January 24, 2010

Tanzania Mourns The Death of Former VP Rashidi Kawawa

Former Tanzanian Vice President - Rashidi Kawawa

During the Presidency of Julius Nyerere, Rashidi Mfaume Kawawa was Vice President of Tanzania. He was nicknamed “the Lion of War” during the country’s Independence struggle. He also served as Prime Minister and was once the Secretary General of the Chama cha Mapinduzi. In an official statement, Tanzania’s current President Jakaya Kikwete said that the late Vice President died at 9.20 am on December 31, 2009 at Muhimbili National Hospital, where he was admitted three days ago in a low blood sugar-induced coma.He was a diabetic patient and that led to liver complications that eventually led to a heart attack that killed him.

The Country’s national flag will fly at half mast as a sign of respect for the VP’s death. Kawawa, was the effective ruler of the country from January to December 1972 while Julius Nyerere toured the countryside. Kawawa was a strong advocate of economic statism. After his retirement, Kawawa remained a behind-the-scenes influence in Tanzanian politics. The son of an elephant hunter and the eldest of eight children, Rashidi Mfaume Kawawa was born in the Songea district of Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in eastern Africa. After primary schooling in Dar es Salaam, he finished his formal education at Tabora Government Secondary School (1951-1956), the alma mater of Julius Nyerere, leader in the fight for Tanganyika’s independence. Kawawa refused the opportunity to continue his education at Uganda’s Makerere College, thus enabling his father to use the family’s limited resources to educate his siblings.

Kawawa’s first job was as a Public Works Department accounts clerk. This was a most difficult period for the young man. With the death of his father, he assumed the responsibility of supporting his younger brothers and sisters. In 1951 Kawawa realized a long-standing dream of becoming a social worker. He had actually inaugurated this career by organizing a literacy campaign for adults while a student in Dar es Salaam. On his new job Kawawa joined a mobile film unit engaged in government literacy programs. When it was decided to use the unit for educational filming, he was chosen as the only Tanzanian leading actor. He also served as a scriptwriter and a producer. Perhaps the most important aspect of Kawawa’s social worker career occurred when he was sent to central Tanzania (1953) to work among Kikuyu detainees held because of the Kenyan Mau Mau movement. He later described his successful work there as the “greatest challenge of my life.”

Kawawa joined the Tanganyika African Government Services Association, becoming its assistant general secretary in 1951 and its president in 1955. His main task was securing rights for government employees due them under Tanganyika’s laws. Realizing the advantages of a nationwide organization, Kawawa helped found the Tanganyika Federation of Labor (TFL) and was elected its first general secretary in 1955

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