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East African leaders pay glowing tribute to Benjamin Mkapa

FILE PHOTO: Africa mourns Benjamin Mkapa

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Tribute from around the world continues to pour for William Benjamin Mkapa, the former president of Tanzania who died earlier today.

Benjamin Mkapa, who served from 1995 to 2005, as the third president of Tanzania, died in the early hours of Friday while receiving treatment at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, according to a televised address by President John Pombe Magufuli. He was 81 years old.

Regional leaders, politicians, technocrats are all eulogizing Mkapa as a man who helped to bring peace not only in the East African region but Africa as a whole. Many say that Mkapa believed in the East African integration and the coming together of all Africans.

Among those eulogizing Mkapa is President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya who through the State House twitter handle describes the late as an outstanding East African who worked tirelessly for the integration, peace and progress of the region.

“President Kenyatta wished the family of the former President and all Tanzanians God’s comfort and fortitude as they mourn their departed leader,” Kenyatta’s message reads in part. Mkapa was very instrumental in bringing peace to Kenya after the disputed elections of 2007. He, together with the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Anan and Graca Machel, the wife to Nelson Mandela negotiated a power-sharing agreement between President Mwai Kibaki and the eventual Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Mkapa, Kofi Anan, Graca Machel, Kenneth Kaunda, the former president of Zambia, Joachim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa among others formed the African Council of the Wise. These statesmen and women have helped broker peace around Africa, from South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Kenya and Burundi.

In his message through twitter, Raila Odinga refers to Mkapa as a great friend of the Kenyan people, a Pan-African, a true believer in South-South Cooperation and a global statesman.

“In Kenya, we retain fond memories of his mediation efforts…that helped the country return to peace… Mkapa believed in regional integration and championed the revival of the East Africa Community. In his death, Africa has lost a giant,” Odinga said in his tweet.

Mkapa’s statesmanship and peacebuilding don’t stop in Kenya, he was also at the forefront of bringing peace back to Burundi after a devastating civil war. In 2000, the famous Arusha Accord was signed that has seen Burundi have relative peace until 2015 when the former President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a third term. Even then, Mkapa was called upon to help in bringing back the peace in the tiny East African nation.

Little wonder that the CNDDS-FDD, the ruling party of Burundi expressed their sadness to the news of the passing of Mkapa. “We join the people of Tanzania and the CCM party to express our sadness and deepest condolences to the passing of…Benjamin Mkapa. His outstanding contribution to the inter Burundian dialogue will be remembered,” CNDD tweeted.

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye equally expressed his condolences to the passing of Mkapa. He described his demise as a great loss not only to the people of Tanzania but also to Africa as a whole. Together with President Yoweri Museveni, and Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya, Mkapa revived the East African Community on November 30, 1999, after signing the re-establishment treaty.

Even though he was a senior member of the government of Mwalim Julius Nyerere, whose conflict with Uganda’s Idi Amin Dada led to the collapse of the East African Community, for the 10 years Mkapa was president, he was unwavering in his support for the block.

In his message through his official handle, the East African Community Secretary-General Libérat Mfumukeko said they had been saddened by the death of Mkapa, a signatory to the EAC Treaty.

“We have lost a pioneer and fervent guardian of East African unity. My condolences to his family, the government and people of Tanzania,” Mfumukeko’s said.

Mkapa’s alma mater, Makerere University too sent in their eulogy. In a tweet through its official twitter handle, the university regretted the loss of one of the most prominent personalities it has ever produced.

In 2009, Makerere awarded Mkapa an honorary Doctorate of Laws for his contribution not only to Tanzania but also to the world.

Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, talks about Mkapa as a tireless champion of peace and Aids free Africa. “UNAIDS pays tribute to President Mkapa for his leadership,” Byanyima said.

Who is Mkapa?

William Benjamin Mkapa was born on November 12, 1938, in Ndanda, in Southern Tanganyika. He went to Makerere University in Uganda where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English in 1962.

In 1963, he went to Columbia University in the United States for a Master’s Degree in International Relations. In his public service life, Mkapa served as a press secretary to President Julius Nyerere, served as Tanzania’s ambassador to Nigeria, Canada and the United States of America. He was Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1977 to 1980 and again from 1984 to 1990. He was elected Member of Parliament to represent his native Masai district in 1985.

In December 1995, Mkapa was elected the third President of Tanzania after Hassan Mwinyi. He is credited for having steered Tanzania away from the socialist policies left behind by the first President Julius Nyerere. He superintended over the privatization of most of the state-owned parastatals to allow for an open economy that is not controlled by the state. However, there are accusations of corruption and inside trading during the privatization process. It is said that Mkapa sold some of the state-owned companies to himself or close associates.



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