Former Tanzania President Mkapa dies aged 81

Tanzania’s former President Benjamin Mkapa, who served from 1995 to 2005, died in the early hours of Friday, July 24 aged 81, President John Magufuli said in a statement.

Mkapa, the East African nation’s third president who led several regional peace mediation efforts in office and afterwards, died while receiving treatment at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Magufuli said without giving more details.

Magufuli, saddened

“I will remember him for his great love for the nation, his piety, had work and performance in building the economy,” Magufuli said.

The president has declared a seven-day mourning period during which all flags will fly at half-mast.

Mkapa also served as an ambassador, minister and key official positions of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.

Mkapa was once a diplomat

He was born in 1938 in Ndanda near Masasi in southern Tanganyika. He went on to graduate from Makerere University in Uganda in 1962 with a degree in English.

He also attended Columbia University in 1963 and was awarded a master’s degree in international affairs.

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Previous posts include being an administrative officer in Dodoma and minister for science, technology and higher education.

As a diplomat, he led the Tanzania mission to Canada in 1982 and to the United States from 1983-84.

Prior to that he also served as minister of foreign affairs from 1977 to 1980 and again from 1984-90.

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He got elected as President in 1995 based on a popular anti-corruption of former President Julius Nyerere which included creation of an open forum called the Presidential Commission on Corruption and increased support for the Prevention of Corruption Bureau.

During his second five-year term, Mkapa privatized state-owned corporations and instituted free market policies which won the support of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and resulted in cancellation of some of Tanzania’s foreign debt.

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However, he was criticized for some effectiveness of his anti-corruption efforts as well as his lavish spending. He spent £15 million on a private presidential jet as well as almost £30 million on military aviation equipment which experts deemed beyond the limited needs of the country’s armed forces.

Mkapa, who served as Trustee for Aga Khan University from 2007-12, also established Benjamin Mkapa Foundation.—Additional report from Wikipedia