Tanzanian conjoined sisters, Maria and Consolata Mwakikuti who became famous when they began their studies at a Tanzanian university in September 2017, have died at the age of 21 following a long illness, the president of the east African nation announced on Sunday.

They were joined at the abdomen, became minor celebrities in Tanzania where the media had closely followed their path through high school.

Their admission to the Ruaha Catholic University in Iringa in September, 2017 had marked it the first in a country where disabled people are often marginalised or abandoned at birth.

They had begun a course in education with a view to becoming teachers in history, English and Swahili, when they became ill in January, notably suffering from cardiac problems.

In a tweet by President John Magufuli, he said, “I am saddened by the death of twins, Maria and Consolata. When I last visited them at the hospital, they prayed for the nation. My condolences to their family… Rest in peace my children,”

After an improvement in their health, the sisters continued their treatment at a hospital near their university, where they died on Saturday.

The twins were taken in by catholic mission when abandoned by their mother after the death of their father.

Maria in an emotional statement on the state television last July, said parents should not “Hide or lock up their handicapped children”.

“They must know that as human beings, handicapped or not, are equal and have the same rights,”

On their admission into the university, Consolata said, “We didn’t expect this day to come, it is by the grace of God that we are here today.”

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