H.E Samia Suhulu Hassan, Tanzania’s 6th President worked closely with H.E. The Late Benjamin William Mkapa during his tenure as the 3rd President of Tanzania.
July 14, 2021
Your Excellency Dr. Hussein Mwinyi,
President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council;
Excellencies Former Presidents of the United Republic of Tanzania and Former Presidents of Zanzibar;
Excellencies Former Heads of State and Government and Friends of Late Former President Benjamin Mkapa;
The Mkapa Family, led by Mama Anne Mkapa, Widow of the Late Former President Benjamin Mkapa;
Honourable Ministers here present; Distinguished Members of Diplomatic Corps;
Dr. Adeline Kimambo, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Benjamin William Mkapa Foundation;
Dr. Ellen Mkondya Senkoro, Chief Executive Officer of the Benjamin William Mkapa Foundation;
Invited Guest, Family and Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I SALUTE YOU IN THE NAME OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA
It is always difficult to speak last, and more so, after the elders have spoken. I have listened attentively to all those who spoke about Late President Benjamin William Mkapa. They are the people who knew him and worked with him closely. They have said it all. Summing it up, they have spoken of Late President Mkapa as a visionary leader, developmentalist, regionalist and globalist, result-driven and a great statesman.
I, too, had an opportunity of knowing Late President Mkapa. I can attest to the testimonies shared here today. He was an exceptional man! You would always leave very enriched when talking to him. He had this aura of being confident and authoritative that built his powers to convince and persuade to agree to his opinion. He was passionate about knowledge and wisdom, and that could be reflected on the quality of his writings. In short, I can say, he was a force to reckon. (‘larger than life’).
This symposium signifies the importance of the need to remember his achievements and land marks. And, it is for this reason that I would like to commend the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation for proper organization of this Symposium, but also, for the noble contribution given in health sector. Before getting in this hall, I took time to visit the exhibition. I was thrilled to see the decent work the Foundation is doing and the impact you have made. Indeed, this is the befitting way of remembering our Former President and sustain his ideas and work. I encourage all of you here present to find time to stop- over the booths and observe the noble work carried by the Mkapa Foundation team, led by the Chairman of the Board Dr. Adeline Kimambo and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ellen Mkondya Senkoro.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is indeed no exaggeration to say, the history of this country cannot be written without a golden chapter of Late President Benjamin William Mkapa. Not only because he was our third President, but also because he did a heavy uplifting that propelled the transformation of our country. Indeed, he was fortified in his work.
During his time, he steered major transformation of our society and economy. The drastic measures he undertook that freed the private sector and attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) led to the increase of revenues from 331.2 billion Tanzania Shillings in 1995 to 2 Trillion Tanzanian Shillings in 2005. That went along side with halving the national debt from 143.7 percent in 1995 to 60.7 percent of GDP in 2005 through the High Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Consequently, Tanzania credit worthiness before the creditors and lenders was restored, and that provided once again our country with an economic ease.
The reforms and transformation he brought to our country were not only about numbers, but also about institutions and systems. Several institutions and regulatory reforms were introduced during his time. The establishment of National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), National Economic Empowering Council (NEEC), Tanzania Road Agency (TANROADS), Property and Business Formalization Program (MKURABITA), Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC), Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), The Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS) are some of the among many others that characterize the hallmark of his leadership. These institutions have grown and endure test of time.
He went further to articulate the new Foreign Policy for our country, the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (famously known as MKUKUTA) and a new vision for this country which came to be known as Tanzania Vision 2025. That is the testimony, that he did not only build the yesterday, but the future after him. And that is the proof of his selfless heart and a visionary, futuristic mind.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Global debates and conversation of hard talks was a unique strength bequeathed by President Mkapa. We all recall that in 1990s and early 2000s, there was anti-globalization movement, that was popular and politically correct. Yet, the late President Mkapa did not wither against the entrenched public sentiment. He defended and explained why we should embrace globalization. In this respect, he fought two battles, one inside the country to educate his people on the need to embrace globalization, and globally, he used diplomatic idioms to argue a case for inclusive globalization in the corridors of power.
That battle took him to serve as the Co-Chair of ILO Commission on Social Dimension of Globalization alongside Her Excellency Tarja Halonen, the then President of Finland. As stated here earlier, the Late Mkapa became the Co-Chair of Commission for Africa alongside Right Honourable Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister of United Kingdom. He later served as the Chair of the South Commission. It suffice to say, African voice was heard because his voice mattered.
I personally experienced President Mkapa’s strength and skills in international politics in 2001. He appointed me as one of his emissaries alongside Former President Jakaya Kikwete, whom by then was a Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, together with former President of Zanzibar Ali Mohamed Shein, to undertake a mission to our donor countries and development partners. It was immediately after the 2001 political crisis in Zanzibar, and he thought there was a need to engage our friends and partners to brief them of what really transpired, and measures his government undertook to arrest the situation. It was an eye-opening experience to me and an exposure to his foreign policy acumen and his statesmanship. I take the liberty to say, the mission was successful, thanks to his personal leadership and guidance.
