OBITUARY – Bernard Membe had his own vision of the new Tanzania

By Guest Writer

Sixty-nine-year-old Bernard Kamilius Membe was one of the Tanzanian children in the group of the Nyererites: children who were born and raised up during the period of the wind of change which swept across Africa in the 1950s. These were the politically awake generation of young men and women under the tutelage of Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Nyerere soon after independence.

On Friday, a hidden monster called death snatched away Bernard from the unsuspecting family of Tanzanians. In his demise Tanzania has lost not only a distinguished diplomat but an ardent advocate and promoter of social concerns in this great East African nation recognised globally as a stable, successful and humanitarian state.

Membe, a long-serving foreign minister (2007-2015) under former president Jakaya Kikwete, had his own vision in Tanzania’s liberalised political process started in July 1992. When he joined the opposition camp from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi in the 2020 general election after failing to secure a ticket to vie for the presidency, he advocated for reforms to ‘’move the country to the next stage of development.”

He saw the creation of a multi-party system as an inevitable development following the decision to liberalise the economy several years ago.

Up until then, due to the almost total absence of an entrepreneurial class at independence and adherence to socialist ideology, the state played a dominant role in Tanzania’s economic development. However a lively private sector has emerged in recent years, mainly in agriculture and trading, but also in the small industrial and transport sectors.

The government is now looking to encourage greater private investment, particularly in the export and potentially important tourism sectors.

For eight years as the United States Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State), Membe strode across the globe like a bright star, spreading Tanzania’s riches as a potential investment destiny and inspiring the world towards the common goal of taking this nation of more than 62 million people to greater and greater heights.

Membe never stayed on the sidelines when it came to defending Tanzania’s interests in a variety of activities with the tireless energy of a young person. His sights were always fixed on the struggle for freeing the country from the ills that afflict it and stall its progress. It is the thrust and push of this struggle which came to be increasingly reflected in his career as a diplomat – the combination of intense patriotism, intense compassion, intense feeling for the oppressed, and the intense contempt for corruption and wrong-doing made him the fearless champion against injustice in any form.

Politicians, like writers, create and own the future, provide the vision, platform, and discipline. Membe was both a diplomat and politician. He lived a creative life and lost the fear of being wrong when it came to matters of decision-making.

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