The only other time that a sitting Head of State has ever crossed the channel on boat was in 2015 when visiting German President Joachim Gauck, on a one day tour in the Isles, made the trip to the Isles by boat from Dar es Salaam. As if in reciprocity, the sixth phase president has now conducted a hypothetical return trip.
It is far from normal for any Head of State to cross the channel via passenger boat rather than quick transit by air, making the president’s gesture definitely special.
She left the Isles aboard the vessel at Malindi port after gracing the climax of the Kizimkazi Festival Week, her birthplace and immediate community whose members were overjoyed to spend the day with the president. Taking the boat trip after that was a retaining of the community atmosphere even as she left the scene
Passengers interviewed by media organs said they had earlier noticed that there was tight security at the terminal and in the boat when it was getting prepared for the trip, minutes before the president boarded the vessel. It was a lifetime experience for some youthful passengers, first experiencing the perplexity of tight security and then relief of having a distinguished visitor among the passengers. The show wasn’t destined for them alone but for the wider public, a petit ‘Royal Tour.’
Despite that the president hasn’t quite said so, the gesture is partly the wish to cultivate a sense of civility among public officials, that it is possible to use ordinary means of transport in routine work. Instead of driving a land cruiser to the capital, why not take a passenger bus early in the morning? With the start of the speed train, this inclination for flights will be reduced. The readiness to use such means of transport, if it could be formalized among upper levels of government, would be a miracle of civic attitudes, which are pegged to ranking and privilege.
Sitting presidents make gestures of this sort from time to time, mingling with the people in unexpected ways, which aren’t just popularity gestures but have to do with governance reform as well. At the start of the fifth phase, the president walked unexpectedly from the State House to the Treasury, less than 100 meters from the gate, catching bureaucrats unawares. It was a summation of the DNA of the campaign – catching administrators unawares and confronting them directly.
Admittedly nothing can be made out of the MV Kilimanjaro boat ride as it were but simply as a reminder of ‘The Royal Tour,’ as cultivating sympathetic sentiments for the president spills over to the sectors she is working to uplift, like tourism. It was another illustration of the sentiment of caring, not just for her immediate community at the festival, but the wider public. It was an illustration that while it is true President Samia arrived into that office as she says, by the will of God, she is definitely a remarkable leader on her own, with the right intuitions.