Africa with President Clinton

Aug 4th 2013

Africa with Clinton: Tanzania / Zanzibar / Rwanda (Day 6)

Soccer, Ramadan, bad curry, broken airplane, and Ethiopia … What do these things have in common?  They were the highlights of my day.

I no longer have any idea what day it is.  Or what time it is, for that matter.  I live by a schedule and I do what the staff tells me to do.  And everything will be alright.


Left the hotel at a decent hour (930am) to head to the airport, bound for Zanzibar via a short, 30 minute flight.  Zanzibar is an island just off the coast of Tanzania;  beautiful country and lovely beaches.  We head for a soccer match and malaria awareness event.  Through the work of the Clinton Foundation, the incidence of Malaria in Zanzibar has decreased from 25% of the population being infected in 2005, to less than 1% being infected today.  Those are amazing statistics.  At this particular event, the Clinton Health Associates performed Malaria tests and also distributed mosquito netting.

IMG_0297It was very warm in Zanzibar, and especially down on that soccer field.  (We watched the game from the sidelines).  Because the predominantly Muslim population is celebrating Ramadan this month, we were asked to respect their observance by not eating or drinking in front of them.  (During the month of the Ramadan fast, observant Muslims refrain from eating or drinking anything from sun-up to sun=down.)  Given how warm it was today (85 degrees), I marveled at the soccer players who played a full game without taking a sip of water.  The President of Zanzibar joined Clinton at the event, and both made remarks to the crowd.  Folks were excited to see Clinton;  his last visit was in 2005.

Next we visited ZAPHA, an organization supported by the Foundation, which support women and children who are HIV-infected and affected.  Lovely visit.

IMG_0329Then we went to lunch at a restaurant in Stone Town, the only ancient African city still in operation today.  The view of the city from the restaurant was breathtaking … or maybe I lost my breath because of those SIX FLIGHTS OF STAIRS that led to the roof.  As I climbed the stairs I couldn’t help but wonder why we weren’t taking the elevator we kept passing by at each floor.  Curry for lunch – the Indian influence is very prevalent here.  And then, yep, shopping!


Dawn Staley struck out together to find good stuff.  Had to get away from the more affluent delegation members who were likely not to want to/ or know how to haggle for good deals.  A local brother latched onto us and took us through the labyrinth of shops.  I gotta tell you, that Dawn is mercenary!  She and my sister, Sharon, or my mother, could shop together anytime.  I hate bargaining – the prices seem low already and I know they are poor people so I always feel bad cutting into their money … But like I said, Dawn Staley is a mercenary and she would not let me pay full price for anything.  We didn’t have nearly enough time for shopping – just an hour, and I really hate being rushed … there are so many vendors and so much stuff … I wound up getting confused so I didn’t buy as much as I’d intended.  I did make sure to buy some spices – Zanzibar was part of the ancient Spice Trade Route.

We finished up our shopping and headed back to meet the group.  And guess who wasn’t finished shopping?  Clinton.  So we latched on to him as he walked through the marketplace, chatting with the local people and stopping here and there along the way.  And that’s when we got the bad news.

After conferring in the middle of the marketplace with the President, the staff informed us that our airplane was having mechanical difficulties.  We would need to remain in Zanzibar another 90 minutes.  So they took us to a beachfront bar to wait it out.  Well, 90 minutes turned into 3 hours.   Time for another update.  The plane would not be able to take up to Rwanda that night.  Staff was researching other options.  Oh boy.  Anybody could see that Zanzibar was not going to have enough overnight accommodations to handle our entire entourage, now swelled with staff and media.  This was gonna be a problem.  We returned to the lunch restaurant for dinner which was the same menu as lunch – except the curry was thinned out and the pieces of meat were few and far between.   Then exciting and hopeful news:

The staff had called around to neighboring countries asking their Presidents for airplanes to transport our group to Rwanda.  I’m not sure of all the countries that sent planes, but I know that Tanzania lent two aircraft and I overheard that Rwanda also sent a plane – small gulfstreams that seat 12-16 passengers. To transport everyone, we needed five planes plus another for luggage.  The planes were coming from all over East Africa so they arrived at the airport at different times.  The staff created small groups and loaded folks onto the airport buses one plane at a time.  I soon realized that I was going to be in the last group with three other people.  Not happy – way too tired.  And then, as I was about to get my full attitude on, President Clinton walks out and says “Are we ready?”   My attitude disappeared completely.  grin

Finally: Rwanda

And we headed for the airport.  The President of Ethiopia sent his own plane for Clinton.  My three colleagues and I boarded the plane with Clinton, his Secret Service detail, his doctor, and his chief of staff, and we headed to Rwanda.  About 90 minutes later, we land in Kigali, Rwanda.  We deplane right onto the tarmac, jump into the waiting cars (also on the tarmac), and speed off to the hotel, The Serena.

My luggage hasn’t arrived yet;  no telling what time it’s coming.  But I’m tired so I’m going to bed if I have any prayer of attending the tomorrow’s  events.

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Aug 3rd 2013

Africa with Clinton: Zambia / Tanzania (Day 5)

We had a very early call time – bags in the lobby by 6am, departure at 7:30am.  It’s important that your bags are down on time because the staff takes them to the airport ahead of your arrival so that they can be cleared and loaded onto the plane before we get there.  Once the staff takes your bags, you don’t see them again until you get to your room in the next city.  I didn’t want to get up so early, so I took my bags down the night before.

