The passing away of President Benjamin Mkapa is a big loss not only to his family and the United Republic of Tanzania but to the whole of East Africa and Africa at large. Mkapa was born on 12th November 1938 and died on 24th July 2020 after 81 years of great service to the human race of his time.
He was a Tanzanian politician who served his country as the third President of Tanzania for a decade between 1995 and 2005. He also served in different other key positions such as Chairman of the revolutionary State Political Party of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Minister for Science, Technology and higher Education, Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Minister of Foreign Affairs among others. He has served Tanzania, Africa and humanity with total commitment, dedication and distinction.
In his book; “My Life, My Purpose: A Tanzanian President Remembers.” which we must all read, he shares his experiences and states that he was mentored and worked very closely with President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (RIP), the founding President of Tanzania.
Just like his mentor, President Mkapa, became the leading embodiment of Tanzanian nationalism, patriotism and Pan Africanism.
Tanzania, under President Nyerere, became the headquarters of all the liberation movements that were fighting against colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. This was at a huge cost to Tanzania.
It was the duty of the late Benjamin Mkapa as Minister of Foreign Affairs, then, to justify Tanzania’s support for liberation movements, before the international community and seek support for their struggle and that of Tanzania.
It was the leadership of Tanzania and Zambia under the Presidency of Mwalimu Nyerere and Kaunda respectively; supported by Ministers like Mkapa that led to the defeat of colonialism and apartheid in all these countries and they became independent.
Similarly, in the 1970s when Uganda was faced with serious problems of dictatorship under Idi Amin, President Nyerere assigned Minister Mkapa the responsibility of organizing Ugandan liberation forces to find a solution to the problem of dictatorship in Uganda.
This was successfully accomplished in 1979 through diplomacy and war. In that regard, Tanzania under President Nyerere and Mkapa became a major factor in the new and future Ugandan political, economic and social developments.
As President of Tanzania, Mpaka had a shared vision with President Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) of Uganda, particularly in matters of ideology and integration of the East African Community (EAC).
As such, in November 1999 due to the glaring economic and political imperatives for integration an agreement was signed to revive the East African Community by the three Heads of State: Moi of Kenya, Mkapa of Tanzania and Museveni of Uganda . Full integration, once attained, will be the most important accomplishment of our generation in East Africa .
In 2015, President Museveni as EAC Chairperson, working with his counterparts took a decision to recall President Mkapa out of retirement to lend support to the difficult Burundi Dialogue process aimed at establishing peace, security and tranquillity, following the failed coup against President Nkurunziza.
This dialogue process gave me and Hon Dr Kiyonga the opportunity to interact closely with both President Mkapa and Minister Dr Mahiga. We learnt something about the importance of Africans finding solutions to their own problems and not waiting for outsiders. Unfortunately, they have both departed from this world. The new leadership in Burundi with support from other EAC leaders should be able to build on and successfully conclude the work left behind by President Mkapa, in making Burundi a peaceful country in the region.
President Mkapa was a welcoming person with a warm personality. He would instantly make one feel at home, highly engaging, particular on details and time keeping. His office would strictly follow up on all assignments given and provide feedback to all concerned. He was a highly captivating and eloquent public speaker who always ensured his audience was with him at every stage.
Although President Mkapa, had graduated from Makerere University and left Kampala in the early 1960s, when he visited and toured Kampala, at the end of his Presidency; he had an amazing insightful knowledge of Kampala, the neighbourhoods and surrounding districts plus the developments that had taken place over the years. In effect, Kampala and Uganda still remained a special places to him.
It is our duty and responsibility to take interest in the character, programs and vision of leaders like Mkapa, to emulate them, be able to serve with a purpose and with a clear transformative agenda so that we are able to make our countries and the world better places to live in.
Our thoughts and prayers go to the family, people of the United Republic of Tanzania and East African Community. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
The struggle continues.
Mr Migereko is the chairman of Uganda Tourism Board and former minister in Government of Uganda.