Magufuli: The first Tanzanian president to die in office

Thursday March 18 2021
By Daniel Mjema
By Alfred Zacharia

Dar es Salaam/Moshi. Tanzanian President John Magufuli passed on yesterday, becoming the first president to die in office. His death came 132 days after he was sworn into office for a second term.

The death of the leader of a country of over 60 million people came as a shock after the official statement was made by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan on March 17.

Historically, Tanzania has experienced the deaths of national leaders, but this is the first time in the country’s history to witness the passing of an incumbent President.

Since November 5, 2015, when he was sworn in for his first term up until his death, Magufuli had served a total of 1,959 days as president and had yet to serve 1,694 others on his second term.

On his inauguration day of his first term, as per protocol, Magufuli swore three oaths on November 5, 2015 to become the President of the United Republic of Tanzania; he took an obedience oath, presidency oath and the preserving the Union oath.

The first oath cements his loyalty to the United Republic of Tanzania, swearing to serve it wholeheartedly, to uphold it, defend it and defend the country’s Constitution.


The second oath is dedicated to the faithful and thorough fulfilment of his duties as president.

“I will do justice to all people in accordance with the laws, customs and traditions of Tanzania without fear, favour, bias or hate,” he noted before the Chief Justice, Judge Mohamed Chande Othman.

The third oath is meant to maintain the Union, where he swore to defend and maintain the unity of the United Republic of Tanzania in accordance with the national Constitution.

On November 5, 2020, Magufuli took the same oaths when searing in as for a second term as the President of Tanzania in front of Chief Justice, Prof Ibrahim Juma.

Former late presidents of Tanzania

The founding Father of the Nation and first Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere died of cancer at St Thomas Hospital in the United Kingdom on October 14, 1999, while Benjamin Mkapa, the third president of the country was pronounced dead in Dar es Salaam from a heart attack on July 23, 2020.

Presidents and Prime Ministers from around the world who died in office

Records from various research show that from 1850 up to date, at least 178 presidents from various countries died of different causes of including assassinations while in office. At least 143 prime ministers have also died in office in that time frame.

Before 1950, six British prime ministers had died: the Acting President of Chile, the Governor of Greece, the Prime Minister of France, the Presidents of the US and Haiti.

According to available figures, between 1850 and 1899, 24 presidents and 11 prime ministers of various countries died. Again, from 1900 to 1949 about 37 along with 33 presidents died.

The figures further revealed that between 1950 and 1999, 86 presidents died, so did 72 prime ministers. From the year 2000 up to date, at least 27 presidents have passed on, along with 20 prime ministers.

Even though the late Magufuli is the first Tanzanian president to die in office, he is not the first one in Africa. On April 6, 1994, neighboring countries Rwanda and Burundi lost their presidents in a plane crash.

Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi and Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda were killed on the same day after their plane was hit by a missile while preparing to land in Rwandan capital of Kigali, sparking the genocide war.

On June 8, 2020, Burundi lost its President, Pierre Nkurunziza, who had ruled the country for 15 years since 2005.

Tanzania has lost only one Prime Minister in office, Edward Moringe Sokoine, who died in a car accident on April 12, 1984 during the late Nyerere’s regime.

The US has the highest number (eight) of presidents who have died or were killed while in office. They include; William Harrison (1841), Zachary Taylor (1850), Abraham Lincoln (1865), James Garfield (1881) and William McKinley (1901).

Others are Warren Harding (1923), Franklin Roosevelt (1945) and John F Kennedy, the 35th president of the US who was shot dead on November 22, 1963.