Made it to breakfast and was calmly sipping my way through my tea when the Trip Director came into the dining room and said, Everyone, we’re leaving now.  Head to the bus immediately.  It was 15 minutes earlier than we’d planned, but it turns out that President Clinton was on time – early even.  THAT is a minor miracle.  And once the President is in his car, the motorcade rolls;  there is no such thing as waiting for anyone.  Anybody not on the bus will be left behind.  Fortunately for us, the hotel staff all want pictures with Clinton as he’s leaving the property, so that bought the stragglers a few extra minutes to get on the bus.

We pull out and head to the airport, about a 15 minute drive.  Advantage of traveling with a President – the bus drives right onto the tarmac.  You get off the bus and walk right up the back stairs into the aircraft.  At the front of the aircraft, a Zambian delegation lines the walkway to say farewell to the President.  Only the President, Chelsea and his immediate staff walk up the front staircase.   Thank God for a long flight – 3 hours – and I sleep the whole way.

Dar Es Salaam

We land in Tanzanian early .. the President being on time this morning caused us to arrive earlier than planned … and we head straight to the first event:  A Barclays Commitment event.  (During the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference in New York, corporations and businesses make formal “Commitments”  to devote resources/time/energy/investment in some sort of initiative that will support community development efforts in countries where the Clinton Foundation works.  Barclays committed to support micro-lending efforts in developing countries, which will allow small businesses to get loans easier and more quickly.  This first event showcases the work that Barclays has been doing since they made their Commitment.

IMG_0247The event is in a local market downtown Dar Es Salaam.  We have a police escort for the motorcade so we whip through town pretty quickly, as all traffic is stopped to let us pass.  People line the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of Clinton.  We get off the buses and head right into the event.  We hear a presentation from the local “bank”  members, who tell us how their bank works.  It is sort of like a sous-sous, in that everyone contributes (deposits) a certain amount of money into the “bank” which is a metal box that has three separate locks;  three different people have keys to the locks.  Each month, the members meet to make deposits, make loan decisions, receive loan payments, and hear other reports.  The only difference is that loan takers must pay interest on their loans, and that interest is divided among the members.   My colleagues and I have no idea what this has to do with Barclays – since the money is all coming from depositors and it’s kept in a metal box – but the entire meeting was conducted in KiSwahili, and the translation was spotty.

After the event we wandered through the market, and visited a business owned by one of the bank members — a hair salon.  It was a market where local people shop, not one made for visitors or tourists.  So unless you needed tires, pots, or Fanta, there was nothing for us to buy here.  People crowd around trying to get close to Clinton.  Secret Service has their work cut out for them here!

We head to the hotel, The Hyatt.  Since we’re early we have two whole hours before our next event, which is at Parliament.  We have to wear business attire for this next event (as opposed to the business casual we’ve been wearing) so we definitely need time to change clothes.  Turns out our luggage is stuck in traffic, so I head to lunch with my new sister-friend, Dawn Staley.  She is a three-time Olympic Gold medalist and is now Head Coach of Women’s Basketball at University of South Carolina.  A wonderful person and we’ve enjoyed spending time together.  So far, we are the only two black women on this trip (besides the staff), though Linda Johnson Rice (owner of Ebony Magazine) is scheduled to join the delegation this evening.

After lunch, I go to my room … the staff pre-checks you into every hotel, so all you have to do is go to your room … it’s always unlocked and latched open;  the keys are inside on the desk, along with your Country Memo from the ground staff (detailing schedule, weather, attire, info about the hotel, where to change money, how to connect to the wi-fi, etc.).  My suitcase has been delivered to my room, and I have 20 minutes to dress and get to the lobby.

At the State House

IMG_0252We go to the State House, for a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Clinton Foundation and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania.  This MOU will allow the Clinton Foundation to begin working in the agricultural industry in Tanzania, supporting local, small farmers – much like the program they run in Malawi.  In fact, the folks in Tanzania heard about the program in Malawi (and Rwanda) and appealed to the Foundation to expand it to Tanzania.  In the lobby of the State House is a bust of Julius Nyerere, father of Tanzania.  The delegation heads to one of the ceremonial rooms and meet some of the farmers who will participate in the program – nearly half of them are women, which is wonderful to see.  President Clinton and his foreign policy staff go off to meet with the President of Tanzania.

Then we go outside to a tented courtyard where the MOU signing will take place.  This is one of those hurry-up-and-wait moments.  We sit and sit and sit and sit, waiting for the two Presidents to finish their bi-lat.  (A bi-lateral meeting is when representatives from two countries meet together.  A tri-lat is three countries.)  The meeting goes on forever and I am wilting in the humidity.  FINALLY, they come out, make remarks, and the MOU is signed.  We board the vans and head to an unannounced stop:  the US Embassy.

US Embassy : In Memoriam

IMG_0282You may recall that on August 7, 1998, terrorists exploded bombs at the US Embassies in  Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.  We stop at the Embassy to pay homage to those who lost their lives in the attacks.  There is a lovely memorial built in the yard of the Embassy property – which, like all American Embassies, has been re-configured to be surrounded with concrete barricades and other precautionary measures to prevent another bomber from ever getting close enough again to take lives.  The US Ambassador to Tanzania is Alfonso Lenhardt, an African American retired US Army Major-General, who also served as Sergeant at Arms of the US Senate, the first African American to do so.

We had a moment of silence at the Memorial, followed by some very poignant remarks from President Clinton.  Then back to the vans and to the hotel.  Delegation dinner in the hotel restaurant. And then to my room – I am hitting a wall;  so tired.  But first, I have to re-pack my suitcase, and get it to the lobby tonight because I don’t want to have to get up early enough to make the 715am bag call.  I need to look at emails from by business partners but I just can’t solve or address any more problems today.  Bed is calling.

Fairly late start tomorrow.  First event is meeting the former president of Tanzania at 9:20, then depart for airport at 930am, heading to Zanzibar.

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