Tanzania’s former President Benjamin Mkapa, who served from 1995 to 2005, died in the early hours of Friday, President John Magufuli said in a statement.
Mkapa, 81, the East African nation’s third president who led several regional peace mediation efforts in office and afterwards, died while receiving treatment at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Magufuli said, without giving more details.
“I will remember him for his great love for the nation, his piety, hard work and performance in building the economy,” Magfuli said.
The president declared a seven-day mourning period, during which all flags will be flown at half-mast.
“Magufuli asks all Tanzanians to remain calm, patient and united during this difficult time,” a statement from his office said.
Mkapa also served as an ambassador, minister and key official of the ruling CCM party, Magufuli said.
The Chairperson of the African Union Moussa Faki Mahamat took to Twitter to pay his respects, calling Mkape an “indefatigable peacemaker in the East African nation”.
The former president was born in 1938 to a poor family in south-eastern Mtwara. He earned a degree in English in Uganda, after which he went on to study at Columbia University in New York.
Mkape later worked as a journalist before being appointed the press secretary for the country’s first president Julius Nyerere.
He held several cabinet posts, such as foreign minister and information minister and also served as ambassador to the United States before he was elected president.
Mkapa had most recently attempted to mediate between Burundi’s government and opposition groups after a disputed 2015 election plunged the country into crisis, however the government repeatedly refused to take part and the talks went nowhere.