Leaders eulogise Mkapa as true patriot, reformist

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Personnel of the Tanzania People’s Defence Force salute the coffin of late former President Benjamin Mkapa. Photo/AFP

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

Former Tanzanian President William Benjamin Mkapa was buried at his Mtwara home in Southern Tanzania.

 Top Tanzanian leaders eulogised him as a patriot and peacemaker.

The Tanzanian statesman was given a 21-gun salute, the highest national honour for a former commander in chief. 

Tanzanian Head of State John Magufuli and retired presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Hassan Mwinyi led mourners at the funeral at Mkapa’s Lupaso Village. 

During the ceremony, key leaders, clergy and dozens of citizens were allowed to view Mkapa’s body ahead his burial shortly before 3pm yesterday. He died at the age of 82.

 In his eulogy, Magufuli said Mkapa’s death was a loss for Tanzania, Africa and the world at large.

“Mkapa was a global citizen. He was a dynamic leader, a seasoned diplomat, a mediator and a peacemaker,” Magufuli said. 

He said Mkapa was instrumental in peace talks and reconciliation for countries in the Great Lakes region.

Magufuli credited Mkapa for overseeing the country’s economic reforms, good governance and growth of the Tanzania’s private sector. 

On their part, Mwinyi and Kikwete recalled their times in government with Mkapa. 

Kikwete once served as Mkapa’s Foreign Affairs minister before ascending to the presidency.

Kikwete recollected that he, in 1995, competed for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) nomination for the presidency with Mkapa and floored him in the first round.

However, Mkapa trounced him in the second round and went ahead to win the presidency.

Mkapa was the third Tanzanian president after founding President Julius Nyerere and Mwinyi.

Kikwete described Mkapa who he will later succeed as “industrious, visionary and gracious.”  

“Even after we fought for the CCM nomination and he won the ticket, he went ahead to appoint me as his Foreign Affairs minister,” he told mourners. 

“He was as mentor, a patriot and friend. He will be credited for liberarising and strengthening Tanzania,” said Mkapa.

Strong pillar

He added: “Mzee Mkapa was a strong pillar to me during difficult times. He put together a vision aimed to ensure Tanzania becomes middle income economy by 2025 and that has come to pass.”

Mwinyi asked Tanzanians whom Mkapa might have offended to forgive him. 

 “He was a human being. He could have made a mistake. We pray for him. If he made any mistake, may Allah forgive him. Tanzanians should also forgive him,” said Mwinyi.

 “He was a hardworking and principled man. The work of a president is to lift up the livelihoods of his people.

That is what Mkapa did.”   Magufuli said that despite the country establishing a heroes’ cemetery for the burial of top leaders in Dodoma, Mkapa was keen to be buried in his Lupaso village home. 

Kenyans would remember Mkapa for participating in the 2008 peace talks after the post-election violence that claimed nearly 1,133 people and led to the displacement of thousands of families.

The talks, which were brokered by the late former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, resulted in a peace deal that enabled Kibaki and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga share power under the Grand Coalition government.

The Tanzanian statesman was a member of the Eminent African Personalities team including former South Africa First Lady Graca Machel. 

In his tribute, retired President Kibaki described Mkapa as one of Africa’s most illustrious sons.

“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,” Kibaki noted in his tribute.

“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,” he noted.

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