The Late President Mkapa also played an important role in reviving the East African Community in 1999; in transforming the Organization of the African Unity into the African Union in 2001, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi in 2000; as well as in building the SADC Headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana. Indeed, it was in 2004, while passing on the baton of the Chairmanship, he made a clarion call to all Member States to contribute to a fund for the construction of the Headquarters, and went on to pledge USD 500,000 from Tanzania. Having seen his devotion, other Member States followed suit. This clearly shows that the late President Mkapa was a defined figure, and his actions were not only limited in Tanzania, but also served in the region, in Africa and the world at large.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
After the heavy lifting, President Mkapa was expected to retire and rest. He did not. He continued to serve the Tanzanians and humanity at large. He became greatly involved with regional and global initiatives having been asked from time to time, to provide leadership in many processes. In 2007, he was a joint AU-UN three-person Team to mediate Kenya post-election conflict, along with Koffi Annan and Graca Machel. He died as a Facilitator of Inter-Burundi Dialogue and Chairperson of the African Leadership Forum, a platform for Africa’s eminent elders to interacts with current and future leaders around the strategic challenges facing the continent. I am pleased that, some of his colleagues, including former president, Olesugun Obasanjo, are virtually with us today.
Notably, however, is the Foundation he established to further and uplift his work and passion. That is the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation (BMF) that brought all of us here today. This Foundation has been and remains one of our trustworthy partner and dependable supporter in our efforts to deliver on our agenda of Health for All Tanzanians. Indeed, our Government is very grateful to the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation. In its 15 years of existence, it focused on investment in health infrastructure, strengthening institutions and health system, serving the hard-to-reach and remote areas, and most importantly addressing planning, recruitment and retention of human resources for health. The facts and figures have already been shared here today, including recruitment of 3,760 skilled staff and construction of 482 staff houses and provision of grants to 933 health students.
In his Autobiography entitled, My Life, My Purpose: A Tanzanian President Remembers, President Mkapa acknowledges that former President Bill Clinton was a brain child of his Foundation, and, therefore, I to take the occasion to pay a glowing tribute to him. Gladly, President Clinton has also joined us virtually. In a very special way, I thank all donors and partners, who have supported BMF- led initiatives worth total of Tanzanian Shilling 198 Billion, as from April 2006 to June 2021.
One of the activities scheduled for today’s occasion is the launching of an Endowment Fund for the Foundation. This is great, and I commend the Foundation leadership for coming up with this idea which shows clearly that the Foundation has taken it as one of its mission to sustain Late President Mkapa’s life and legacy. But also, augurs well with President Mkapa’s cardinal ethos of self-reliance. In this regard, I have no choice but to urge all of you, to continue to support these remarkable initiatives of the Foundation. The Government pledges full support to the idea and indeed the Fund; and for that reason, I pledge to contribute to the seed capital, and looking forward to continuing support this Foundation in any possible way in future. I, once again, ask all our partners to heed to the call and contributing generously to this Fund.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Not so long ago, we have listened to a panel discussion under the theme “Health for All: President Benjamin Mkapa’s Legacy on Building Resilient and Sustainable Health Systems”. This Panel Discussion is both appropriate and timely. As we all well know, Former President Mkapa was a strong believer of equitable health access to all. On the other hand, our Government has now embarked on measures to achieve universal health coverage. I was, therefore, delighted to hear different perspectives on the fundamental pillars towards attaining Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goals. It is my sincere hope that the proposals that were put forward by our panelists today, if implemented, not only will help our country achieve universal health coverage, but also will go a long in strengthening health systems and thus improving the provision of health services in the country. In this respect, I am so passionate on seeing innovative ways to improve Maternal, Children and Adolescent Health, as it is a subject matter close to my heart.
Similarly, I believe that the recommendations provided by the Panelists will help us combat other health challenges and crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic. In this connection, speaking of COVID-19, I would wish to call upon each and every one of us to become more responsible, attentive and play our part in ensuring adherence to the public health protocols on preventing ourselves and those we serve, live and/or work with, from being infected from COVID-19. The Government is committed to ensure public safety, prevention, delivery of quality health care and rehabilitation to those affected. This shall be made possible through cooperation and support by every stakeholder including the Non- State Actors, Development Partners, Private sector, Religious Leaders, Scientists and Researchers, Media and the Community at large.
I, therefore, plead with you all to support the Government as it finalizes the process towards deployment of COVID-19 Vaccine in the country. Our aim is to ensure that every eligible individual can equitably access the vaccine in due time, for those wishing to do so. I believe that the Mkapa Foundation and other Non- State Actors will also continue being actively engaged in this endeavor.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
I am reliably informed that this commemoration is the first and not the last. That we shall have more of these in the years to come. In this regard, I do not have to exhaust it all this year. As matter of fact, even if I decide to summon my courage to continue talking, a day will not be enough to say all I have to say about him, his wisdom and courtesy.
For now, let me, once again, thank the Chair of the Board of the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation for inviting me and bringing us together to commemorate the life and legacy of our noble man. I would like to reiterate and register my continued government support to your Foundation. We look forward to working closely with you on the implementation of our 5th Health Sector Strategic Plan (2021-2026) launched couple of weeks ago. We know what to expect from your, “Excellence”!
To you Mama Anne Mkapa and the family, I am here to assure you that we shall always walk with you, be there for you and support you in all ways possible. You shall never walk alone nor shall you be lonely. The Late President Mkapa left you in our hands. You are our family. To friends, donors, and partners, I kindly request you to continue supporting this
Foundation to allow it further support and realize the national development goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I can think of no better way to end my speech than in the words of former Indian Leader Mahatma Ghandi, who once said, and I quote, “Great men never die, and it is up to us to keep them immortal by continuing the work they have commenced” end of quote. I fully agree with him that the life of a man who has accomplished so much and impacted many lives should not be mourned, but rather be celebrated. President Mkapa has, therefore, dutifully and diligently done his part, let us do ours.!
May the Soul of former President Benjamin William Mkapa continue to rest in Eternal Peace.
“I thank you for your kind attention”