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Church in Eastern Africa Remembers Late Tanzania’s President for Faith, Servant Leadership

The late President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania

The Church in Eastern Africa is eulogizing the late President John Pombe Magufuli whose death was announced Wednesday, March 17, as a man of strong faith in God who manifested servant leadership, dedicating his presidency to the service of Tanzanians.

A practicing Catholic, President Magufuli who died at the age of 61 was at the helm of the East African nation since 2015.

In their Friday, March 19 video message, members of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) acknowledge “the virtues” President Magufuli had and say they received news of his death “with great shock and sadness.”

“We are saddened because we are aware of the virtues he possessed as President and how he fulfilled his role. He was greatly accountable to God and the people. He always told Tanzanians that we can do a lot but without God everything is useless,” Catholic Bishops in Tanzania say in their collective statement read by TEC’s President, Archbishop Gervais Nyaisonga of Mbeya Archdiocese. 

In their statement addressed to the successor of President Magufuli, Samia Suluhu Hassan who was serving as Vice President, TEC members say that the late Head of State fostered collaboration in his leadership that saw the East African nation in a short time “recognized as a fast-growing nation, economically and in other spheres of life.”

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In line with the country’s constitution, Suluhu Hassan was sworn as Tanzania’s President on March 19.

The Constitution of Tanzania stipulates, "Where the office of President becomes vacant by reason of death, then the Vice-President shall be sworn in and become the President for the unexpired period of the term of five years."

The members of TEC have also eulogized the late President as one who “cared for our nation, fighting for the rights of the weak and the poor and the oppressed in different situations.”

“He cared deeply for the people,” the Catholic Bishops eulogize President Magufuli, adding, “We Tanzanians have been left by a courageous leader and because we believe in God, we will not give up.”

“President Magufuli has played his role well,” they say and encourage Tanzanians to walk in his footsteps through the love of God and in a spirit of patriotism, “to love the country.” 

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On their part, Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa are remembering the late Head of State as a “transformative leader whose presidency was characterized by zero tolerance to corruption and socio-economic development.”

In their March 19 statement addressed to the President of TEC, the leadership of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) says, “We were proud to have a Catholic political leader who stood out as a man for the poor through his visionary and socio-economic agenda.”

“We are together with you all in prayer for the repose of his soul, for his family and for the country,” Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa say in the statement signed by the Chairman of AMECEA, Bishop Charles Kasonde of Zambia’s Solwezi Diocese. 

For Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of South Sudan’s Tombura-Yambio Diocese, the news of President Magufuli’s demise came as a shock.

“I loved this President; I have greatly admired him. I loved his style of leadership, his conviction to bring his people out of poverty, his convictions to stabilize Tanzania, his ability to hold his country together and its people,” says Bishop Hiiboro in his March 18 audio message

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The South Sudanese Bishop also admired President Magufuli’s faith and trust in God and the care he had for his country and continent, he says, adding in reference to the late Head of State, “He has been one of the most admired African leaders of our time and will be remembered forever.”

“May God, our father and creator, grant him eternal peace and may the people of Tanzania pick up his legacy and build a country they will continue to be proud of, a country that will put people first before themselves,” the Local Ordinary of South Sudan’s Tombura-Yambio Diocese says in his audio message.

Meanwhile, various Heads of State have mourned the late President, describing him as one who championed pan-Africanism.

In his March 18 statement, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta says the continent and the world has lost an “illustrious leader, whose vision, passion, and immense leadership propelled the Nation of Tanzania  forward, and also steered the East African community to closer integration and cooperation.”

President Kenyatta described the late Head of State as a “visionary ally” with whom he worked closely to “forge lasting bonds between Kenya and Tanzania.”

In his March 18 statement, President Kenyatta declared that that Kenyans “will observe a period of seven (7) days of national mourning.”

“The Flag of the East African Community and the Flag of the Republic of Kenya shall be flown at half-mast at all Public Buildings and Public Grounds and wherever else throughout the entire territory of the Republic of Kenya and at all of Kenya’s Diplomatic Missions abroad; from forenoon on this 18th March, 2021 until sunset,” said the President of Kenya who doubles as the Chairman of the East African Community (EAC).

For the President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, President Magufuli was a “true Pan-Africanist.”

“I am terribly saddened to learn of the passing of my friend & brother H.E John Pombe Magufuli, President of the United Republic of #Tanzania. My thoughts & prayers go out to the Government and People of Tanzania & his Family for the loss of a Great Leader, a true Pan Africanist,” Burundi’s President tweeted March 18

On his part, the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki has eulogized President Magufuli as one who championed regional collaboration.

"Africa has lost a champion of regional cooperation in the East African region and a committed Pan Africanist leader," Moussa Faki said. 

A requiem Mass in honor of President Magufuli has been scheduled to take place Saturday, Marhc 20 at St. Peter’s Oyster Bay Parish of Dar es Salaam Archdiocese.

A two-day public viewing of the President’s body has been slated to take place on March 20 and March 21 at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

President Magufuli's body is expected to lie in state at Dodoma, Mwanza, and Chato on March 21, March 22, and March 23 respectively

The late President is to be laid to rest on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, in his native home, Chato in the region of Geita, within the Catholic Diocese of Geita.