Tanzania's Kikwete And Ghana's Mahama Have Easy Relaxed Styles

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Kikwete and Mahama

[U.S.-Africa Summit: Reporter's Notebook]

Yesterday I attended one of the myriads of talk-events in the context of the ongoing U.S.-Africa Leadership Summit, and one of those was the Civil Society Organization meeting at the State Department.  Earlier, I had attended one, Open Government Partnership (OGP).  Most individuals did not know what was OGP, well they have a website.

Then came the Civil Society Organizations Town Hall meeting, with Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and John Mahama of Ghana, Secretary of State John Kerry, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.  Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, was also in attendance.  The room was filled to capacity and the event was moderated by Shaka Ssali of the Voice of America.

These two presidents represent a new brand of African leadership;  Kikwete still maintains his youthful demeanor.  He will be 64 in October this year.  John Dramani Mahama will be 56 in November.

But it is their style of open government that endears them to their citizens.  They don’t maintain the autocratic demeanor of most African leaders, like Presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  Even for this important meeting which included the Secretary of State, Mahama wore an open shirt without a tie.

The leaders easily fielded questions from the audience, joked and answered some important questions on their respective countries’ relationship with Civil Society, which they said they embrace, although “some of the Civil Society could exceed their own mandates,” said Kikwete to great laughter. 

Kikwete’s two terms of five years each will end in 2015.  Let’s hope he doesn’t pull a President Obasanjo-like third term fiasco in Nigeria.




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