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HomebioFormer President of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa Biography, Age, Education, Career, Marriage and...

Former President of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa Biography, Age, Education, Career, Marriage and Awards

By Prudence Minayo

Benjamin Mkapa was the third president of Tanzania. He led the nation for ten years and handed over power to Jakaya Kikwete. Benjamin was known as a peace maker  having been part of several mediation for peace in wartorn countries. He was part of the team led by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan that mediated for peace in Kenya after the 2007 general elections that ended up in violence with many losing their lives. Mkapa helped in drafting the agreement that led to power sharing between former president of the republic of Kenya Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister and opposition leader Raila Odinga. In 2016, he also helped bring peace in Burundi by mediating between the government and opposition. 

The death of the former Tanzanian president was announced by Tanzanian president John Magufuli on Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation(TBC) on 24th July 2020.

“ I call on Tanzania to receive the news of his death and to pray for Mzee Mkapa. More information will be released but Mzee Mkapa is no more.” This was followed by a declaration of a seven-day mourning period in Tanzania, where all flags in the country will be flown at half-mast. 


Benjamin Mkapa was born on 12th November 1938 in Masasi, Tanzania.


Mzee Mkapa attended Catholic Schools before getting a chance to join Makerere University where he pursued a degree in English. He then proceeded to Columbia University for a Master’s Degree in International affairs. 

He also has honorary degrees from various institutions including:

  • A Honoris Causa from Soka University in Japan in 1998
  • A Honoris Causa from Morehouse College, United States in 1999
  • A Honoris Causa from The Open University of Tanzania in 2003.
  • A doctorate of law from National University of Lesotho in 2005
  • A doctor of Education from Kenyatta University, Kenya in 2005
  • Honoris Causa from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2006
  • A doctor of Civil Law from Newcastle University, UK in 2008
  • A doctor of Law from Makerere University, Uganda


After completing university, he returned to Tanzania and was appointed an administrative officer in Dodoma and a year later became the District Officer before becoming a Foreign Service officer.

After graduating from Colombia, he went back to Tanzania where he worked as a journalist. By 1966, he was the managing editor of two newspapers: The Nationalist newspaper and Uhuru newspaper.

In 1972, he was also the managing editor for the Daily News and The Sunday News.

Julius Nyerere, president of Tanzania at the time, was impressed with his skills and in 1974 appointed him his press secretary. 

In 1976, he founded Shihata (shirika la habari Tanzania) which was a news agency in Tanzania.

In 1976, he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs in Tanzania.

In 1977, he was made Minister for Information and Culture. Five years later, he became the ambassador to the United States.

In 1984, he became the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

In 1990, he was appointed the Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education. 

In 1992, he became a nominated Member of Parliament.

In 1995, he was elected president under the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. He was sworn in as President on the 23rd of November that year. The elections were termed as unfair to many due to several discrepancies in the elections. Nonetheless, Mkapa was able to achieve a number of things during his first term in office. In the past, Tanzanian girls who became pregnant were expelled from school and could not continue with education but a solution was found in 1996 to allow them to continue with their studies. His major focus was on ending corruption in the country.

His second term ended in 2005 and by this time he had managed to privatize corporations that were previously owned by the state and he also instituted free market policies. The policies won the support of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Although he always stated his aim in fighting corruption in the country, he was still accused of corruption on a number of occasions. He was accused of appropriating to himself and his former Minister for Finance Daniel Yona the Kiwira coal mine without following legal procedures amongst other allegations. By privatizing the Kiwira Coal mine to himself, he was accused of breaching the Tanzanian constitution which does not allow the president to do business at the State House.

From 2007 to 2012, Mkapa was appointed the trustee of the Agha Khan University.


In 1966, he married Anna Joseph Maro who was an administrative assistant at the time. They have three children. 


Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya in 2005

Order of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere in 2011

Ms. Jane Goodall Global Leadership Award in 2007.


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