DAR ES SALAAM (AP) -- U.S. vice president Kamala Harris is set to step into the frontlines of the fight for democracy in Africa, spending time with Tanzania, which has made fragile progress in restoring its reputation as a government that's more inclusive.
Samia Suluhu hassan, Tanzania’s first female President, has reversed some of the oppressive policies of the country, including a ban of opposition rallies. This is despite her coming to power as part of the ruling party.
She is finishing the term of former President John Magufuli who died while in office. He was known for stifling dissent and arresting his critics, forcing them to exile. Hassan has made some changes that have upset hard-liners. This could hurt her in two years' time when she runs for reelection.
Harris, the United States' first female vice president, is scheduled to meet Hassan Thursday. This meeting represents a significant show of Washington's support as it deepens the United States' outreach to Africa.
Analyst Mohamed Issa Hemed, based in Tanzania, said: 'There is so much excitement and people say that it seems like the U.S. has recognized the efforts of the President to change the country.
Harris said to Hassan during a meeting in Washington that "we are pleased with the progress you've made in your leadership, and in particular the work that you've done in Tanzania to empower women leaders and to support human right."
Harris arrived late on Wednesday in Tanzania after three nights spent in Ghana. She was welcomed with music and dance, just like her first stop. The welcoming party included some who wore shirts featuring Harris' face, and skirts that featured Hassan.
Harris will spend two nights in Tanzania and then end her week-long trip in Zambia, a country also striving to improve its democratic system. She will return to Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
Idayat Hassan is the director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja, Nigeria. She said that Harris' visit could help to galvanize excitement at a moment when there are fears about a backslidden into authoritarianism, both in Africa and elsewhere.
She said that many people would want the U.S. government to address the issue of democratic decline, as they believe it is no longer what it was. There are still many people who need to know that democracy will be here for the long haul.
Zambia, like Tanzania, has taken uneven steps towards democracy since independence. There's a glimmer of hope since the country elected Hakainde Hichilema, an opposition leader who was once charged with treason.
Since then, Zambia has decriminalized the defamation against its president. This law was used by the government to suppress opposition. This week, it is also serving as the co-host for President Joe Biden’s second Summit for Democracy.
He wrote, "You can't consume democracy," in The Washington Post. Human rights can sustain the soul, but not the physical body.