In an historic occasion for the University of Newcastle, the President of Tanzania Dr Jakaya Kikwete was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws making him the first head of state to receive the honour.
In the audience were three Tanzanian students currently undertaking PhD research at the University in the areas of education and politics.
Elpidius Baganda, Japhace Poncian and Joshua Mhalila joined a considerable audience at Newcastle City Hall to hear President Kikwete speak.
Elpidius, who was awarded a scholarship to UON, attended the event with his family and said he was ‘very excited’ to see the President.
“I’ve been so busy here in Newcastle and haven’t been back home to Tanzania for three years. He’s done a great job back home – many people appreciate what he’s been doing so I’m excited to see him today.”
“He’s a significant leader in Africa. There are many things he’s done quite well, but of course like any leader there are other challenges,”
“But one of the things that makes him distinct to other African leaders is that after these 10 years (two five-year terms) he is stepping down and another President will be coming. That’s quite different to many other African countries.”
“He’s given a lot of power to democracy and multi-party politics. That makes me feel that he’s been a great president.”
Joshua Mhalila, whose PhD research is in higher education, called it a ‘once in a lifetime event’.
“Even in Tanzania I wouldn’t get the chance to meet him and perhaps speak with him. I think he’s one of the best presidents we’ve had. He’s democratic, he’s keen to hear different and even opposing views, and I think he deserves credit for that.”
“He’s encouraged freedom of expression and even though sometimes people might say negative things about him, he allows it. I think people admire that.”
“It’s not the same in some other African countries – if you were to speak against the government in some way you’d be in trouble. But not with the Tanzanian president. That means that people have felt free to speak about development. People are free to express what they feel is right. That’s been a huge thing for Tanzania.”