Most EAC leaders skip Magufuli funeral, as SADC peers dominate

Wednesday March 24 2021
Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers his speech at the State Funeral of Tanzania's John Pombe Magufuli at Jamhuri Stadium in Dodoma. PHOTO | PSCU


East African Community leaders were conspicuously missing at the state funeral of Tanzania’s late president John Pombe Magufuli, which was held at the Jamhuri Stadium in Dodoma on Monday.

The only EAC leader in attendance was Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, who attended in his capacity as Kenya’s president and the current chairman of the EAC Summit.

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) was represented by nine presidents, led by the outgoing bloc chairman Mozambican President Filipe-Jacinto Nyusi.

“The entire SADC is here, all of us are here at this big farewell to this great man, a great leader of our generation,” said President Nyusi.

“The SADC region and Africa as a whole have lost a great, committed and inspirational leader admired across the African continent and the entire world”.

He added that Dr Magufuli will be remembered as a true pan-Africanist who championed the development of Africa, and stood for self-determination and economic independence of the continent.


President Nyusi added that the southern Africa region will remain in solidarity with the people of Tanzania and support the country’s new president Samia Suluhu because “the success of Tanzania is the success of SADC.”

Other SADC presidents in attendance were South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Malawi’s Lazarus Chakwera, Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi, Comoros’ Azali Assoumani, Zambia’s Edgar Lungu, Namibia’s Hage Geingob and Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa.

SADC’s strong representation at the ceremony is a pointer to Tanzania’s long and strong bond with southern Africa, going back to pre-independence days when it served as a frontline state, and ended up being a member of both SADC and EAC, hosting the latter’s secretariat in Arusha.

Magufuli had been Chairman of SADC until end of last year and, for a man who hardly left the country or the continent, he travelled most to SADC countries.

Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo also attended in his capacity as chairman of the African Union.

Apart from President Kenyatta, other EAC presidents sent representatives and also sent condolence messages.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was represented by Ambassador Richard Kabonero.

“President Museveni was at the High Commission, where he paid his last respects and made a statement,” presidential press secretary Don Wanyama said.

The President and First Lady Janet Museveni visited the Tanzania High Commission in Kampala on Monday, where they signed a book of condolence and paid tribute to Magufuli as a dedicated servant of Tanzania, East Africa and Africa.

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame was represented by Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente while Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi was represented by Vice President Prosper Bazombanza.

South Sudan’s Salva Kiir sent a message of condolence.

President Kenyatta, representing the EAC, gave a powerful speech in Kiswahili, showing the closeness between Kenya and Tanzania and also his cordial and personal relationship with the late Magufuli.

President Kenyatta was given a rousing round of applause when he revealed that upon receiving the news of Magufuli’s death he vowed, “Come what may, I will go to pay my respects.”

President Kenyatta also expressed his confidence in President Samia Suluhu Hassan and the future of Tanzania.

In his tribute, Mr Kenyatta said Dr Magufuli had shown that the continent can keep its head held high and finance most of its projects from revenues collected from within without depending on foreigners, whose aid often comes with many conditions. 

“In a very short span of time, President Magufuli has shown that we as Africans are able to disentangle ourselves from the dependence of foreigners and that we have the ability to manage our own economy and ensure that our people get what is rightful to them,” he said.

Other SADC leaders praised Dr Magufuli for being a great leader.

President Chakwera said Magufuli was a hero who had the knack to fight laziness and corruption. President Masisi said the SADC region has lost a true leader, a real friend and doyen of democracy, unity and development. President Ramaphosa described Dr Magufuli as a true pan-Africanist and tireless champion of the cause of Africa’s progress who was unapologetic about being African.