On 25 January 2023, the Strong Cities East and Southern Africa (ESA) Regional Hub hosted a virtual roundtable to introduce the Hub's mission to catalyse more city-led efforts to prevent and respond to hate, extremism and polarisation to a diverse set of national and local stakeholders in Tanzania. This was the first in a series of national level consultations that the Regional Hub, which Strong Cities launched with support from the European Union, intends to host to ensure its work is informed by, and responds to, the daily realities and challenges that cities and local governments face in Tanzania and the wider region.
More than 25 national, local, civil and multilateral stakeholders participated in the roundtable, which presented an opportunity for the ESA Regional Hub to raise awareness about its functions, and understand the key challenges country level stakeholders face, as well as approaches they take to addressing extremism and polarisation.
Mr. Daniel Hooton, Strong Cities' Director of Global Engagement, and Mrs. Gertrude Rose Gamwera, Head of the Strong Cities' ESA Regional Hub, highlighted the regional priorities and recommendations identified during the October 2022 launch in Nairobi, which can be found here. Gertrude highlighted the role of the Regional Hub as a catalyst for enhanced Strong Cities engagement with mayors and local governments across the ESA region and inclusion of local government on a more consistent basis in the prevention agenda. Ms.Chiara Guidette, representing the EU delegation in Dar es Salaam, underscored the EU’s support for Strong Cities as the implementer of it new, three-year STRIVE Cities Initiative, an EU-sponsored preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) global programme.
Daniel observed that cities and local communities bear the brunt of hate and extremist violence, are often marginalised, lack resources and are cut off from connecting with others that may have faced similar challenges. He identified the key priorities for the Regional Hub, including:
i) Supporting local government officials, especially mayors, to better understand their role in prevention.
ii) Sharing local lessons learned to help identify new and existing resources, networks and services locally.
iii) Identifying and disseminating models and approaches for engaging youth.
iv) Facilitating country-focused National-Local Cooperation dialogues.
v) Developing cross border collaboration between remote towns and villages.
vi) Expanding collaboration with regional and sub-national partners.
Professor Riziki Shemdoe, Permanent Secretary for the Office of the President of the Regional Administration and Local Government (PO/RALG) in Tanzania, welcomed the partnership with Strong Cities and highlighted the importance of building the capacities of cities in Tanzania to address these challenges and thus the Regional Hub’s relevance to the local context. Mr. Moses Kaaya, Secretary General of the Association of Local Authorities in Tanzania (ALAT), described the composition of local authorities in the country, highlighting their importance in expanding and promoting the global agenda on prevention.
A number of speakers shared perspectives of cities and local governments, including the Hon. Constantine Siima, Lord Mayor of the City of Mwanza, who acknowledged the Regional Hub’s potential, both in terms of working with the local government association and the local authorities in Tanzania in supporting efforts to promote peace and security in the country and cascading these efforts to the citizens at community level. The Coordinator at Tanzania’s National Counter Terrorism Center, Mr. Goyayi Goyayi, also welcomed the launch of the Regional Hub initiative and committed to working with the team.
International partners such as Joyce Deloge, a representative from UNDP’s office in Tanzania, briefed on their ongoing P/CVE engagements in Tanzania, which have focused largely on the national government, with limited engagement with local authorities’ and others. However, she welcomed collaboration with partners like Strong Cities and EALGA, and called for all developmental initiatives to have a prevention angle. Dr. Martha Njiiri, Head of Strategic Communications at IGAD's Centre of Excellence for Preventing & Countering Violent Extremism, agreed that although IGAD had done extensive work on strengthening national government capacity to develop action plans on prevention, there was need to cascade lessons to the grassroots and that Strong Cities could be a useful partner in this regard. The Hon. Jeanette Nyiramashengesho, Chairperson of the Rwanda Association of Local Government Authorities (RALGA) and President of EALGA, called on national governments to work with cities and local governments and to empower them to deliver as per the expected standards.
More broadly, participants emphasised the need to work with cities and local authorities to ensure that messages on preventing violent extremism reach the community level, as well as build their prevention capacities more broadly.
The roundtable concluded with a reminder that this is just the first step in engaging local government and other key stakeholders in Tanzania and that the Strong Cities ESA Regional Hub will hold individual consultations in the coming months to further incorporate Tanzania-specific priorities in its work. In addition, the Regional Hub will be forming regional working groups – one focused on local leaders and one on local government practitioners – as part of an effort to provide or facilitate practical assistance to cities and local governments across the country interested in deepening their involvement in prevention. The ESA Regional Hub will also set up a technical fund that local governments can tap into for concrete support.