President Jakaya Kikwete

President Jakaya Kikwete was on Monday awarded for leadership excellence in the campaign aimed at eradicating malaria in Tanzania and Africa.

The award was presented to Dr Kikwete by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at a luncheon for African leaders  organised by the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) on the sidelines of the 18th AU Summit here.

During the occasion, Tanzania was also among a few African countries that received the ALMA special excellence award for their efforts towards eliminating malaria within the next few years. ALMA is an alliance of African Heads of State and Government working to end malaria-related deaths on the continent. These leaders have come together to say that malaria deaths are unacceptable.

President Kikwete has been the chairman of ALMA since it was launched at the UN Headquarters in New York, in September 2009. Dr Sirleaf took over the chair of the alliance on Monday. In his response to the special ALMA award, President Kikwete said: “I am honoured by your recognition of my contribution and shall always value this award, primarily because it recognises our joint efforts and our common success in the fight.

“Together and working with our people and partners we must achieve zero malaria deaths by 2015.” According to the World Malaria Report 2011, there were 216 million cases of malaria and an estimated 655,000 deaths in 2010. The disease claims about 60,000 lives annually in Tanzania.  Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25 per cent globally since 2000, and by 33 per cent in the African Region. Most deaths occur among children under five. In Africa  a child dies every minute of malaria and the disease accounts for approximately 22 per cent of all childhood deaths.

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites spread by Anopheles mosquitoes that bite people mainly at night, after weeks of high profile lobbying, an election for the chairman of the African Union Commission ended in deadlock on Monday and a new vote is going to take place in June, President Michael Sata of Zambia told a news conference here.  “We went for an election and none of the two candidates emerged as a winner,” the Zambian leader said. In the race were the South African Home Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who sought to unseat outgoing chairman, Dr Jean Ping from Gabon.

AU Commission Deputy Chairman, Mr Erastus Mwencha from Kenya, will now serve as the chairman until the next elections are held in June, at an extra-ordinary AU summit in Lilongwe, Malawi.  Neither candidate secured the required two-thirds majority in the three rounds as the election was going on. Dlamini-Zuma was then forced under AU rules to pull out, leaving Ping to face a fourth round on his own, but he still failed to muster the necessary votes, according to sources.

Observers say that the election of the AU Commission chief witnessed intensive campaigning to the extent that it overshadowed the two-day African leaders meeting under the theme: “Boosting Intra-African Trade. Dr Dlamini-Zuma (63), who had the support of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Portuguese-speaking and some Anglophone countries, had earlier circulated a brochure vowing to promote peace and security on the continent as well as the welfare of men and women in Africa.

Dr Ping (69), a seasoned diplomat holding a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Paris, had earlier said that he was confident of re-election, counting on support from French-speaking West and Central Africa countries. On Sunday, the 54-member African Union elected Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi as the new chairman, a rotating post held for one year, taking over from Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema.  The summit ended on Monday evening.

By JOHN KULEKANA, Tanzania Daily News

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