Tribute to her historical appointment and legacy  

                            BY MOHAMED MATOPE, Washington DC, January 28, 2013

Two and a half years ago, President Jakaya Kikwete made history by appointing seasoned lawyer, Mwanaidi S. Maajar, Tanzania’s first female ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Maajar’s pick surprised many observers. People did not doubt her capabilities but it had not been done in the more than 50 years that Tanzania and the US have maintained diplomatic relations.

Despite the fact that she had been High Commissioner to Britain before coming to Washington DC, many questioned whether a Tanzanian woman could effectively perform the duties of ambassador in this citadel of global power play. To say the least, expectations were low founded equally on baseless fears.

But as Mrs. Maajar’s tour of duty winds up, it is imperative that we put in perspective what this formidable woman has accomplished in her rather short stay here and, by extension, the fundamental impact of her presence on the Tanzanian community here and in the US generally. First and foremost, Mrs. Maajar is a highly talented and skilled diplomat of our time.

What has been most striking about her tenure of office is how effective on the job she has proven to be, improbable as it once seemed. She transformed the ambassador’s role as radically as President Barack Obama changed the American presidency. Before her arrival, the ambassador’s office was regarded as elitist post and generally detached from mainstream life and society.

That negative perception changed completely as she connected outright with the people and the community at large to the extent that she became, and was seen, as part of the community itself. She is a dynamic and likeable leader, who leaves behind unmatched inspiration as her biggest legacy in this country where ambitions can be easily lost in the fast paced lifestyle of doing anything, from politics to scientific inventions.

She will be remembered more as a bridge builder and unifier of what was once a highly fragmented community here in America. Before she came, the general perception was that the embassy was a separate entity (not a mission for the people) and therefore, had no business linking up with the Diaspora community. That perception was debunked under her tenure of office.
We also witnessed the transformation of the ambassador’s persona from the traditional diplomatic aloofness to that of a more engaging and role model organizer for results. Through her untiring efforts, the society of Tanzanians living in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) and other organizations of Tanzanians in the United States were strengthened and contributed markedly to the reawakening of our cultural and national identity as Tanzanians living abroad.  

Also, Mrs. Maajar has arguably done more to integrate our community than any of her predecessors. We should remember that Mrs Maajar around during the 2010 general election, which was characterized by hyper partisanship and polarization of the national agenda  here in United States as well as in Tanzania.  Mrs. Maajar had all the reasons to also advance partisan actions that would have split our community even further. Instead, she steadfastly remained non-aligned and chose to tread the unifying path. As a result, the Tanzanian community in the United States emerged more integrated today than it was three years ago.
After two and a half years of meritorious service through her unrelenting efforts, she has succeeded immeasurably to unify our community, shaped as much by her experience as a lawyer, as well her skills as an administrator. We measure our leaders’ greatness by their ability to do big things, Mrs. Maajar was able to organize our community and overcome huge obstacles even in the face heartbreaking despair. She simply never gave up even when matters appeared to be hopelessly out of hand. 

Aisha Damji, a Tanzanian business woman in California, said there was a reason the community held seemingly endless farewells parties for Mrs Maajar. “She is people’s person,” said Aisha. “Her performance as ambassador was spectacular. All Tanzanian women should be proud of her, and now, the pressure is on our leaders to appoint another female ambassador,” she concluded and lobbied in typical American style.