After leaving power in 2005, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa was involved in several peace mediation efforts in the region, especially in Kenya and Burundi.
In the Kenyan peace talks that followed the 2007/08 post-elections violence, Mkapa was part of the Kofi Annan-led African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities that led the mediation between former president Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. The other member of the panel was Graça Machel, the former first lady of Mozambique.
In his memoir, My Life, My Purpose published in November 2019, Mkapa revealed how the Deputy President, William Ruto and former Constitutional Affairs minister, Martha Karua were the most difficult leaders to deal with.
He wrote that the talks only made a breakthrough after both Ruto and Karua were locked out. The negotiations led to a power-sharing agreement with establishment of the Office of Prime Minister and creation of a coalition government.
While the Kenyan mediation was a success, the Inter-Burundi Dialogue (IDB), which Mkapa was leading did not succeed given the intransigence of the government of the late Pierre Nkurunziza.
Mkapa was picked by the EAC as the facilitator of the IDB in 2015 after Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third time ignited political instability in the country and 300,000 fled abroad.
Mkapa had a hard time bringing the Burundi government and the opposition in exile under the umbrella; National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Accord (CNARED).
The Burundi government has insisted it would not sit with people it accused of plotting the failed coup, a move that has stalled the talks for the past three years.
At one time, Mkapa tried to please Nkurunziza by appealing to the opposition to recognise his legitimacy — which further complicated the talks with the opposition accusing him of taking sides.
His statement that opposition officials under arrest warrants over the 2015 coup attempt were not included in the peace talks, put the talks in jeopardy.
Ultimately, Mkapa in February 2019 handed over the report to the EAC summit, in which he called for a review of the Burundi constitution to take into account the provisions of the Arusha Accord of 2000. The Burundi government rejected the report.
It was frustrating for Mkapa, who told the summit that the Burundi government either failed to attend the last two rounds of the talks, or sent junior officials incapable of making decisions.
However, Mkapa was credited for restoring Kenya-Tanzania relations that had remained lukewarm since the breakup of the first EAC in 1977.
Even though his predecessor, Hassan Mwinyi, had re-established relations with Kenya after succeeding Julius Nyerere in 1985, Kenya’s relations with Tanzania only improved with the ascendency of Benjamin Mkapa to power in 1995. He also acted as a go-between former president Daniel arap Moi and Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, who were suspicious of each other from the time the latter came to power in 1986.
The late Moi was uncomfortable with Museveni on grounds that the former rebel leader was spreading revolutionary ideas in the region.
Mkapa was also the Co-Chair of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa; a Panelist in the High Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence on Development, Environment and Humanitarian Assistance.
He also served as a Commissioner for the UN High Level Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor and is Chairman of the South Centre.