Tanzania’s Defense and National Service Minister Elias Kwandikwa died on Monday night in Dar es Salaam, the office of the president said on Tuesday.
“We have lost an important person whose contribution in the public service will not be forgotten. He was a strong leader who was implementing his duties in accordance with the law and regulations,” the presidency said in a statement, with no mention of the cause of death.
Kwandikwa, 55, has become the first high-ranking official in Tanzania to die since President Samia Suluhu Hassan assumed power in March following the death of her predecessor John Magufuli.
The death of Kwandikwa is a setback to the government as the country is working to defend its territorial integrity since the outbreak of violent insurgency in Mozambique.
The president sent a message of condolences to Gen. Venance Mabeyo, chief of Tanzania’s Defense Forces, over the death of Kwandikwa.
Stargomena Tax, executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community, said the late minister will be remembered for his immense contribution in dealing with violent extremism in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
“We have received with great sadness the news of his passing, may the almighty God rest his soul in eternal peace” she tweeted.
Kwandikwa, who was a member of parliament for the Ushetu constituency in the impoverished Shinyanga region, was born on July 1, 1966. He had also worked as deputy minister of works, transport and communications since October 2017.