Mobhare Matinyi, Washington DC. The Citizen, Tanzania. Friday, February 22, 2013
Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar, the Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United States until last week, has just returned home from a successful tour of duty that started in the United Kingdom in 2006. Together with her husband, Mr. Shariff Maajar, they happily landed in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.
Ambassador Maajar was the first female ambassador to the two of the most powerful countries, and undoubtedly, she has raised the bar so high that it will complicate the life of anyone appointed to either post. Indisputably, she returns home a heroine of her own kind having achieved what many would consider unfeasible.
She was appointed by President Jakaya Kikwete in April 2006 as Tanzania’s High Commissioner to the UK where she completed her tour of duty in July 2010. She was subsequently appointed as Ambassador to the US reporting later in September.
She admits that leaving her private law firm, Rex Attorneys, wasn’t easy, having never before served in government, but with her husband’s support she took the challenge wholeheartedly. Interestingly, when I spoke to her minutes before boarding the flight on Monday, she wasn’t eager to blow the trumpet about her achievements in both tours, but a reality check tells a lot!Looking back at her work in London, Ambassador Maajar told Zuhura Yunus of BBC Swahili in July, 2010, that apart from succeeding in promoting our country in the UK, she thinks two tasks remained unaccomplished. However, the truth is, those two things have never been attempted by any ambassador before and it remains to be seen if they ever will.
She mentioned the first as the establishment of a reputable Swahili school to cater for foreigners in an attempt to correctly teach Africa’s most prominent language which has its roots in Tanzania. That initiative demonstrated a deep understanding of the value of our national treasure, the Swahili language. I wish all ambassadors had the same dream.
The second unaccomplished task was to unify all Tanzanians residing in the UK in diaspora activities for the benefit of their motherland. Actually, she managed to organize the first ever diaspora conference in 2008 which led to the establishment of the Diaspora Department back home in Tanzania, and several other things in practice and policy. Yet, based on her high standards, she thinks that it was not enough!
Upon arriving in the US she took over the work that her predecessor, Ambassador Ombeni Sefue, currently the Chief Secretary, had started in diaspora activities. Within a year she organized the largest gathering of Tanzanians abroad in celebration of 50 years of independence with President Kikwete as the Guest of Honor. Almost the entire top brass of Tanzania’s bureaucratic machinery attended the convention.
When she noticed that Tanzania was little known in the US, she quickly reached out to every corner attending several conferences, trade shows, and various events speaking eloquently about our country. It wasn’t surprising then that the number of honorary consuls went up from two to eight in just two years.
With the small budget she had, Ambassador Maajar decided to forgo her rights to travel in business and first classes and even avoided fancy hotels to save government money so that she could attend more events to promote the country. Indeed, as we speak, Tanzania now has more tourists and investors from America, and aid as well, than at any other time before.
She launched several initiatives to promote the country such as the Discover Tanzania VIP Safari which has brought America’s top business executives to Tanzania twice with the third trip coming up in June. She also organized the NGO Roundtable Discussion which brought 80 of them to chart the way forward for the benefits of Tanzania.
Last year Maajar came up with a brilliant idea to have Tanzania Day every year. The resulting fabulous exhibition at the heart of Washington DC in September showcased everything from our great country to the stunned audience including those who did not know where Mount Kilimanjaro is located. Honestly, I cannot mention even a quarter of what she did!
That was Ambassador Mwanaidi Maajar, one of the most respected female lawyers in Tanzania, who could be aristocratic if she wanted, but choose to be a humble servant of the people. In fact, every first Tuesday of the month, her office was open for any Tanzanian to walk in without an appointment! She brought an unprecedented synergy in Washington.
Yes, as Ambassador Maajar noted herself, budget, human resources and bureaucracy can hinder performance, but she is the kind of ambassadors we need today; industrious, creative, and gregarious. Clearly, she performed above and beyond her call of duty!
We wish her all the best in her legal practice back home and her new role as the Board Chairperson of the Center for Foreign Relations.