Tribute and Photo Essay: The Late Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and His Unmistakable Support for the Work of His Highness the Aga Khan

Prepared and Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher/Editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

(The textual material for this piece has been compiled from numerous sources – Ed.)

Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa (d. July 2020), who led his country for 10 years from 1995-2005, was the Chief Guest at the Aga Khan University (AKU) Convocation on February 5, 2020, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was on the AKU’s Board of Trustees from 2007-2012.

“For five years, I served on the Aga Khan University’s Board of Trustees. I saw the passion of His Highness the Aga Khan and my fellow Board members for improving quality of life in Africa and Asia. When they say the four pillars of AKU are quality, impact, access, and relevance, they mean it. When they say they are committed to educating leaders who make a difference in the lives of others, they mean it. Furthermore, the expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital demonstrates just how committed His Highness the Aga Khan is to investing in Tanzania and its people” — Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania (1995-2005) speaking at the 15th convocation of Aga Khan University, Tanzania, held in Dar es Salaam February 5, 2020.

President Banjamin Mkapa, who died on July 24, 2020 at the age of 81, served as Tanzania’s president for just over 10 years from November 1995 until December 2005. He became the country’s third President after winning the 1995 election based on a popular anti-corruption campaign. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first President, was singularly important in the life of President Mkapa as was noted by him in his speech of February 2020 at the Aga Khan University’s graduation ceremony held in Dar es Salaam: “As I look back on my career, I can see many turning points. Today, I will single out just one: the moment when Mwalimu called me to his home early in my career. I remember being in awe of him, wondering what business he could possibly have with me. To my great surprise, he asked me to become editor of the party newspaper [The Nationalist]. I knew next to nothing about running a newspaper. But I realised it was a challenge I could not refuse. I said yes. In many ways, that decision that shaped the rest of my life.”

Tribute continues below

Aga Khan Photos Sultan Jessa Collection - 002
His Highness the Aga Khan and Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere (1922-1999) share a light moment as Vice President Rashidi Kawawa (1926-2009) looks on during the 49th Ismaili Imam’s visit to Tanzania. Photo: Sultan Jessa Collection.

Born in Lupaso, near Masasi, on November 12, 1938, Benjamin Mkapa studied at Makerere University in Uganda where he graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He then attended Columbia University in the US, where he was awarded a master’s degree in international affairs. Before he became president of Tanzania for a first term in 1995, he held positions as the Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education. Early in his diplomatic career, he led the Tanzanian mission to Canada in 1982, and to the US from 1983-84. In the late 1970s, he served as the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mkapa was described as a seasoned journalist, accomplished diplomat, renowned politician, democrat, peace maker, human rights advocate, promoter of good governance, statesman and role model as well as a fighter against poverty.

Tribute continues below

His Highness the Aga Khan gives his acceptance speech after receiving the Die Quadriga 2005 prize in recognition of his life's work in helping the poorest regions of the world. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte
His Highness the Aga Khan gives his acceptance speech after receiving the Die Quadriga 2005 prize in recognition of his life’s work in helping the poorest regions of the world. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte

“Thank you…President Mkapa, for honouring us with your presence. Yours has been an exemplary leadership for your people’s fight against poverty, and their commitment to peace and harmony at home and within the region” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Die Quadriga Award 2005

Above serving as the president of Tanzania between 1995 to 2005, Mkapa’s portfolio and impact followed him beyond his time in office. As one of the continent’s most celebrated thought-leaders, he was actively engaged in various leadership forums, boards and mediation talks. He became the longest board serving member at African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). His deep understanding of conservation’s importance, across multiple sectors, helped focus policy as he championed the need for the conservation of wildlife and wild lands in a developing Africa.

Even in the months leading to his death and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, he worked closely with AWF leadership in various forums such as The First Virtual African Protected Areas Directors Conference where he emphasized, “Nature is an investment that should be prioritized as it is our insurance policy against zoonotic diseases. Africa can rise only if we do it right.”

