Tanzania: Mkapa's Autobiography Has Set the Right Precedent but How I Wished for More.....

Former President Benjamin Mkapa has written his autobiography and has clearly tried to be true to his conscience.

He has shown that it is possible for a statesman to give an honest, if not fully transparent, look into his life and his thoughts. People may have different interpretations of what he has written but, as he said himself, a lot is there to provoke discussions.

I believe the discussion will definitely be there for a long time to come.

When I was a young man, only 29 at the time, I was elected as an MP.

entered parliament with a lot of anger about the way the country was being run. I was 'anti-establishment' and viewed President Mkapa's outgoing administration as most corrupt. I was pained by the level of poverty in the country and especially the way our natural resources were being stolen.

So I looked at former President Mkapa as a leader who didn't care about the poor people and who sold off the country.

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His book has been able to give me insights into some of the issues that I have had questions about. For example, the issue of privatisation of parastatals and how it was implemented. President Mkapa explains in the book how he was able to transform the economy.

I am content with his explanations but still do not agree with him that it was NECESSARY to privatise parastatals in that manner. Mkapa says there was no alternative. I think there was. President Mwinyi had already opened up the economy.

I think Mkapa should have allowed the private sector to compete with the parastatals directly, rather than selling the companies at throwaway prices to buyers who had no interest in advancing them. President Mkapa's government directed itself towards privatisation as the only interpretation of liberalisation.

China did not sell their parastatals but instead allowed the private sector to compete with the public sector and the results were largely successful.

I understand very well the argument against taxpayer monies being used to run parastatals. If President Mkapa had been bold enough not to give money directly to the parastatals and instead to allow the private sector to start competing with them, today we would still have textile, cashew and other industries.

The former president Mkapa has been able to acknowledge the robbery that was EPA and, more controversially for the public, the direct connection between the scandal and CCM electioneering.

This is supposed to be an explosive issue and not one to be taken lightly. On writing about this issue, Mkapa has done justice to his country but I think he could have taken the next step and publicly apologised for the theft that took place at such a scale and that had such massive consequences for the country.

Readers of this book will enjoy the history of our country. Mkapa worked very closely with Nyerere and there are new insights that Mkapa shares on Nyerere.

During the Ugandan war, the President of Sudan Numeiry came to try and mediate. Mwalimu remarked to Mkapa: "Even this one is coming to talk about democracy?

How did he get into power?" There are many other interesting anecdotes about the African liberation struggles, and how our foreign policy was implemented. Mkapa has shared a lot of lessons to our current and future leaders on the Foundation of many decisions our country has taken.

There are areas that Mkapa did not write about but which would have given a lot of relevant insights.

For example on the Biafra War and the decision by Nyerere to support the Biafran struggle. Mkapa only talks about his time there as Ambassador after the war ended and Nyerere's visit there but does not provide details on how the situation really was.

When he arrived in Nigeria what was the attitude of the people there? Mzee Obasanjo once narrated to me that he had to escort Nyerere everywhere during this trip to Nigeria because Nigerians were so angry at Tanzania, Zambia, Gabon and Ivory Coast for recognizing the secessionist movement of the Igbo.

I would have loved to hear more from Mkapa on this issue; he has really denied us some juicy details.

In this book, the former president has also avoided talking about Mr Jenerali Ulimwengu's citizenship. Despite the fact that Ulimwengu was in Mkapa's campaign team in 1995, Mkapa does not mention him at all in his book.

In 2001, Jenerali was declared a non-citizen and many people associated this move with Jenerali's fights with Mkapa.

I had hoped to be able to find out through the book Mkapa's thoughts on this matter that angered so many of us.

Mkapa very openly acknowledges that the biggest stain on his Presidency are the killing of 22 people in Zanzibar in January 2001. The killings were the worst of their kind to ever be seen in Tanzania.

The commission charged with investigating the killings, under the leadership of Retired Brigadier General Hashim Mbita, confirmed the killings of 35 people. But according to CUF, more than 60 of its members were killed. President Mkapa's government paid compensation to the families of those killed.

Nonetheless, I had expected that Mkapa would have used this opportunity to apologise for the atrocity committed. It is also noteworthy that he does not speak of the Mwembechai killings, and also of the death of Horace Kolimba, which also led to a lot of speculation during that time. It is possible that Mkapa had a lot to write about and therefore had to pick and choose what to address in this book.

In this book, the former Head of State has written about what he thinks our country should do and is clear that he is not happy with the state of affairs in the nation, especially on democracy. His opinions are correct, but we need him to utter them publicly and loudly enough.

Mkapa now has to continue to raise his voice against what is happening in the country especially the democratic reversal. He has shown in his book how much such actions pain him but he doesn't voice it publicly.

The last chapter of his book features complaints about how Africa is being run and especially Tanzania. He never voices these complaints publicly. It is time that he starts to do so, as a former head of state.

Lastly, I really enjoyed how he writes about his life as a child and his upbringing. Similarly with his time at Makerere.

I did not know that Mkapa had an American girlfriend called Hilary, and that he enjoyed dancing and student politics. These titbits help us to see the other side of our leaders. God bless our former President Mkapa, God bless Tanzania.

Mr Zitto Kabwe is the Member of Parliament for Kigoma Urban and leader of ACT-Wazalendo Party.

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