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Feature Story:

Dar es Salaam: Back in Business and Here to Stay

By John E. Lange
The author is the deputy chief of mission in Dar es Salaam.

The sun shone brightly on a brand-new office complex that only six months earlier had been a new but never-occupied residential compound. For Ambassador Charles R. Stith and the rest of us at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, March 2 marked a new beginning for the U.S. government presence in Tanzania following the tragic terrorist bombing last Aug. 7.

Gathered to mark the official opening of the interim office building were Tanzanian government ministers, the diplomatic corps, representatives of international organizations, local press, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering and other U.S. and Tanzanian staff members from State, the U.S. Information Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps.

The ceremony lasted less than 45 minutes, followed by a short tour of the new facility and brief reception, but the symbolism will last much longer. The United States will not be cowed by terrorists, will stick by its friends and will maintain its presence in the world.

In a letter read by Ambassador Stith at the ceremony, President Clinton described the new chancery as "a tangible symbol of the will of the United States to pursue its global objectives and a testament to the strength of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Tanzania." The ambassador called the multi-million-
dollar investment a voice of confidence in Tanzania's future, and he read from African-American poet Maya Angelou's poem, "Still I Rise."

Tanzanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Jakaya M. Kikwete said the embassy bombing had brought Tanzania and the United States closer. He expressed gratitude that the embassy's visa section had reopened, since its closure during the staff's six-month stay in a temporary office building had caused substantial inconvenience to many Tanzanians planning to travel to the United States.

The dedication ceremony was a fitting homecoming for Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering, who had served in Zanzibar from 1965 to 1967 and in Dar es Salaam, as deputy chief of mission, from 1967 to 1969. The undersecretary managed to maintain his ability to speak Swahili during the intervening 30 years, much to the amazement of those at post. In his speech, he read a congratulatory letter from Secretary Madeleine Albright, who, in reference to the bombing, said, "If the perpetrators of this horrible deed imagined they would undermine America's purpose or weaken America's friendship with Tanzania and Africa, they must see now that they have produced the opposite result. The inauguration of the new embassy premises formalizes this truth."

Undersecretary Pickering recalled fond memories of his time in Tanzania, and he, too, emphasized how the inauguration demonstrated that the United States remains close to its friends and stands firm in the face of terrorism.

Following the ceremony and the official ribbon-cutting, guests were escorted on a short tour of the new facility.

Upon reaching the USIS Information Resource Center, the ambassador and public affairs officer Dudley Sims surprised the undersecretary by unveiling a plaque identifying it as "The Thomas R. Pickering Center." Ambassador Stith said the plaque acknowledged Undersecretary Pickering's staunch support of the library and cultural center when he was stationed in Tanzania. In response, the undersecretary said the library was not only an important information source, but also a very important tool in the process of development. He added that he was doubly pleased at the honor because his wife, a research librarian, also worked for the U.S. Information Service.

Literally thousands of people in Washington, D.C., and Dar es Salaam were part of the effort to convert the residential compound into secure, functional and attractive office space. The renovation proved to be an enormous task. Every time Ambassador Stith and I toured the construction site with project manager Rob Browning, I became more depressed because the Foreign Buildings Office first had to deconstruct much of the building, particularly in the controlled access areas and in installing numerous communications and security systems.

However daunting the task, those involved never flagged in their efforts to complete the project in the shortest possible time. We in Dar es Salaam remain watchful of our security situation, and we are working closely with the Foreign Buildings Office on plans for the permanent, new office building to be built over the next several years.

In the meantime, we are deeply appreciative of all of the work by so many people who contributed to reaching the urgent and important goal: to restore full operations of the U.S. Embassy at a new facility in Dar es Salaam.

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