Tanzania ex-Foreign minister Bernard Membe dies

Friday May 12 2023

Former Tanzania Foreign minister Bernard Kamillius Membe. He died on May 12, 2023 aged 69. FILE PHOTO | THE CITIZEN | NMG


Tanzania’s former Foreign minister Bernard Kamilius Membe has died aged 69 at a hospital in Dar es Salaam where he had been rushed in the early hours of Friday.

Sources said he had chest complications, but the cause of death is still unclear.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan praised Membe as a dedicated civil servant and diplomat in her condolence message.

“I have received with sadness the news of the death of Bernard Membe. For more than 40 years, Membe was a brilliant public servant, diplomat, Member of Parliament and minister who served our country professionally,” she said in a tweet.

Membe served as the Foreign Affairs minister from 2007 to 2015 under the Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete’s administration and had been tipped to succeed him as president in the 2015 general election but was edged out in favour of John Pombe Magufuli.

Five years later, in 2020, he was expelled from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) after he was accused of indiscipline and violating the party’s ethics and constitution.


Read: CCM expels former minister Bernard Membe

Politics and public service

Membe’s political career began in 2000 when he was elected as the CCM Member of Parliament representing Mtama constituency in the southern coastal Lindi region. He retained the seat until 2015.

Prior to this, he had served as a national security analyst at the President’s Office from 1978 to 1989.

He after that attended Johns Hopkins University in the United States, where he studied international relations from 1990 to 1992.

In 1992, he was assigned to serve as an Advisor of the Tanzanian High Commissioner in Ottawa, Canada, where he served until 2000.

He was appointed as Deputy Minister of Home Affairs by President Jakaya Kikwete after the 2005 general election.

In an October 2006 cabinet reshuffle, he was appointed as Deputy Minister of Energy and Minerals.

He moved to the Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation ministry as a minister in January 2007 after his predecessor Asha-Rose Migiro was appointed as the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General by then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

CCM politics

Membe served as a member of the ruling party’s National Executive Committee since 2007; having been re-elected in 2012 at the 8th CCM Congress in Dodoma.

In January 2013, Membe informed his constituents that he would not be vying for a seat in the next parliamentary elections in 2015, giving rise to speculation that he was considering running for the presidency.

This set the stage for the hotly contested CCM candidacy in the 2015 intra-party primaries between him and former premier Edward Lowassa.

It was a contest that threatened to divide the party into the Membe and Lowassa factions. The two were dropped in favour of Magufuli.

In an interview, he likened his defeat in the party’s primaries to the infamous ‘sudden death’ goal in football.

Alongside other CCM members, he was accused of running conspiracy campaigns against the party chairman - the President, and the party as the Magufuli succession race heated up in February 2020 and he was expelled.

In July of the same year, Membe handed back his CCM membership card and, a month later, joined the opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT- Wazalendo) and was fronted as the party presidential candidate. Magufuli, who died in 2021 and was succeeded by President Suluhu, was re-elected in 2020.

In March 2022, Membe returned to CCM after the party’s Central Committee reinstated him to its membership.