President John Pombe Magufuli on Wednesday led Tanzanians and foreign dignitaries in bidding farewell to the late former Head of State Benjamin Mkapa (pictured above) who was laid to rest at his Lupaso home in Mtwara region.
Mkapa, 81, who was a former journalist and diplomat, was laid to rest with all the protocols of a state funeral where the Tanzanian military took charge.
The former Head of State was lowered to the grave as Tanzania Defense Forces fired 21 cannons in honour of the man who led the Swahili-speaking nation for 10 years, from 1995 to 2005, and managed to oversee the growth of the country’s economy.
Mkapa has been praised as a firm leader who loved his nation and people.
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‘’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.
He further noted that Mkapa was a man with a great vision for Tanzania and her people. He wanted and aspired to eradicate poverty from his people.
‘’Mkapa gave me a helping hand when I took over from him, he assisted me when things got tough,’’ proclaimed Kikwete.
Mkapa’s predecessor, retired President Hassan Ali Mwinyi eulogised his successor as a hardworking man, public servant who knew the meaning of being firm and tough.
Mwinyi, 95, speaking in deep Swahili, noted that mzee Mkapa’s efforts included lifting the lives of his people.
‘’Forgive him if he had sinned, may you rest in eternal peace my brother,’’ said an emotional Mwinyi.
President John Magufuli addressing thousands of mourners gathered at Mkapa’s home village Lupaso, said, the late Mkapa loved his nation and home village Lupaso.
‘’The government of Tanzania had set a specific place where the former head of states were designated to be buried in Dodoma, however, three-years ago, Benjamin Mkapa declined and said he will be buried at Lupaso, he loved his home,’’ narrated Magufuli.
He further urged Tanzanians to grab a lesson or two from Mkapa’s life.
‘’Let’s continue praying for mama Anna Mkapa and the family.”
The revolutionary Government of Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein hailed Mkapa for his loyalty and patriotism to the nation, adding that he was a great man.
Mozambique’s Head of State Filipe Nyusi, retired President Joaquim Chissano’s message of condolence, in Swahili ‘salamu za rambirambi’ as people in the Swahili speaking nation call them has been read and handed over to Magufuli by the nation’s envoy to Tanzania Monica Patricio Clemente.
The burial ceremony has concluded the 7-days of mourning the fallen former President who was described as an indefatigable peacemaker and a pan-Africanist in the region and beyond, whose efforts saw the establishment of the East African Community.
The late Benjamin Mkapa was involved in many peace processes during his time as a Minister of Foreign Affairs and as a former president.
The late Mkapa is survived by his two children and spouse Anna Mkapa.