What you need to know:
- Since he left office and until his death, President Mkapa distinguished himself as a Pan-Africanist who promoted peace and stability on the continent, but especially in East Africa.
- He truly deserves all the tributes that have been pouring in from various quarters.
The three days of national mourning announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta are a modest Kenyan honour to former Tanzanian leader Benjamin Mkapa, who died in Dar es Salaam on Friday at the age of 81.
Mention of Mkapa’s name evokes fond memories in many Kenyans for the vital role he played in the mediation by the African Union to end the 2007-08 post-election violence in Kenya.
Though former UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan led the delicate negotiations that yielded an accord and a government of national unity, Mr Mkapa’s behind-the-scenes role was pivotal to the success of the mission.
As an East African, and a man well known to both former President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, he helped to soften the hardline stances initially adopted by both sides.
It was also during his time as Tanzanian President that the East African Community, which had disintegrated in 1977 over divisions and needless sibling rivalry, was restored in 1999.
The 10 years he was in power from 1995 to 2005 saw increased economic and trade co-operation between the three original EAC member states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and the incorporation of Rwanda and Burundi later.
Since he left office and until his death, President Mkapa distinguished himself as a Pan-Africanist who promoted peace and stability on the continent, but especially in East Africa.
Apart from the successful Kenyan mediation, he was also deeply involved in the Burundi peace negotiations.
His legacy will, no doubt, be solidified by the decision to publish a book on his experiences, especially on his peace-building efforts in the region.
This should be a wake-up call to other leaders to record their accounts before death comes calling. And being a former journalist, Mr Mkapa also played his part in strengthening media practice and training in the region and promoting private sector development.
He truly deserves all the tributes that have been pouring in from various quarters.