Commitment, courage, empathy – some leadership qualities demonstrated by H.E. Benjamin William Mkapa

UONGOZI Institute’s association with H.E. Benjamin William Mkapa is best known because of his role as the Patron of our African Leadership Forum. H.E. Mkapa, who was the third President of the United Republic of Tanzania, was a man who worked hard and demonstrated commitment, and, true to his character, he was not a Patron in name only.

Right from the concept of this unique Forum he was involved in shaping the event, from determining each year’s theme based on an issue of Africa’s development, encouraging participation by fellow past-presidents, chairing each Forum, and taking an active part in the discussions during the Forums. He was well known for his inquiring mind and, despite being ‘retired’, he demonstrated commitment in every interaction staff members of the Institute were privileged to have with him.

A leader must be willing to adapt to changing environments and this often requires courage. This is one area H.E. Mkapa clearly demonstrated his ability as a leader. He remained loyal to the teaching of Julius Kambarage Nyerere, our country’s first president. Mwalimu was his mentor, H.E. Mkapa cherished him and was continually influenced by his thoughts. However, he did not hold back from stepping away from, or adapting, some of Mwalimu’s tenets when he saw that they could not be applied in the fast-changing world. This took courage and open mindedness.

Empathy is another quality of a good leader. H.E. Mkapa never forgot the struggles of the poor and marginalised, continually advocating for their rights and seeking to encourage their dignity. He also supported the involvement of youth and women in Tanzania’s development. His valued involvement in international peace mediation showed his empathy for the suffering of people. H.E. Mkapa was a strong advocate for good leadership. A recent example of his belief in the importance of good leadership is that he included information and advice helpful to young and aspiring leaders in his recently published memoirs. His involvement with the Institute began during his second term as President of the United Republic of Tanzania, when the seed of the idea arose to form an organisation which advanced leadership and he endorsed this concept. Tanzania’s fourth President, H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete then brought the Institute to existence in 2010.

While we have been honoured to receive the support and guidance from several former and current presidents from Tanzania and around the world, H.E. Mkapa, showed a keen interest in our activities right from the beginning and was always available to offer encouragement and ideas. Because of this we regard H.E. Mkapa as the ‘grandfather’ of the Institute.

During 2019, the Institute co-published his memoirs: ‘My Life, My Purpose. A Tanzanian President Remembers.’ He ends his book with:

‘I will leave it to my God and you to decide what difference I have made in this world.’

The board of directors, management and staff of the Institute bear witness to the undeniable truth that H.E. Mkapa did make a difference to the lives of many. His good deeds and achievements in Tanzania and Africa, as well as his contribution to sound leadership will live on through those he has inspired, guided and helped.

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