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Speech by H. E. Wang Ke, Ambassador of China to Tanzania, at the Launch of the Book 'A Monument to China-Africa Friendship: Firsthand Account of the Building of the TAZARA' (Swahili Version)
2020/08/25

Honourable Professor Palamagamba Kabudi,

Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation

Honourable General Abdulrahaman Shimbo,

Former Tanzanian Ambassador to China

Honourable Mr. Geoffrey Sengo,

Deputy Managing Director of TAZARA

Honourable Mr Walter Bgoya,

Managing Director of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers

Honourable Professor Humphrey Moshi,

Director of the Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Dar es Salaam

Invited guests, dear colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning! Habari za asubuhi!

First of all, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Tanzania, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, and all of you for attending today’s book-launch event.

Compiled by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the book ‘A Monument to China-Africa Friendship: Firsthand Account of the Building of the TAZARA’ was published in Chinese, English and French languages in 2015. This book has presented a panoramic view of the historic feat and hard course of the building of TAZARA by Chinese, Tanzanian and Zambian people. It is also a vivid elaboration of the source of China-Africa friendship, which has withstood the test of time and grown even stronger. The book has been well received by Chinese and African readers since its publishing. Up to now, over 10,000 copies have been sold, and the demand remains high. Many Tanzanian friends advised us to translate this valuable book into Swahili so that more Tanzanians and Africans could learn that extraordinary period of history, and cherish more the China-Tanzania and China-African friendships which have been forged with sweat and blood from both sides.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking of TAZARA and the 45th anniversary of its operation. We have achieved what we wish. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United Republic of Tanzania, in collaboration with Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, published the Swahili version of the aforementioned book. I would like to first express my gratitude to Your Honourable Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi, the Foreign Minister. You have not only given support to the publishing of this book, but taken your precious time to attend today’s launching ceremony despite your busy schedule. I would also like to thank Mr. Walter Bgoya, Managing Director of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, and his colleagues, for cooperating with us on this publishing project. Your professional and excellent work has made this book very much presentable. My sincere gratitude also goes to the translator of the book, Dr. Nathalie Arnold Koenings, an American scholar, who is absent today unfortunately, and all other colleagues and friends who have contributed to the translation and publishing of this important book.

It is worth noting that this book includes the interview with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who was editor-in-chief of the Tanzania African National Union (TANU) newspapers, The Nationalist and Uhuru at that time. Moreover, at the suggestion of Minister Kabudi, we have added the narration of Hon. Job Lusinde, former Minister of Communications and Works of Tanzania and former Tanzanian Ambassador to China, to this book. The two elders shared with us with deep feelings in the book their recollections of the stories and personal experiences during the construction of TAZARA. These stories have reflected the sincere friendship between the Chinese and the Tanzanian people. The two elders passed away last month. We felt deep sorrow for losing two respectable old and true friends of the Chinese people. Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent his letter of condolence to President John Pombe Magufuli for the passing of the late President Benjamin Mkapa. Here I propose everybody stands up and observe one-minute silence to mourn the two elders.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the largest turnkey foreign aid project that China has ever financed and undertaken abroad, TAZARA is not only a ‘railway of freedom’ supporting the independence of eastern and southern African countries, but a ‘railway of friendship’ symbolizing the ever-lasting friendship between Chinese and African people. TAZARA occupies a very important position in the history of China-Africa relations and South-South cooperation.

Both Chinese and Tanzanian leaders attach great importance to TAZARA. In 2013, when Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Tanzania, he made a special trip to the Cemetery for Memorable Deceased Chinese Experts Assisting Tanzania to pay his tribute, and stressed that we should carry forward the TAZARA spirit, forge ahead into the future, keep up with the times and make the towering tree of China-Africa friendly cooperation flourish and bear more fruits. Last year, when inspecting TAZARA Dar es Salaam Station, Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli said, “We cannot abandon TAZARA, which is a good idea of the founders of Tanzania and Zambia, elderly Nyerere and Kaunda”. He emphasized that TAZARA is in the memories and brains of the two nations’ founding fathers, and it will never die. It’s fair to say that the TAZARA spirit forged by our elder generations during the construction of the railway, is invaluable historical treasure of the Chinese and African people. Therefore, it should be remembered and carried forward from generation to generation.

