EAC mourns champion of regional integration, peace

Vice President, Samia Suluhu Hassan (L) consoles the widow of Benjamin Mkapa, Anna at her residence at Masaki area in Dar es Salaam yesterday. Benjamin Mkapa died while receving treatment at a hospital in the city. PHOTO/VPO


In his condolence message, EAC Secretary General Liberatus Mfumukeko described the leader as a Pan-Africanist committed to regional integration

Arusha. The East African Community (EAC) is mourning a reformist and champion of regional integration, former President Benjamin Mkapa, who passed away in Dar es Salaam in the wee hours of Friday.

On the behalf of the people of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mkapa was a signatory to the Treaty that revived the regional organization in 1999.

The departed Tanzanian Head of State also signed the EAC Customs Union protocol, one of the pillars of regional integration that became operational in January 2005, his last year in the top office of the land. In his condolence message, EAC Secretary General Liberatus Mfumukeko described the Tanzanian leader as a Pan-Africanist “who was committed to regional integration in addition to mediating in armed conflicts and political disputes.”

He was part of the African Union (AU) Panel of Eminent Africans who mediated in the 2008 post-election dispute in Kenya which led to the formation of a Government of National Unity that brought stability.

Mr Mkapa was later appointed by the EAC Heads of State to facilitate the Inter-Burundi Dialogue that brought together the government and the opposition leaders to a negotiation table.

“The Community has therefore lost a mentor, advisor and intellectual who has provided guidance and advice whenever called to do so,” Ambassador Mfumukeko said.

Alongside the recently departed Kenyan statesman Daniel arap Moi and Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, the late Mkapa signed the EAC Treaty in Arusha on November 30, 1999.

The Treaty not only led to the rebirth of the regional bloc -which had broken up in 1977 - but resulted in subsequent agreements that enforced regional economic ties.

For instance, the Customs Union, which became fully implemented in 2010, resulted in significant increases in the volumes of intra-regional trade in East Africa.

The East African Business Council (EABC), an apex body of private sector associations affiliated to EAC said the late Mkapa championed the revival of the private sector.

“He played a pivotal role in enforcing harmonized regional trade policies that saw a reduction in non-tariff barriers (NTBs),” said Peter Mathuki, EABC executive director.

He added that the leader worked to reduced NTBs and sparked an increase in the volumes of intra-EAC trade “and augmented the vital role of the private sector as an engine for social economic growth”.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, his Burundi counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye as well as the African Union (AU) chairperson Mousa Faki Mahamat eulogised the fallen leader in equal measure.

“He will be remembered as an indefatigable peacemaker in the East African region,” tweeted the AU chief, citing the late Tanzanian statesman’s recent efforts in Burundi mediation.

Kenya has declared three days of mourning for the departed Tanzanian leader who cofounded the current EAC, cementing the ties based on trade relations with neighbours.

A Nairobi based analyst Barack Muluka described Mr Mkapa as an outstanding statesman, a diplomat and a peacemaker “and an ace journalist in the age of Ujamaa.”

He eulogized him for laying down Tanzania’s infrastructure that paved the way to the economic liberalization and enhanced multiparty democracy.

The late Mkapa was a newspaper managing editor in the late 1960s when the former EAC was launched in Arusha by the three member states: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.

Later he would serve, albeit briefly, as a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), the legislative arm of the Community, before it collapsed in 1977.

His ascendancy to power in 1995 appeared to accelerate the pace for EAC revival as it took only six months after he was sworn it that the EAC secretariat was launched in Arusha.