Tanzania, according to Wikipedia, is the 31st largest country in the world geographically and the 13th largest in Africa. It is situated on the eastern side of the continent. Moshi is a municipality in Tanzanian with a population of 184,292 according to the 2012 census. It is situated on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano that is the highest mountain in Africa.
Recently, Helena-West Helena and Moshi became sister cities through Sister Cities International. SCI is a citizen diplomacy network that is dedicated to creating and strengthening relationships between the U.S. and other communities in other countries. SCI was created in 1956 during the Eisenhower Administration. It currently is made up of more then 2,300 sister city relationships in 135 countries.
According to Sherman Banks, international consultant for the Arkansas Municipal League, former State Senator Kevin Smith and Helena-West Helena Mayor approached him about a year ago about the possibility of establishing a sister city relationship.
“After considering several possibilities and after meeting with local Catholic priest Father Honest Munishi, we decided to consider the city of Moshi, Tanzania in East Africa,” stated Banks. “After an exchange of several letters between city officials of Moshi and Helena-West Helena, all parties agreed there was enough interest and compatibility to develop a sister city relationship.”
Banks went on to say that he, Willis, Smith and Father Honest met to plan a fact-finding trip to Moshi. The group communicated with Bernadette Kinabo, director of Moshi, and discussed the areas of the city and country the delegation wished to visit.
The Helena-West Helena representatives arrived in Moshi on July 9.
“While in Moshi and the surrounding wilderness areas, we met with representatives of the national government, elected local officials, area business leaders and students in both primary and secondary schools,” stated Banks.
While visiting a Moshi secondary school, Banks reported that Willis participated in a moving ceremony with the school's headmaster, planting a “tree of hope,” officially establishing the official sister city relationship between the two communities almost a world apart.
The journey included meetings to discuss the mission of SCI and visits to various regions and villages throughout the country.
“It was majestically stunning and the residents were gracious and accommodating,” said Banks regarding Tanzania and its people. “… We saw the heart of the people. We danced, visited and experienced the primitive lifestyle of the people of the Masai village.”
Banks reported that the development of the sister city relationship between Moshi, Tanzania and Helena-West Helena is the first such sister city relationship in sub-Sahara Africa.
“We are extending the hand of friendship with the expectation that it will be returned,” stated Willis. “By taking the first step to develop an African sister city, we make ourselves vulnerable toward each other.”
Page 2 of 2 - Willis added that the new relationship could leverage differences into a network of educational and cultural exchanges as well as economic development promoting mutual trust, thus eliminating fear.
By developing the sister city relationship, Willis believes everyone involved can begin to accept and understand diverse problems we all face.
According to Willis, the mayor of Moshi plans to bring a small delegation from his community to the 28th annual King Biscuit Festival in October. They will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to formally establish the sister city relationship.
For more information about getting involved in the SCI partnership e-mail Banks at firstname.lastname@example.org or write him at P.O. Box 165920 Little Rock AR 72216.