Salim Ahmed Salim Biography - Life, Education, Positions and More

Dr Salim Ahmed Salim Biography: Life, Education, Positions and More

Born January 23rd, 1942, Salim Ahmed Salim is a diplomat and politician from Tanzania. He has been in the global diplomatic space since the 1960s.

Salim Ahmed Salim Early Life

Born in the old Zanzibar Sultanate to an Arab with Omani ancestry, Sheikh Ahmed Salim’s mom was a native-born Tanzanian. Salim’s maternal grandma is an Afro-Arab of mixed race, while his maternal grandfather was an ethnic Arab.


Salim Ahmed Salim attended Lumumba college, Zanzibar. He proceeded to St. Stephen’s College of Delhi University for his undergraduate studies and got his master’s degree in Global Affairs from Columbia University’s School of Public and International Affairs, New York. During the 1950s, Salim Ahmed Salim was a student lobbyist and was the founder and pioneering V.P. of the Zanzibar Student Association.

Posts Held by Salim Ahmed Salim Within Tanzania

  • Member of Tanzania’s Commission for Constitution Review (2012 to 2014)
  • Member of Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) Central Committee
  • President, Julius Nyerere Foundation (2001 to date)
  • Minister of National Service and Defense (1986 to 1989)
  • Tanzania’s Deputy PM (1986 to 1989)
  • PM of Tanzania (1984 to 1985)
  • Foreign Affairs Minister (1980 to 1984)
  • Secretary of the All-Zanzibar Journalists Organization and Senior Proofreader of a daily newspaper in Zanzibar (1963 to 1964)

Salim Ahmed Salim Diplomatic Positions

  • A.U. Special Envoy on the Darfur Conflict (2004 to 2008)
  • Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity (1989 to 2001)
  • Ambassador of Tanzania to Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad, Tobago, and Jamaica (1970 to 1980; served while at U.N.)
  • Ambassador of Tanzania to the Republic of Cuba (1970 to 1980)
  • Tanzania’s permanent representative to U.N. (1970 to 1980)
  • Tanzania’s ambassador to China (1969 to 1970)
  • Tanzania’s ambassador to India (1965 to 1968)
  • Tanzania’s ambassador to Egypt (1964 to 1965)
  • Deputy chief representative of the Zanzibar Office based in Havanna, Cuba (1961 to 1962)

Salim Ahmed Salim Positions Held at U.N.

  • President of the Paris International Conference Against Apartheid (1984)
  • President of the International Conference on Sanctions against South Africa (1981)
  • President of the UNGA for the 34th, 6th emergency special, 7th emergency special, and 11th emergency special sessions (1979)
  • President of the U.N. Security Council (1976)
  • Chairperson, Security Council’s Committee on Sanctions against Southern Rhodesia (1975)
  • Chairperson, Committee of Global Meeting of Experts to Support Victims of Apartheid and Colonialism in Africa, Oslo (April 1973)
  • Chairperson, U.N. Special Envoy to Niue (June/July 1972)
  • Member,  Planning Subcommittee of the Governmental Commission of the Global Meeting of Non-Aligned Countries, Georgetown, Guyana (August 1972)
  • Chairperson, U.N. Special Committee for Decolonisation (1972 to 1980)

Secretary-General Campaign

In 1981, Salim Ahmed Salim contested the position of U.N. Secretary-General against Kurt Waldheim, the current officeholder from Austria. At the time, Waldheim had served two terms already, and Salim was serving as UNGA president. Salim was supported by the NAM and OAU. He also had China’s backing to veto Kurt Waldheim. However, the Reagan government in the U.S. opposed Salim. They saw him as a person radically opposed to America who supported Palestinian statehood and was hostile towards South Africa. Salim was also opposed by USSR for his advocacy and positive disposition towards China.