That Benjamin Mkapa was strongly committed to the conservation of nature and wildlife was also noted by His Highness the Aga Khan during the opening of the Zanzibar Serena Inn in 1997, when the 49th Ismaili Imam observed:

“It is with very great pleasure that I welcome you today to the opening of the Zanzibar Serena Inn. Let me express my sincere gratitude to His Excellency The President of the United Republic of Tanzania Mr. Benjamin Mkapa for having honoured us by accepting to perform today’s ceremony. Only nine months ago His Excellency performed similar ceremonies at three new Serena lodges at Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Lake Manyara. There he made a remarkable speech about Tanzania’s commitment to the development of tourism and the strategies that his Government intended to follow to optimise the return on this activity to Tanzania’s economy without jeopardising the sensitive, ecological balance of the nation’s exceptional game parks.”

Nurturing young leaders is one legacy for which Benjamin Mkapa will be remembered and through which his work on behalf of conservation will continue to thrive. In 2014, he conceptualized the African Leadership Forum in collaboration with The Uongozi Institute. The forum was conceived of as a space for Africa’s eminent elders to interact with current and future leaders around strategic challenges facing the continent and help develop sustainable solutions.

President Makapa died on July 24, 2020. Thousands of Tanzanians gathered on July 28, 2020 at Dar es Salaam’s Uhuru Stadium to say a final goodbye to the country’s third president at a state funeral. In a national address for the funeral, Tanzanian President John Magufuli said Mkapa’s death was a loss for Tanzania, Africa and the world at large. “Mkapa was a global citizen. He was a dynamic leader, a seasoned diplomat, a mediator and a peacemaker.” President Mkapa was buried in his native village of Lupaso in Masasi district in Mtwara region.

This post along with our special selection of photographs is a tribute to the Tanzanian president who was much loved by his countrymen, and who showed a sincere willingness to assist with His Highness the Aga Khan’s initiatives for Tanzania’s development.

2001

Aga Khan and President Mkapa Barakah
His Highness the Aga Khan at the signing of an Agreement of Co-operation for Development with Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa (right) on August 16, 2001. New endeavours envisaged under the Agreement included major tertiary education initiatives such as the Aga Khan University’s Advanced Nursing Studies Programme as well as a plan by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development to establish a Professional Development Centre for teachers and managers of educational institutions.
His Highness the Aga Khan (left) signing an Agreement of Co-operation for Development with Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa
His Highness the Aga Khan (left) signing an Agreement of Co-operation for Development with Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa (right) on August 16, 2001. New endeavours envisaged under the Agreement include major tertiary education initiatives such as the Aga Khan University’s Advanced Nursing Studies Programme as well as a plan by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development to establish a Professional Development Centre for teachers and managers of educational institutions.
His Highness the Aga Khan (left) shaking hands with Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa
His Highness the Aga Khan (left) shaking hands with Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa after signing an Agreement of Co-operation for Development on August 16, 2001. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte.

