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Homepage > About Crisis Group > Board > Benjamin W. Mkapa

Benjamin W. Mkapa

Benjamin W. Mkapa, a seasoned journalist, diplomat and politician, was elected President of Tanzania in November 1995, the third President of the United Republic of Tanzania since independence in 1961. On 21 December 2005, President Mkapa relinquished powers voluntarily at the end of his two five-year terms in office as President of United Republic of Tanzania. He continued to chair the ruling party (CCM) until June 2006, when he voluntarily handed the party leadership over to his successor, President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

President Mkapa was born in 1938 and received his primary and secondary education in Tanzania. He continued his studies at Makerere University College in Uganda, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1962. In 1963, he completed a Special Course for Diplomats from Newly Independent States organized by the School of International Affairs, Columbia University, New York.

His career began in local administration in Dodoma where he was appointed District Officer in 1962 and joined the Foreign Service later that year. In 1966 he embarked upon a career in journalism, and during the 1960s and 70s served as Managing Editor of Tanzania’s leading newspapers, The Nationalist, Uhuru, The Daily News, and The Sunday News. In 1974, he was appointed Press Secretary to the Founding President of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere and went on to become Minister for Information and Culture in 1980-82; From 1990-192 he was Minister for Information and Broadcasting in 1990-92.

President Mkapa has also served as High Commissioner to Nigeria and Minister for Foreign Affairs (from 1977 to 1980). In 1982, he served as High Commissioner to Canada and between 1983 and 1984 as Ambassador to the United States of America.  He returned home in 1984 to become Minister for Foreign Affairs for six years.

Throughout his political career, President Mkapa worked to strengthen Tanzanian democracy, entrench civil rights and fight poverty, while increasing the country’s exposure to international trade and investment.  He was active in conflict resolution in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and an active player in regional economic co-operation within the East African Community, and the Southern African Development Community of which he was Chairperson for 2003/2004. In retirement, in early 2008, he was a member of the African Union Panel of Eminent Persons under former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, which successfully reconciled opposing political parties in Kenya after over 1000 people died in post-election conflicts.

President Mkapa continues to be very active regionally and internationally. He is Chairman of the South Centre, a Geneva-based intergovernmental organization of developing countries and is also a member of the Club of Madrid, InterAction Council as well as the Africa Forum. 

President Mkapa holds several honorary doctorate degrees and in October 2007 was awarded the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Award for his work in wildlife conservation.

President Mkapa is married to the former Anna Joseph Maro, and they have two sons and two grandchildren.

 
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