies in Dar es Salaam and Beijing. But ambassadors between countries come and go.

Of these Chinese envoys who have been in Tanzania almost close to half a century ago, there is one of them who has been a real Ambassador Extraordinary Plenipotentiary. He is the focus of this perspective today on SinoTanzania Relations: Ambassador Dr. LU Younqing.

Assuming office on 27th February 2012, Dr Lung is gearing to leave the country at the end of his tour of duty - very remarkably.

According to my formal and impeccable sources, Dr Lu has illustrated extraordinary dedication to the overall development of our country reaching out to all regions of our country, including rural areas - drilling over 100 wells.

He has built classrooms, donating school desks, textbooks, and also medicines for local hospitals. This was at down to earth levels, reaching out to majority peasants in our countryside.

In terms of education development of our youth, Ambassador Lu has offered 700 hundred scholarships to our youth to study in China. Today 7000 Tanzanians have concluded degrees ranging from bachelors, masters and doctorates in many a discipline.

According to one source: "In July this year, Tanzania's drug control and enforcement authorities requested ambassador Lu to help arrange training opportunities in China on this line of specialty, a request which Dr Lu embarked upon immediately, starting the formal enrolment the following day."

In the last five years, Ambassador Lu has organised five 'Tanzania-China Investment Forums' to promote Chinese investments in Tanzania.

Data available from the Tanzania Investment Centre, Chinese aid to Tanzania increased to 7 billion US dollars in 2017 from 700 million US dollars in 2015, which is a ten times growth, in the course of Ambassador Lu's tenure of office.

According to one official: "Large numbers of competent Chinese companies have invested in Tanzania - propelling forward Tanzania's industrialisation agenda. Projects enjoying China's investment include the natural gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam.

"Others include the expansion and upgrading of ports in Tanzania, infrastructure and agricultural development."

There is a universal saying everywhere, which goes thus: "A friend in need is a friend indeed". Ambassador Lu has been a genuine friend for our country. When there was hiccup here to do with IPTL, our country suffered a budgetary constraint. The National Development Bank of China immediately granted us a loan to the tune of 500 million dollars, thanks to the ambassador's behest.

Core in Chinese support to this country has been the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA} as mentioned at the launch of this perspective.

According to Ambassador Lu himself, China is ready for TAZARA's "upgrade in design, capital and technology".

Not only TAZARA - the Chinese ambassador has asked the Exim Bank of China to discuss with the Tanzanian side on the possibility of financing of the upgrading of the Tanzanian Central Railway Line.

Then someone has told me something I did not know before in relation to the Uganda crude oil pipeline recently inaugurated in Tanga. "Ambassador Lu played a crucial role to convince a Chinese company involved in the project to dump the Kenyan route and choose the Tanzanian route for the Uganda pipeline"; for which information I chuckled in pleasure.

Frankly , it is not easy to document the performance of the Chinese ambassador who is leaving our country at the end of his tour of duty in a limited space column, for he has done a lot for the development of our country.

There is one thing that cannot be left out: his admiration for the Magufuli Administration. According to a senior Chinese embassy official:

"He has informed the achievements of the Magufuli Administration to the Chinese Government and people, including combating corruption, standing against laziness, holding every official accountable and delivering to the people of Tanzania. This has endeared President Magufuli to the love and trust of the Chinese Government and the people of China."

Now, thanks to the excellent tenure of office by Ambassador Lu, after the visit to Tanzania of Chinese President Xi Jinping the other day, Tanzania-China relations have been upgraded to the 'Comprehensive and Cooperative Partnership of Mutual Benefit and Win-win Alliance'.

In conclusion, as a Tanzanian, I should urge fellow Tanzanians to wish Ambassador Lu all the best as returns to his country and as a friend in need who is a genuine friend indeed.

Long Live the People's Republic of China! Long Live the United Republic of Tanzania! Hail the thoughts of Chairman Mao and his compatriot Mwalimu Julius Nyerere!

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