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Leaders hail Magufuli as a Panafrican champion

Military officers carry the coffin of late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli draped in the national flag, during the state funeral procession at Uhuru stadium, the venue of the national requiem Mass in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 20, 2021. [REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman]

President Uhuru Kenyatta joined other African Heads of State at the memorial service of Tanzanian President John Magufuli, where the departed leader’s efforts to fight corruption were lauded.

Uhuru, who is the chairperson of the East African Community (EAC), said Magufuli was an advocate against foreign dependence and had succeeded in showing that African countries could be self-reliant.

“Within a few years, Magufuli proved that Africa can stop depending on foreign powers,” Uhuru said yesterday.

He described Magufuli as a respectable person and a close friend.

“And for that, I told myself that I have to be here to mourn with you,” he said to a packed crowd at Jamhuri stadium.

During the memorial service, five members of a family died after a stampede as mourners scrambled to pay their last respects. 

The mourners lay their clothes on the ground as a gesture of their sadness, as the energetic ran alongside the procession to bid farewell to their leader. Magufuli died last Wednesday at Mzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

The leaders lauded Magufuli’s fight against corruption and wastage in government.

Uhuru, while giving his support for Tanzania’s new leader, Samia Suluhu, said she had huge shoes to fill, but was fortunate to have had an example to follow.

“You have been shown the way, the path is clear,” he said, calling on Tanzanians to give the new president their support so she could complete the mandate that she and Magufuli were given in 2020.

President Suluhu, in her second public address, spoke about the difficult position she was in when announcing the former president’s death.

“It was not easy, I felt I was wrong to announce my president was dead,” she said.

She eulogised Magufuli as a leader who was not afraid to defend that which he thought was right for Tanzania, even if it came at a personal risk.

“When we write the history of women empowerment and gender parity in Tanzania politics, Magufuli’s name will feature. Because of Magufuli, Tanzania got its first woman vice president and now president,” she said.

Suluhu’s speech extolling Magufuli’s values as a dedicated and incorruptible public servant to whom Tanzania came first and everything else second, was about honouring the departed leader as it was winning the confidence of the 60 million Tanzanians she will now lead.

Standing ovation

“Those who doubt whether a woman can be Tanzania’s president, I want to tell you that whoever is in front of you is the president, who happens to be female,” Suluhu said.

The statement, which Suluhu repeated twice, drew cheers, applause, chanting, and a standing ovation from a sombre crowd.

“We are grateful to Magufuli because we have learned a lot from his leadership. As we lay him to rest, we can say without hesitation that we are prepared,” she said.

Suluhu later built on her preparedness to tackle the task ahead of her, saying Magufuli had done his part.

“The late President Magufuli has left early, but he has completed the work that he came to do in the world. The task was to show us the way, to show us how the work is done, how to implement and take difficult decisions in the national interest,” she said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that Africa had lost a true Panafrican, one who was unapologetic about being African. He mourned for Tanzania’s loss of an anti-corruption warrior.

“He stood out as a warrior against corruption. He was one of the new generation of leaders who waged the war against corruption and who believed that leaders should work for their people and not for themselves,” Ramaphosa said.

Malawi president Lazarus Chakwera remembered Magufuli as an unpredictable man who came with a bag full of surprises.

“When they say that corruption couldn’t be fought in Africa, they didn’t see Magufuli coming. When they said African states cannot become middle-income economies within a single presidential term, they didn’t see Magufuli coming,” said Chakwera.

Chakwera praised the late president as “a great leader who always put the interest and freedom of Africa above all else; a symbol of the kind of resolve that will create the Africa we want”.

The memorial service was also attended by Comoro President Azali Assoumani, Mozambique’s Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, Edgar Changwa Lungu (Zambia), Felix Antoine Tshisekedi (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Burundi Vice President Prosper Bazombana.

Others were Rwanda Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente and Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. ?

Magufuli will be buried on Thursday at his home in Chato.


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