By Dumisani Sigogo
Tanzania’s third President, Benjamin William Mkapa (81), has passed on. The late President was admitted at Dar es Salaam Hospital where he was receiving treatment.
President Pombe Magufuli who referred to Mkapa’s death as a great loss to Tanzania, announced the sad news via a short live televised broadcast from Chamwino State House in Dodoma on Friday.
“I will remember him for his dedication to the nation and the growth of the economy Let’s pray for him and more information will follow later,” said President John Magufuli
President Magufuli who did not reveal the cause of death also said Tanzania will hold a period of seven days of mourning, during which the national flag will be flown at half-mast.
Mkapa who is remembered as an unrelenting peacemaker in the East African region and Africa, led Tanzania for 10 years between 1995 and 2005
He was last seen publicly in high spirits on July 11, 2020, during Chama Cha Mapinduzi National Congress in Tanzania’s capital Dodoma.
Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyata hailed him as “an outstanding East African who worked tirelessly for the integration, peace and progress of the region” a statement issued from State House said.
Mkapa was instrumental together with other eminent persons such as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Graca Machel, in mediating talks between Raila Odinga’s ODM and Mwai Kibaki’s PNU after the country erupted into three months of violence following the disputed 2007 elections. Mkapa together with other African leaders helped Kenya broker a peace deal that culminated into the formation of a coalition government.
A statement signed by Former President Kibaki described Mkapa as one of Africa’s most illustrious sons.” Mkapa’s is a perfect portrait of public spiritedness replete with valuable lessons for those who serve or wish to serve in the public space. A revolutionary at heart whose efforts to deregulate Tanzania’s economy marked the beginning of a new dawn in his country, the late Mkapa — a close ally of Tanzania’s founding President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere — distinguished himself as one of the most reputable peace brokers in the region,”
“In his retirement, Benjamin Mkapa, at some point or other, mediated peace talks in Kenya, the DRC Congo, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Burundi. Mkapa most certainly played his role in making Africa a better place. May he rest in eternal peace,” Kibaki added.
Odinga, said the former Head of State was a great friend of Kenyan people, a pan-Africanist and a global statesman.
“Mkapa believed in Regional integration and championed the revival of the East Africa community. Africa has lost a giant,’’he said.
After the disputed 2015 election plunged the country into crisis, Mkapa attempted to mediate between Burundi’s government and opposition groups but the negotiations did not proceed further after the government refused to take part in the talks.
Mkapa was born in 1938 to a poor family in Ndanda, near Masasi in south-eastern Mtwara. After graduating with a degree in English in Uganda, Mkapa later worked as a journalist before being appointed as the press secretary for the country’s first president Julius Nyerere.
He held several cabinet posts, such as foreign minister, information minister and also served as ambassador to the United States before he was elected president. Mkapa also played a pivotl role in encouraging the United Nations to place sanctions against apartheid South Africa for its occupation of Namibia.
African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the late former President and statesman will be remembered for his peace efforts in the region.
Uganda’s opposition political leader, Kizza Besigye, tweeted: “Mkapa leaves a great legacy of public service with integrity, My heartfelt condolences to the family and Tanzanian people.’’
He is survived by Children: 3 three children and his spouse Anna Mkapa.