The TAZARA spirit carries the unremitting pursuit for fairness and justice by China and Africa. The original aspiration of building the railway is to support the national liberation movements and economic independence of Tanzania, Zambia and southern African countries. The request for assisting Tanzania and Zambia to build the railway was first raised by the first President of Tanzania Mwalimu Julius Nyerere during his very first visit to China in 1965. At that time, China was facing great economic difficulties with a per-capita GDP of less than 100 US dollars. However, Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and other Chinese leaders made the historic decision, without hesitation, to help build TAZARA. China, Tanzania and Zambia rose to such challenges as adverse natural conditions, and obstruction and sabotage by a few countries. In less than 6 years, the construction of the 1860.5 kilometers long railway came to completion, making an indelible contribution to the fight against imperialism and colonialism as well as the development and rejuvenation of the African continent, in particular the eastern and southern Africa.

The TAZARA embodies the essence of China-Africa relations, which is characterized by treating each other as equals and mutual assistance in difficult times. To build TAZARA, China had dispatched over 50,000 engineers, technicians and skilled workers, put into use a large amount of engineering machinery and equipment, and made a huge number of design drawings which could fill two luggage compartments of a train. Over 160 workers, including more than 60 Chinese, sacrificed their lives in building the railway. These figures have shown to us the spirit of the Chinese and African people striving together to create miracles. It is worth mentioning that in building the TAZARA, the Chinese workers lived in the temporary work sheds built by themselves, ate the vegetables grown by themselves, worked side by side, and had meals together with their Tanzanian and Zambian brothers. They had never asked for any special treatment! Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa recalled in this book that the local community was once worried about the large number of Chinese workers stationed there, but the Chinese workers won the deep friendship and wide acclaims from African brothers through self-sacrifice, dedication, sincerity and equal attitude toward Africans. Facts have proved that TAZARA has not become a tool of China to control Tanzania and Zambia as some foreign media alleged. On the contrary, it has become a symbol for mutual support and independently determining their destinies by the Chinese and African people.

We are glad to see that the TAZARA spirit shows that China and Tanzania, China and Africa have been a community of a shared future, and that the core principles of the TAZARA spirit have remained unchanged till today. Actually these principles are reflected in various aspects of China-Tanzania cooperation. In the face of some countries acting in unilateralism and disregard of the basic norms governing international relations, China and Tanzania, conforming to the trend of development of history, stay committed to promoting the development of the international political and economic order in the direction of fairness and justice, and advocating multilateralism and win-win cooperation in the UN Security Council, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization and many other international occasions. In the face of some countries’ behaviors of bullying, double standards and wanton interference in other countries’ internal affairs, China and Tanzania have been respecting and supporting one another in independently exploring development paths that suit national conditions, and resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty and dignity. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Tanzania for its firm support to China on issues concerning China’s core interests, including those relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and others.

What needs to be pointed out in particular is that China and Tanzania have been supporting each other and fighting shoulder to shoulder against the global pandemic of COVID-19. At the height of China’s battle with the coronavirus, the Tanzanian Government and its people stood firmly with China, and expressed their support in international occasions for China’s anti-epidemic efforts. Likewise, when Tanzania was struck by the virus, China was the first to rush in with assistance. The ongoing infrastructural projects in Tanzania undertaken by Chinese companies have never been suspended for a single day since the outbreak of COVID-19. We are proud of China’s contribution to the success achieved by Tanzania in fighting the pandemic and developing its economy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The purpose of reviewing history is to better plan for the future. It is my deep feeling that against the backdrop of the profound changes in the international situation, the continuous rise of hegemonism and unilateralism, the negative impact of COVID-19 on the world economy, and the major challenges facing all countries in the world, the significance of carrying forward the TAZARA spirit has become more prominent for China and Tanzania to develop their comprehensive partnership and to build a closer community with a shared future.

Facing the new situation and challenges, China will continue to follow the guidance of the TAZARA spirit, take the opportunity of implementing the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, and the development of Belt and Road cooperation, to comprehensively enhance cooperation with Tanzania in trade, investment, infrastructure construction, tourism, health care and other fields. We will foster new growth points in such areas as traditional medicine and e-commerce. China will support Tanzania in its effort to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on its economy, and play a larger role in assisting Tanzania to accelerate industrialization and to achieve independent and sustainable development. At the same time, China is willing to strengthen coordination and mutual support with Tanzania in international affairs so as to make new joint contributions to upholding multilateralism and promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Thank you! Asanteni sana!

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