KAMPALA – Former workmates, friends and alumni of fallen Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa yesterday gathered at St Peter’s Nsambya Catholic Church to celebrate his life, achievements and legacy.
The scientific mass that was organised by Cavendish University was presided over by Fr John Bosco Mpungu Katabaazi, and was attended by the deceased’s friends and acquaintances from the academia, political and social world.
Senior Presidential Advisor John Nagenda who is also a family friend to the late Mkapa read to the congregants a message from the widow Ms Ann Mkapa for the special day.
“There is no amount of words that can show our gratitude. We can only say thank you for the huge affection you have shown Ben’s memory. I urge you to continue praying for Benjamin’s life as he continues to rest in peace. God giveth and God Taketh, Love, Anna,” it read
Nagenda said he struck a friendship with Mkapa when they were still studying at Makerere University and this has remained till date with his family.
“As we celebrate him in church here, I can comfortably tell you that he is hiding behind the walls of this church because Ben was a very good catholic and he would never miss mass at all even when he was in the Arab countries. He would tell his assistant to look for a nearby church to go to without fail,” he shared.
He added that much as he (Mkapa) was a staunch Christian, he was even much better in politics; he did not want to see why Africans should be insulted and he (Nagenda) admired this about him.
“When I think of a good person, I look at Ben, he might have had his flaws but he was good. He invited me and my family to Tanzania saying he was soon retiring and wanted to spend some time with me in his retirement. We went to Mountains in Kenya and Tanzania and we had an amazing time. Mkapa was a very serious man interested in politics and a genuine friend,” he said.
H.E Dr Aziz Ponary Mlima the High Commissioner of United Republic of Tanzania to Uganda said it was not an easy task to show justice to such a great man but he was proud to have gotten a chance to work with him closely and got to know him and his greatness.
“Ben was a good writer with good analytical skills which made Mwalimu Nyerere appoint him as the Managing Editor of The Nations (Tanzania’s major paper then). Mwalimu later appointed him to lead the Tanzanian Mission in Lagos, Nigeria after the Biafra war. He served there for three months and he was recalled for the Foreign Ministerial role,” he recalls.
Mr Mlima shared that Mkapa also worked in different spheres of Tanzania’s economy steering change everywhere he had his footprints.
“In the Tanzania Revenue Authority, he improved government expenditure. He introduced a commission of good governance and human rights. He also established a commission to combat HIV/Aids among others and all these economic reforms brought about economic stability and development,” he said.
He added that Mkapa was also deeply involved in the establishment of the East African Community, an initiative he co-did with Arap Moi of Kenya and Museveni of Uganda.
“In December 2005, he retired and opened his roles to international diplomacy since he was a seasoned diplomat and statesman. Ben did a lot of peace and mediation in DRC, Kenya. The Pan Africanist, time keeper, average reader, intelligent and knowledgeable man will forever be remembered.”
Immediate past Chancellor of Makerere University and Installer of the Late Mkapa as Cavendish University Chancellor Prof Mondo Kagonyera only recalls the humility that Mkapa carried with himself.
“When he came and I showed him where to sit comfortably to award him the Law degree in recognition what he had done; he said ‘No I will kneel because that is our culture’. He knelt and I was moved by his humility, the next time I met him was as a chancellor for Cavendish University. His acceptance to be a chancellor of a University like Cavendish and not Oxford speaks volumes about the character of this gentleman in other words, no job or responsibility was too small for him to take,” he said.
Kagonyera also told the congregants the words he told Mkapa as he was conferring upon him the doctorate.
“You are the right choice. You have made Makerere University proud. This award is in recognition of your outstanding record of excellence in diplomacy, journalism, administration, governance; regional and global politics. Your Alma Mater are proud of you. It gives us all great pleasure to publicize that our very own (H.E. Benjamin Mkapa), on Friday 27th November 2009, joined the academic and historic records of Makerere University. For now and the years to come, we officially know him as “H.E. Dr.(H.C.) Benjamin Mkapa”.
While announcing the Mkapa memorial mass last week, Mr David Mutabanura, the Executive Director CUU said the fallen hero is remembered for his education, Pan Africanism, diplomacy, conflict resolution, zeal for economic emancipation, his ethical leadership but above all his humility, warmth and friendliness.