Benjamin MKapa leaves lessons on how to build a team of rivals

Friday July 31 2020
By Nation Africa

Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa may have left great lessons for Kenya on how politicians can build a team of rivals.

At his burial on Wednesday in Mtwara, southern Tanzania, his successor Jakaya Kikwete said Mkapa could have ended his political career early. But instead, he worked with him in his government.

Mkapa, who died aged 82 last week, had been Tanzania’s president between 1995 and 2005.

But he had, in 1995, competed for Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s presidential ticket with a man who would succeed him 10 years later.

In fact, Mr Kikwete told an audience in Lupaso village, that he defeated Mkapa in the first round of voting by CCM delegates. The victory was just not enough.

And when they went for round two, Mkapa won. As CCM was among the strongest ruling parties in Africa then, a win for presidential nomination almost always guaranteed actual presidential victory, and powers to destroy your rivals.
“During that time… probably, he would have chosen to put me in a place where I could not be seen. But he did the opposite,” Kikwete told mourners on Wednesday.

After Mkapa won the presidency in 1995, the former journalist appointed Kikwete as Foreign Minister, leaving him in the position for a decade.


Kikwete would be instrumental in hosting talks that led to a peace deal for Burundian rebel groups that had been fighting in the 1990s.

Kikwete then won the presidency in 2005, but relied on Mkapa for Tanzania’s representation in regional peace mediations.

Mkapa was among the three-member panel of eminent Africans who helped mediate a peace deal in Kenya between Mwai Kibaki of PNU and Raila Odinga of ODM.

Together with Kofi Annan and Graca Machel, they helped broker a power-sharing agreement that ended bloodshed.

In a tribute to Mkapa, Mr Odinga said the former President’s death was “a huge loss to the continent and to all those who worked with him during and after his presidency”.
“In his death, Africa has lost a giant,” Odinga added.

Kibaki said Mkapa valued a “tranquil” Africa.