Fair thee well Elishilia Kaaya: poet, accountant, author, politician, et al

Saturday July 17 2021
kaaya pic

A man reads a book ‘The Bleeding Heart and other Poems’ which is a collection of poems by Elishilia Kaaya who passed away on July 9, this year in Arusha. PHOTO | MICHAEL MATEMANGA

By Danford Mpumilwa

It was sometime in the early 1990s, while working with the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) as Director of Conferences and Marketing, when we received a new Managing Director for the Centre. He was none other than the veteran politician, Edward Lowassa, who had been transferred from the CCM headquarters in Dodoma.

He joined the Centre and received the usual business briefings from the management and various departments.

It was during one of the briefings when he expressed grave concerns about the set-up of the Finance and Audit Department.

He noted that the department did not have qualified staff. How could an institution like the AICC fail to have even a single Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in this very strategic department, he wondered.

It was then decided there and then to look for three or so CPAs to man the department. I am not a finance guy so personally I did not have much interest in the project.

Then, one weekend as I sat sipping my ‘lager’ at the-then popular ‘Nyama Choma Garden’ at the New Safari Hotel, a long-lost friend arrived from Dar es Salaam and joined me.


He was Nathaniel Kaaya, a Foreign Service Officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations at the time who was back home on holiday. He hails from the slopes of Mount Meru.

During our leisurely chat, I casually mentioned the arrival of our new MD, Mr Lowassa, and his CPAs hunting project. This excited Kaaya who said he actually knew a CPA, his younger brother, who at the time was running a minerals business in Merelani, but was looking for an accountancy job. A few days later, the young Kaaya brother walked into my office carrying his academic certificates. After going through an interview, he joined the AICC workforce as an accountant a week or so later. The fellow was, indeed, the late Elishilia Kaaya, born on August 23, 1962 and passed away on July 9, 2021 as the AICC MD!

Elishilia had over the years proven his professionalism, hard work and discipline - and rose through the ranks to become the AICC managing director - and also an accomplished poet. He had become a true and reliable friend not only to me but to many others. Retired President Jakaya Kikwete, in his condolence message, described the late Elishilia as “very reliable, disciplined, faithful... A person who loved justice, people and development...”

The late Elishilia Kaaya acquired his CPA certification at the Arusha Institute of Accountancy, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the Maastricht School of Management in The Netherlands.

He was a Member of the Central Committee of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT), Meru Diocese.

His love for development made him an active member of the veteran ruling CCM party’s National Executive Committee, representing Arusha (2007-2012), and Meru District from 2012 until his death. He was buried in his Nguruma Village in Meru District yesterday - and leaves behind a wife and four children.

As the Holy Scriptures say in 2 Timothy 4:7: ‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith...’

This is befitting of Elishilia Kaaya.


The author is a veteran journalist and communication expert based in Arusha.