Thirteen years ago today, al Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 innocent Americans and Africans, injuring countless others and leaving the embassies themselves in ruins.
The bombings were an early indicator of the evil that al Qaeda is capable of conducting. But ultimately, al Qaeda failed to accomplish its goals: to rupture our relationships with governments in the region and force us out of Africa.
Today, America’s alliances with Kenya and Tanzania are not only stronger than ever, they’re helping create a greater sense of hope and optimism for millions of Africans. It’s this rising optimism that may be the most important tribute we could offer in memory of those who lost their lives in the blasts. After all, extremists need fear and despair in order to build support for their evil plans.
In the years after the embassy bombings, the U.S. launched a number of development efforts. Those efforts deserve much of the credit for America’s good standing in East Africa today. In Tanzania, for example, programs like the President’s Emergency plan for AIDS Relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative and projects supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have cut malaria deaths in half, reduced infant mortality by a third and reduced the rate of HIV infection from 18 percent in the 1980s to five percent today.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which was also created after the terrorist attacks, is perhaps the clearest embodiment of America’s renewed relationship with Africa. Through the MCC, the U.S. aids impoverished countries whose governments are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in people — in many ways, the polar opposite of what the terrorists and their supporters want.
The largest MCC program in the world is in Tanzania. The program is increasing Tanzanians’ access to reliable energy and clean water. More importantly, by building in such important principles as rigorous standards of transparency and competitive bidding, the program is playing a small but important role in helping Tanzania position itself for significant economic growth in the years ahead.
Of course, the benefits of America’s close friendships with Kenya and Tanzania flow both ways. Not only are those countries stalwarts in the drive to prevent the spread of violent extremism, piracy and illegal drugs, but they are increasingly important trading partners for the U.S.
America’s relationships with Tanzania and Kenya illustrate how strategic U.S. engagement protects our national security, helps to create jobs here at home and allows us to live up to our values as a world leader.
While in Tanzania in June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “There is a reason why I’m here and why our commitment is so strong, and that is because the U.S. and Tanzania have a deep partnership. We are united by mutual respect, mutual interests, but most of all, by shared values and the aspirations for a more peaceful and prosperous future.”
We couldn’t agree more, and the programs funded by the U.S. government’s International Affairs Budget are living proof of these shared values. For us, our Kenyan and Tanzanian brothers and sisters are not only our friends — they are our trading partners and our allies in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Now, that’s a return on investment.
Mark Green served as U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania from 2007-2009. John E. Lange was Charge d’Affaires in Tanzania during the time of the embassy bombing and later served as U.S. Ambassador to Botswana from 1999-2002.