Final send-off for ex-Tanzania president Benjamin Mkapa

Former president Benjamin Mkapa has been laid to rest in his home village of Lupaso, 30km from Masasi town in southern Tanzania.

Presiding over the funeral service, Bishop Gervas Nyaisonga, the President of Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), said the late Mkapa was a fervent Catholic who led the church’s students’ movement in Makerere University in Uganda, where he was enrolled in 1962 for a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

The prelate read a condolence message from Vatican in which Pope Francis applauded Mkapa for his contribution to education and development in Tanzania.

Bishop Nyaisonga urged Tanzanians to uphold national unity and to shun segregation of any kind.

Mourners began arriving at the Mkapa residence as early as 5am on Wednesday before proceeding to the church for the requiem.

Former Tanzania presidents Jakaya Kikwete (2005 – 2015) and Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1985 – 1995) eulogised Mkapa as having laid the foundation for Tanzania’s economic growth.

Mr Kikwete, who took over from Mkapa, said he was a close friend and an advisor during his presidency. He added that Mkapa was the architect of Vision 2025, which envisaged Tanzania to become a middle-income economy with an average income of $3,000.

Early this month, Tanzania became a lower middle-income country after its per capita Gross National Income (GNI) rose to $1,080 in 2019 from $1,020 in 2018. World Bank categorises lower-middle-income countries as those with GNI of between $1,036 and $4,045.

Mzee Mwinyi said his successor was a no-nonsense leader who took his work seriously. He asked Tanzanians to forgive him for whatever he transgressed during his leadership “because he was a human being”.

Current President John Magufuli ruled out debate on a graveyard for national leaders in the capital Dodoma, saying Mkapa willed to be buried in his home village. He added that he also wants to be buried in his home in Chato in northwestern Tanzania.