Diplomat who shook political landscape

WHEN Ambassador Amina Salum Ali on May 21, 2015 declared her intention to vie for the union presidency, majority of the people dismissed her as just another time waster with nothing to offer in the fierce inter-party, male dominated race.

“Some dared calling and discouraging my candidature; some wrote in newspapers that I was not serious, I was lying, I was just giving it a trial,” recalls Ambassador Amina, reaffirming: “But, inside me, I was firm and determined on my mission.”

And, to the surprise of her critics, she made it to the top three. The 2015 inter-party presidential race arguably goes into history as the most competitive, with almost 40 aspirants seeking Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) nomination to the top office.

It was indeed the country’s heavyweight race that saw Vice-President Mohamed Gharib Bilal, former Speaker the late Samwel Sitta, three former Prime Ministers Fredrick Sumaye, Edward Lowasa and Mizengo Pinda, seeking the party’s nomination for the presidency.

But, neither the number nor the profile of candidates scared the distinguished diplomat who had just arrived from the United Nations Headquarters in Washington DC where she had served for almost a decade as African Union’s (AU) Permanent Representative.

Ambassador Amina speaks of her determination to the race: “I had assessed myself and appreciated my patriotism, confidence and ability to take my country to the large economy using available resources; I firmly believed that my time had come to lead Tanzanians at the top position.”

She remains proud of her triumph, making it to the top three finalists in the tough race that saw the ruling party declaring the late John Pombe Magufuli its flag bearer in the general elections.

“The process to the presidency in both Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland is very tough, especially for women,” says Captain Salum Ali Rashid’s fourth child whose first attempt to the presidency was 2000 when she sought to occupy Zanzibar’s Vuga-based State House but CCM picked Amani Abeid Karume for the job.

Ambassador Amina says of her two-time presidential bids: “Tanzania had a deep down principle that it was not yet time for a female president.”

There is no single factor to which Ambassador Amina can attribute her triumphant bid. “It was the support I enjoyed from both Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland as well as my obvious zeal and determination,” she says.

Speaking to Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited’s (TSN) editorial team, which she hosted for an exclusive interview at her Mbweni home in Unguja recently, Ambassador Amina declared her decision to quit her presidential ambition.

“Me, for presidency again,” reacts Ambassador Amina in reply to whether she still harbours presidential ambitions: “No, no! We now have Mama (President Samia), she is doing a great job; we all rally behind her, she has done us (women) proud.”

The 67-year-old retiree says she was inspired to compete for the preseidency among others to break the male dominance in the country’s highest office. She says: “Now that we have Samia, our fellow woman at the top office, I’m contented.”

She appreciates Dr Samia and her predecessor, the late Magufuli for their exemplary leadership. “President Samia is good at making follow-ups to all her directives she gives to her subordinates; that way, she always keeps them on their toes.”

However, the seasoned politician abhors poll camps, which she denounces as unhealthy for the ruling party. And, she blames both winners and losers for the counterproductive factions.

“It’s normal and acceptable to have camps during elections; otherwise, how would one campaign without dedicated supporters? But, the problem comes with their existence even after the elections; they weaken the party,” says Ambassador Amina, imploring all party leaders and supporters to abandon their factions and create one huge camp–CCM–after the elections.

But, who is to blame for the camps after elections? Ambassador Amina blames “Both, the winners and losers. Some winners tend to stigmatise the losers who later harbour grudges against the winners, sustaining animosity among themselves.”

She advises the winners to embrace the losers as their partners and if possible involve them in leadership through various appointments. “The losers too have to accept the outcome and rally behind the declared winners, antagonism will never help,” she says.

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