Grief strikes

  •  Tributes pour in for Bernard Membe
  • To be buried in his hometown on Tuesday
  • Succumbs to acute respiratory failure

GRIEF struck the nation yesterday following the sudden demise of the former Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Minister, Bernard Membe (69), who died in the morning at Kairuki Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Prof Harun Nyagori, Consultant Cardiologist at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) and Membe’s family physician said Membe was taken to the hospital in the early hours of yesterday owing to chest pains, but lost battle to acute respiratory failure caused by pulmonary embolism.

A Pulmonary Embolism occurs when a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung, blocking blood flow to part of the lung.

Prof Nyagori said Membe began coughing and experiencing chest pain on Thursday and by yesterday early morning, he was unable to breathe and was taken to the hospital.

“In short, this disease—which we refer to as acute respiratory failure caused by pulmonary embolism—is caused by a virus that causes clots in the pulmonary tract,” he continued. Membe has long been in good health and has never suffered from long-term conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes,” he said.

Tanzanians will pay their last respects to the diplomat tomorrow, starting at 10 am at the Karimjee Hall in Dar es Salaam, according to Mustafa Kamboya Ismail, the spokesperson for the late Membe’s family.

Additionally, he mentioned that the burial ceremony is planned to take place on May 16 this year at Rondo Village, Chiponda, Mtama Constituency in Lindi Region.

Soon after news on Membe’s demise went viral yesterday, Tanzanians led by President Samia Suluhu Hassan sent their condolences to Membe’s family and relatives.

On her official Twitter account, the Head of State referred to Membe as a remarkable public worker, diplomat, Member of Parliament, and minister who has worked for the nation professionally for more than 40 years.

President Samia tweeted from her account, “I have received with sadness the news of Bernard Membe’s passing. My condolences to his family, relatives and friends. May his soul rest in eternal peace, Amen.”

Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi, expressed his grief at Membe’s passing in a message of condolences, saying that the late leader was a bold and talented national servant who was also a strong diplomat.

Dr Mwinyi offered condolences to his family, friends, and all those touched by the tragedy, stating that his skills of leadership and public service would always be remembered.

American ambassador to Tanzania, Michael Battle said he was sad to hear of the passing of Membe.

“He dedicated his life to public service, and as Foreign Minister he represented Tanzania on the world stage with eloquence and skill. My condolences to his family and all those in Tanzania and elsewhere mourning his loss,” he said.

David Concar, British High Commissioner to Tanzania sent condolences to the government and people of Tanzania over the sad news of the passing of the renowned diplomat.

“He was a top diplomat, voice for international peace and supporter of African democracy. We will remember him with respect and fondness. Apumzike kwa amani,” said Mr Concar.

Zitto Kabwe, the leader of the ACT-Wazalendo party, said he was speechless due to the enormous shock he felt after learning of Membe’s passing.

Membe, according to him, was a capable politician and well-liked diplomat who devoted his life to helping his countrymen.

Mr Kabwe posted on Twitter, “I’m sending condolences to the family, friends, and all people of the Mtama constituency on my behalf and that of members of my party,”

Chadema National Chairperson Freeman Mbowe expressed his shock following   diplomat’s demise, saying: “Membe served in a number of positions. In fact, he was a national treasure. May his soul rest in peace.”

Membe was born in Rondo, Lindi region on November 9, 1953. He served as Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2007 to 2015. He also represented Mtama constituency in the Parliament between 2000 and 2015.

He attended Rondo-Chiponda Extended Primary School for his elementary education before receiving Ordinary secondary education at Namupa Seminary Secondary School. He attended Advanced Secondary Education at Itaga Seminary High School before attending a one-year national service training at the Oljoro Military Camp in Arusha Region.

The soft spoken diplomat then studied political science at the University of Dar es Salaam. He began his career as a security analyst at the office of the President between 1978 and 1989 before proceeding to study International Relations at the John Hopkins University, Washington, DC, from 1990 to 1992. He was assigned to work as an adviser to the Tanzanian High Commissioner in Ottawa, Canada, a role played from 1992 to 2000.

On July 15, 2020, Membe joined the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party, which ultimately fielded him as its presidential candidate in the October election. Membe came third in the final results, losing to CCM’s John Magufuli.

But on May 30, 2022, Membe rejoined CCM after four years after writing a letter asking for readmission.

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