It’s like we have lost our confidence, that’s how President Samia Suluhu described Tanzania’s diplomacy.
“Our experience, influence, and capacity in diplomacy have declined, sometimes we are unsure if we should speak or not”, added President Samia as she reminisced about the ’90s and early 2000s the times she alluded that there was an ample expertise in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
President Samia made these comments while receiving a report from the committee tasked with reviewing the performance of Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The committee, formed on March 31, 2023, was headed by the former Tanzanian Ambassador to Zambia, Yahya Simba. Other members of the committee included Ambassador Peter Kallaghe, Ambassador Tuvako Manongi, Ambassador Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar, and Ambassador Ramadhan Muombwa.
One of the key highlights of the report is the decline in the quality of Tanzania’s diplomats. The report identifies several issues, including problems in the hiring and development of staff, as well as frequent changes that resulted in the loss of institutional memory.
The report notes that nepotism has become increasingly prevalent within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, leading to complaints and crowding out of talent within the Ministry.
President Samia echoed these sentiments from the report, emphasizing how the current system of appointing ambassadors is causing a lack of proper representation for the country abroad.
“The way we do the appointment now is that the Ministry brings their recommendation, and at that point, I also have my own name, [may be of] somebody who has messed up somewhere and needs to go.”
President Samia also analyzed the situation, highlighting that it is currently challenging to distinguish between political and professional diplomat appointments.
“On the other hand, you have the commander[army] also saying Madame President, you should help us with this one who needs to leave for things to run smoothly. Or you have the Police IGP that has messed up and also needs an ambassadorial appointment.”
There is a consistent pattern where certain posts often end up being filled by ambassadors with a security background, such as in countries like the DRC-Congo, Mozambique, Rwanda.
But there is also a trend for some security figure to be sent to retire in ambassadorial posts. For example, the former Director of Intelligence, Modestus Kipilimba was stationed as an Ambassador to Namibia, former Chief of Staff of the army Lt. Gen. Mathew Edward Mkingule is now an ambassador to Zambia. Former Inspector General of Police, Simon Sirro is now an ambassador to Zimbabwe.
President Samia expressed her commitment to ensuring that more professional diplomats are appointed as ambassadors compared to political appointments. She further explained that even with professional appointments, the quality of appointments remains subpar due to the influence of nepotism and infighting within the Ministry.
Stability and Knowledge Transfer
In its proposal, the committee has recommended that the country must prioritize stability within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ensure that experienced diplomats are retained, allowing them ample opportunities to share their institutional knowledge.
The committee referred to the period between 2016 and 2022, during which it observed numerous changes within the Ministry. These changes included the removal of experienced diplomats and frequent rotations of top leadership, resulting in instability within the Ministry and the erosion of critical institutional knowledge.
The committee has also recommended that the government should actively seek talent from various sectors, including the private sector, civil societies, and the government. Furthermore, the committee suggests that when ambassadors complete successful assignments abroad, they should spend some time at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for knowledge transfer before being reassigned to other posts.
While the committee has proposed for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be placed under the President so as to reflect its importance, the President came up with a counter-proposal of starting a Presidential Foreign Service Fellowship.
The Presidential Foreign Service Fellowship is a two to three-year fellowship that will be sponsored by the President to nurture foreign service talents in the country.
The committee has reflected on the current Tanzania position of its diplomacy policy which focuses on economic diplomacy. In this sense the committee has proposed for the country to re-assess its presence abroad, closing some of the posts and also establishing new posts.
In Africa, the committee has proposed the opening of a new embassy in Botswana because of its strategic position hosting SADC headquarters, also in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for following up opportunities with the Africa Development Bank, but also establishing the embassy as a center for Francophone Africa.
The committee has also proposed opening of new embassy in Scandinavia countries, the region which is currently being served by the Tanzania embassy in Sweden. The committee has also proposed to establish an embassy in Australia, noting the country’s importance, especially in the mining sector investments.
The committee has also proposed for the country to find a way of having a presence in Eastern Europe as well as solidify its presence in Northern America.
Another change proposed is the establishment of a dedicated department for analyzing geopolitical trends and events, separate from the current structure where it resides within the Department of Policy in the Ministry. This proposal has been accepted by the president.