U.S. President Obama’s visit to Tanzania causes ripples in the lives of local folks.
Within the first day of being in Dar es Salaam, we were informed that the city was preparing for Obama’s visit. The program director, Ben, explained that due to our arrival in the city being so close to Obama’s upcoming visit, some people will think we are CIA Agents rather than students. In preparation for the visit, government officials have been conducting inspections throughout the city. Damaged road and building projects that have long been ignored are now being addressed and repaired. Today we heard news reports of street venders losing their place of business in what the city has considered to be clean-up projects, but denies it having any connection to Obama. Just hours after hearing this, 3 city inspectors appeared at the door of my house. My host family is currently in the process of building shops along the property front. The officials came to ensure construction was being done in accordance with city code. Public transportation from Dar es Salaam to outside cities will not be allowed to operate during Obama’s stay. In this environment where every day is a ‘make or break’ moment for a majority of the population, such a halt in transportation will certainly cause many to break. Even our internships have been affected by Obama’s visit. Apparently, many of the companies/organizations are reluctant to receive Americans interns at this time due out of concern that we could be spies.
Being here to witness the preparation and hear the rumors about the president of my country is very interesting. President Obama will be traveling with a large posse. Accompanying him will be 1200-1700 (reports vary) other personnel, 500 of which are wealthy businessmen. Apparently China is trying to monopolize the nation’s supply of uranium so the US wants to intervene in this. I must admit, I am disturbed by the impact faced by local Tanzanians as a result of the American president’s visit. Why is there such a great need to impress the leader of the world’s Super Power? Why does the local government ignore problems with infrastructure and emergency response teams until Obama schedules a visit? Sure, the people of Tanzania are kind and hospitable, but such preparations go beyond hospitality. Why should a visit from the American president cause such a disturbance in the daily life of a Tanzanian? Clearly politics is playing a role here.