Dar es Salaam. Tanzania made history on Saturday following the launching of the first-ever digital archive in the country on the life of the East African nation’s former Prime Minister Salim Ahmed Salim, intending to “offer unique insights into his journey in public service and his role in international diplomacy and the African liberation movements.”
In a ceremony that saw several former and serving leaders attending, President Samia Suluhu Hassan led Tanzanians in officiating the digital archive, which some have described as a “treasure trove,” of a man many consider one of Tanzania’s outstanding diplomats and committed pan-Africanists.
In honouring the service Dr Salim committed to the nation, President Samia Suluhu Hassan took a decision that many have welcomed, renaming the country’s Centre for Foreign Relations (CFR) to Dr Salim Ahmed Salim Centre for Foreign Relations.
“We have agreed to rename the college after Dr Salim,” the Head of State announced, receiving a standing ovation from the audience who coloured the event. “From now henceforth, it will be called ‘Dr Salim Ahmed Salim Center for Foreign Relations.’”
Apart from serving as Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Dr Salim was the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU), from 1989 to 2001.
Born on January 23, 1942, in what was then considered the Sultanate of Zanzibar, Dr Salim has worked in the international diplomatic arena since the early 1960s.
He served as Tanzania’s ambassador to different countries, including Egypt, India, and China, and served as Permanent Representative to the UN starting in 1970.
In 1976, he served as President of the United Nations Security Council, and in 1979, as President of the Thirty-Fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, among other diplomatic works he performed throughout his life.
The digital archive launched on Saturday collects videos, images and text documents, including Dr Salim’s speeches, notes, and academic papers. It also covers the broader role that African countries played in geopolitics from the 1960s through to the early 2000s.
The archive houses a series of in-depth interviews with Dr Salim, offering a unique glimpse into his experiences, challenges faced, and solutions formulated during his tenure in various leadership roles.
Some notable interviews featured in the archive is the press conference that Dr Salim gave at the Centre of Foreign Relations, now named after him, on September 16, 1989, three days before he would assume the role of Secretary General of the OAU of which he provided a glimpse into his philosophy of the OAU and its future.
It also features Dr Salim’s interview on March 14, 1980, ahead of an International Seminar on the Oil Embargo Against South Africa. Dr Salim was then the Acting President of the United Nations General Assembly, calling for intensified actions to be taken against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
The archive also reveals to the general public historical documents, notes and correspondence that Dr Salim was involved in, highlighting his role in advising and shaping regional and continental policies.
Some notable documents featured in the archive include Dr Salim’s advocacy for Africa’s turn to hold the UN Secretary-General position on November 12, 1991, and his appeal to President George Bush and President Saddam Hussein to stop the Gulf War on January 21, 1991.
Others include Dr Salim’s meeting with anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on February 23, 1994, and his message to the International Conference on Women as Partner for Peace on June 24, 2000.
Beyond official records, the archive also includes personal artefacts, photographs, and milestones that provide a more intimate understanding of Dr Salim’s life and journey.
They include iconic photographs at the OAU Summit to launch the African Union on July 9, 2001. At this summit, Salim bid farewell to the OAU as the Assembly of Heads of State and Government ushered in a new era with the African Union.
The archive also features Dr Salim’s memorable milestones, including his first visit to South Africa as OAU Secretary General on February 22, 1994, a few months prior to the country’s national elections.
Another milestone featured in the archive is Dr Salim’s appointment as Prime Minister of Tanzania on April 25, 1984, by the country’s founding leader, Julius Nyerere. Dr Salim was just 42 at the time and was the first Prime Minister to be appointed to come from Zanzibar.
A real hustler
While launching the archive on Saturday, President Samia admitted that it was comprehensive in portraying the life of Dr Salim and Tanzania’s and Africa’s history, urging other leaders to emulate the venerated diplomat in keeping records.
“Many of you here have been self-declared as hustlers,” the Head of State told her fellow leaders who had gathered for the occasion. “But if you visit Dr Salim’s website, you will know he was a real hustler.”
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Prepared by his family in close collaboration with the government, the archive seeks to “provide a window into history through the eyes of Dr Salim,” the family said. It provides insight into and perspective of the moments that shaped Dr Salim’s life and, more importantly, captures those moments in his own words.
Dr Salim’s family hopes that the archive will inspire future generations of leaders and public servants, according to Ahmed Salim, Dr Salim’s son, who represented the statesman at Saturday’s function. The archive provides “invaluable lessons and examples to guide emerging leaders,” he noted.