By Spy Correspondent
Dar-es-salaam: Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has laid to rest on Wednesday in his native village of Lupaso in Masasi district in the country’s southern region of Mtwara.
Mkapa died on Friday at the age of 81 in the country’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
The burial of Mkapa was marked by the national anthem and a 21-gun salute by the Tanzania People’s Defense Forces.
The burial was attended by President John Magufuli, Vice-President Samia Suluhu, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete.
The event was also witnessed by Mkapa’s family members, senior government officials, foreign dignitaries and Tanzanians from all walks of life.
In a national address for the funeral, President Magufuli said “Mkapa was a great leader, he had a great love for Tanzanian people, he abhorred poverty, he was responsible for the growth of the economy” said former President Dr Jakaya Kikwete, who was Mkapa’s successor.
President John Magufuli said, the late Mkapa loved his nation and home village Lupaso. He revealed that the Tanzanian government had set a specific place in Dodoma where the former head of states were to be buried, however, three-years ago, Benjamin Mkapa declined and said he will be buried at his rural home in Lupaso.
Full Profile Of Mkapa.
The former Tanzanian president Benjamin William Mkapa, who died on July 24, was the country’s third president. He was in office from 1995 to 2005.
Born in 1938 in Masasi south-eastern Tanzania, Mkapa was a staunch supporter of the Tanzania African National Union, which won independence from Britain in 1961 under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. His star rose steadily under Nyerere’s long reign – from 1961 to 1985 – as leader of the renamed party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
In addition to being editor of the party newspaper and establishing the national news agency Shihata, he served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Information and Culture and Science, Technology and Education.
Mkapa’s presidency is particularly significant since it represents the first phase of Tanzanian multi-party democracy. It was Nyerere who in 1991 opened debate on a multi-party democratic system for Tanzania. He saw it coming in the wake of developments in neighbouring Kenya, where multi-party democracy was promoted at an early stage by church leaders, civil society and the population at large.
Nyerere was a firm supporter of Mkapa and was instrumental in Mkapa’s party nomination to stand for the first multi-party election in 1995.
Mkapa’s government initially faced a gloomy economic position. This was partly based on global economic stagnation. It was also partly due to the previous government’s lack of economic and institutional discipline. His predecessor Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1985-1995) had lost the trust of the international financial institutions which provided substantial assistance and loans.
The first main challenge for Mkapa was to enhance the discipline in state finances and stabilise the economy. The second was restoring confidence among donors by pursuing western-backed neo-liberal market policies. Having agreed to implement proposals endorsed by donors, Mkapa quickly won international trust.
After his presidency Mkapa was much sought after for his spirit of cooperation, participation and peace. He became an important mediator in conflicts across Africa and including the Kenyan post-election conflict in 2007 and the 2011 referendum in South-Sudan.
The graduate of Makerere and Columbia is rightly hailed by Kenyan and others as a peace maker and true East African and Pan Africanist.
For his people in south eastern and coastal Tanzania he will most certainly be remembered as the president who made real their desire for better transport, communication and cooperation in their part of the country. In 2003 the construction of the long awaited bridge – the Mkapa Bridge – across the Rufiji river – was finalized.