United Republic of Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete says he leaves his leadership position in southern Africa as a happy person because the region has remained true to its values of promoting socio-economic development.
Kikwete said this in his farewell speech to fellow Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders at the just-ended 35th SADC Summit held in Gaborone, Botswana.
As stipulated by the Tanzanian constitution, Kikwete who is serving his second and last term in office, is not participating in the 25 October general elections to choose a new president and members of Parliament (the Bunge).
"As I leave, I am gratified that peace and security in the SADC region reigns," said Kikwete in a speech read by Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.
He noted that that without stability, there can be no socio-economic development in the region, and that continued cooperation among SADC countries will enable the region to address common challenges and improve the livelihoods of its citizens.
"I am a happy man having seen how our region has evolved from its humble beginnings to be a promising regional body. I am optimistic that not too long we will close the sad chapter of poverty, industrial and infrastructure backwardness and conflicts and unnecessary crises," he noted.
He said one of his greatest achievements as part of the SADC leadership was during Tanzania's tenure as chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation when he led the process of promoting peace and stability in the region.
As chair of the Organ, Kikwete oversaw the successful conclusion of the political dialogue in Zimbabwe that established an inclusive government in the country.
During the same period, he played a critical role in the implementation of the SADC roadmap for Madagascar, as well as searching for a lasting solution to the crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kikwete also oversaw the process to finalise and launch the Revised Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ (SIPO) in 2012.
The main objective of the Revised SIPO is to create a peaceful and stable political and security environment through which the region will realize its objectives of socio-economic development, poverty eradication, and regional integration.
"As I leave office, I urge member states to continue their support in the implementation of this important policy," he said.
On the economic front, he said it is pleasing to note that SADC has developed an industrialization strategy and roadmap as well as finalized the review of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).
He said, if fully implemented, these strategies have the capacity to allow the region to maximise the use of its abundant natural resources.
With regards to the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) launched in June, he said it provides an opportunity for greater SADC intra-regional trade.
"I wish to thank our Secretariat and the negotiators for their diligent work and the effort they put into finalizing the agreement. It is now our turn to roll up our sleeves and make the Tripartite FTA a reality," he said.
On gender development, Kikwete said SADC has made significant strides in ensuring women and men are represented equally in all decision-making positions.
"No other day in the past 10 years was I jubilant than the day when the SADC Summit witnessed the swearing-in ceremony of the first woman as Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, witnessed by the then SADC chairperson Joyce Banda of Malawi and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union Commission. That was historic in our region, and a sign of positive progress that has taken place in the region," he said.
Kikwete paid tribute to SADC for honouring the late Hashim Mbita, saying Mbita "was a true liberator who did his job with all his heart."
Mbita stood tall as a hero of the liberation struggle in Africa, and was widely respected for his principles and dedication.
He died aged 81, and was a proud Tanzanian who became a de facto southern African due to his role in the liberation of the region.
He was honoured by SADC in 2010 with the Sir Seretse Khama Medal, and by the African Union with its first "Son of Africa" Award.
At its 34th Summit held in Zimbabwe in August 2014, SADC launched the Hashim Mbita Project that documents the history of the liberation struggle in the region.
At the Victoria Falls summit, Zimbabwe awarded Mbita with the highest national honour that can be given to a foreigner, The Royal Order of Munhumutapa.
He joined a list of only six recipients of that award, and all of the others were founding presidents of their respective countries - Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
"I also wish to extend my profound appreciation to SADC for launching another book of the African icon and liberator which is a collection of photographs and speeches made by the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere from 1959 to 1999. I thank in a special way, the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre for their diligent work," he said.
Kikwete said SADC should continue working together, adding that "no other region enjoys the same level of shared values and aspirations" as "we do in SADC."
"Together we share, together we endured, and together we can bring formidable changes in our region," he said.
The 35th SADC Summit, which was held on 17-18 August, ran under the theme "Accelerating Industrialization of SADC Economies, Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital."
The theme continued the trajectory of the previous summit held last year in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, which focused on economic transformation and sustainable development "through beneficiation and value addition".
The summit ended with a strong call for member states to implement all the agreed regional projects, programmes and activities within the stipulated timeframes.
The next SADC Heads of State and Government Summit is scheduled for August 2016 in the Kingdom of Swaziland.