Salim Ahmed Salim defeated Waldheim in the initial round, amassing eleven votes to Kurt Waldheim’s ten. As expected, the US vetoed Salim, and China vetoed Waldheim. Ahmed Salim’s support nose-dived after the initial voting round because some member countries felt that the U.S. was ruthlessly opposed to Salim’s candidature, and China had abandoned its opposition of Kurt Waldheim in the past (1976 and 1971). However, neither the United States nor China relented, as the election remained deadlocked for six weeks over 16 voting rounds. The deadlock eventually ended when Salim and Waldheim quit the race to open up the election to other aspirants.

Boutros Boutrous-Ghali
Boutros Boutrous-Ghali

Salim Ahmed Salim was tipped for the post again in 1996. Boutros Boutrous-Ghali, the current Secretary-General, was running for another term unopposed and was supported by all but one of the fifteen Security Council members. The U.S. opposed Boutros-Ghali but was willing to offer its support to any other candidate from Africa, including Salim. However, France declared that it planned to use its veto power against Salim. Therefore, he wasn’t nominated.

Other Diplomatic Posts

In Africa, Salim Ahmed Salim has been acting as Water Ambassador since 2002, after being invited by the head of the AfDB. As Water Ambassador, his responsibilities include sensitization, advocacy as well as mobilizing support for water issues on the continent. He is also:

  • Chairman of the Consultative  Board of Pretoria-based Center for Security Studies
  • Chairperson and Member, Consultative Board of Administrators of the Center for Governance, Peace, and Leadership, African University, Mutare
  • Chairperson, International Board of Administrators of Addis Ababa-based Africa Humanitarian Action
  • Member of African Union’s consultative body Panel of the Wise

At the global level, Salim Ahmed Salim currently serves on these commissions, boards, and panels:

  • Board member of Mo Ibraheem Foundation, an organization that supports great leadership and good governance in Africa. He has also served as the head of the body’s Prize Committee since 2011 after succeeding the first Chairperson, Kofi Annan
  • Co-Chairperson, Eminent People Group on Light Weapons and Small Arms, whose secretariat is located in Washington DC
  • Board member of South Center, located in Geneva
  • Member of GLF, an organization that promotes democratic rule, resolves and prevents conflicts through dialogue, and promotes good governance through the rule of law, human rights, open markets, and democratic institutions. It does this by discreetly making available the wisdom of ex-leaders to current national leaders. The organization is non-profit-oriented and is made up of former senior international and governmental officials and heads of government who closely work with national leaders on issues related to governance.
  • Eminent Member,  Sergio Viera de Melo Foundation
  • Foundation Council Member,  Geneva-based Humanitarian Dialogue Center
  • Member,  Policy Consultative  Commission of WIPO

Awards and Honours Given to Salim Ahmed Salim



Year Order Country
2019 Order of Friendship China
2011 Order of Uhuru Torch (Second Class) Tanzania
2004 Order of Companions of O. R. Tambo (Gold) South Africa
2001 Ordre El Athir Algeria
2001 Order of 2 Niles Sudan
2001 Mono Order Togo
2001 Mali National Order Mali
2000 National Order of Lion Senegal
1999 Medal of Africa Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya
1994 Order of Merit CAR
1994 Grand Cross of the Order of Devotion Republic of the Congo
1993 National Order of a Thousand Hills Rwanda
1985 Order of United Republic of Tanzania Tanzania
1980 Order of Star of Africa Liberia


Salim Ahmed Salim Received Awards

African Union: Child of Africa Prize (2014)

Martin Luther King “Drum Major for Justice” Award (2006)

Honorary Degrees




University Degree Country



2003 University of Addis Ababa Doctor of Law Ethiopia
1998 University of Cape Town Doctor of Law South Africa
1996 University of Bologna Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations Italy
1995 Khartoum University D.A in Global Affairs Sudan
1991 University of Mauritius Doctor of Civil Law Mauritius
1983 University of Maiduguri Doctor of Humanities Nigeria
1980 University of the Philippines Los Banos Doctor of Law Philippines

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