2005

Aga Khan and Mkapa Barakah
His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency President Mkapa pictured on March 18, 2005 viewing the model of the Phase II development of the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam. Photo: AKDN / Zahur Ramji.
Aga Khan and Mkapa at phase 2 foundation ceremony of Aga Khan Hospital
His Excellency President Mkapa on March 18, 2005 lays the first stone of the Phase II development of the Aga Khan Hospital in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, Minister for Health, Anna Abdallah and Mr. Shabir Abji, Chairman, Aga Khan Health Services, Tanzania. Photo: AKDN / Zahur Ramji.
The Aga Khan and Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa laying the foundation stone for the expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar-es-Salaam. Speaking on the occasion on March 18, 2005, the Aga Khan stated,
His Highness the Aga Khan lays the second brick alongside the first laid by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa during the foundation stone for the expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam. Speaking on the occasion on March 18, 2005, the Aga Khan stated, “Unless we make significant investments in education as well as in new equipment and facilities, East Africa will fall behind in health care delivery.” This phase of the expansion resulted in five state-of- the-art operating theatres, a 12-bed intensive care unit, a radiology imaging department, new maternity facilities as well as an expanded pharmacy department. Photo: The Ismaili Canada, July 2005.
Aga Khan and President Mkapa at Aga Khan Academy Foundation Ceremony Barakah
His Highness the Aga Khan addresses the gathering at the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the new Aga Khan Academy in Dar es Salaam. Looking on are His Excellency President Benjamin Mkapa, Princess Zahra, Hon. Joseph Mungai, Minister for Education, Hon. Yusuf Makamba, Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam and Mr. Alkarim Dawood, Chairman, Aga Khan Education Services, Tanzania. Photo: AKDN / Zahur Ramji.
His Highness the Aga Khan attending the Die Quadriga prize award ceremony
His Highness the Aga Khan on October 3, 2005 was awarded the Die Quadriga prize in recognition of his life’s work in helping people in the poorest regions of the world. Pictured at the ceremony are (left to right): Dr Helmut Kohl, former German Chancellor; Mikhail Gorbatschev, former President of the USSR; His Highness the Aga Khan; and William Benjamin Mkapa, President of the Republic of Tanzania. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte.
His Highness the Aga Khan attending the Die Quadriga prize award ceremony, Barakah
His Highness the Aga Khan arriving for Die Quadriga Award Ceremony at the Komische Oper with Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, and William Mkapa, President of Tanzania. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte.

2010

Aga Khan at Pan Africa Media Conference with East African Leaders including Mkapa of Tanzania. Barakah
Participants of the Pan Africa Media Conference held on March 17, 2010, marking the 50th anniversary founding of the Nation Media Group. Back row, left to right: H.E. Princess Kabakumba Labwoni Masiko, Ugandan Minister of Information and National Guidance, Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary at the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications, Amadou Mahtar Ba, Executive Director of the Africa Media Initiative, Shakeel Shabbir, MP for Kisumu Town East, Linus Gitahi, CEO of the Nation Media Group and Wilfred Kiboro, Chairman of the Nation Media Group.Front row, left to right: H.E. Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique, Hon. Samuel Poghisio, Kenyan Minister for Information and Communication, Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya, His Highness the Aga Khan, His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania and H.E. Kalonzo Musyoka, Vice President of Kenya.

2011

Zahra Aga Khan and Benjamin Mkapa Barakah
Princess Zahra Aga Khan in conversation with His Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa, former President of Tanzania and Member of the Aga Khan University Board of Trustees during the opening of the Aga Khan Hospital’s Heart and Cancer Centre in Nairobi. The opening was done by President Kibaki of Kenya and His Highness the Khan. Photo: AKDN / Ejaz Karmali President Kibaki and Aga Khan open Aga Khan Hospital’s Heart and Cancer Centre in Nairobi

2017

Benjamin Mkapa Aga Khan Primary School visit Barakah
The former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr. Benjamin William Mkapa, pictured with students during his visit to the Aga Khan Nursery and Primary School in July 2017 marking its 5th Primary Years Programme exhibition.

“Many of you are aware that His Excellency has previously served as a Trustee of the Aga Khan University, guiding us to develop quality education and health services in Tanzania. We have benefitted greatly from his insight, wisdom, and counsel. Your Excellency, your presence at the ceremony today is a source of great inspiration and happiness to our graduands and their parents” — AKU President Firoz Rasul, February 2020

2020

Benjamin Mkapa AKU Class of 2019
Former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa and the Aga Khan University leadership pictured with Master of Education graduates, class of 2019, at the University’s 15th convocation ceremony held on February 5, 2020 at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Date posted: November 28, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 230 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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One comment

  1. Very well written essay covering major events. This article may inspire other leaders to join activities in Education and Health sectors undertaken by AKDN and others. Our compliments to the author.

    Liked by 1 person

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