President Magufuli's Legacy--Productive Versus Useless African Dictators

Gen. Museveni
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Gen. Museveni is the classic "useless" dictator.

[My Free Thoughts]

In Tanzania from the ashes of President John Magufuli’s tragedy arose a Zanzibari woman, Hassan Samia Siluhu, as president to finish what the deceased and exemplary pan Africanist began. Will she also continue the ugly side of Magufuli’s legacy?

After her swearing in ceremony before a fully packed and brimming stadium, this first woman president of Tanzania—also the first in East Africa—said that she would begin from where her late predecessor stopped when claws of death hijacked him from this world and cast him far beyond.

Upon hearing that statement, I wondered whether the “fair skinned woman in hijab”, as Magufuli would refer to her often, would also continue the crackdown on critics which Magufuli had introduced in Tanzania.

Magufuli over-achieved in his six years of presidency, including on his anti-poverty drive and his fight against poverty. Other African rulers like Uganda’s useless autocrat Gen. Yoweri Museveni has not come close to his achievement after 35 years in power.  At the same time, Magufuli imposed forced disappearances and arbitrary imprisonment of critics, many journalists, and members of the opposition.

The civic space in Tanzania shrunk and the enactment of repressive laws became the order of the day in 2015 when he rose to power. Just like the late Lee Kuan Yew who transformed Singapore into a First World country, Magufuli’s administration can be termed a “useful” dictatorship.

Reading the autobiography, From Third World to First: The Singapore Story - 1965-2000, which is over 1,000 pages, the founding father of Singapore, you would agree that Magufuli was a great student of Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore leader was also accused of dictatorship and enacting repressive laws. Yet, since the country developed at an incredible rate, his flaws were downplayed. In Africa the dictators have no legacies of achievement to point toward.

Even with his economic achievements Magufuli’s legacy is mixed. So what about the totally useless dictators like Gen. Museveni, who pursue their insatiable thirst for power while the countries they rule sink into a bottomless abyss of foreign debt, domestic corruption, poverty, impoverishment, and lawlessness?

Will President Siluhu now rescind the repressive laws so Tanzanians can regain their political freedom and other liberties? Will she stop recklessly appearing in public without wearing a mask or social distancing as she and Magufuli previously did? Will she abolish the medieval policy that expels girls from school if they become pregnant? Will she encourage women to be “ovary free” as Magufuli did, and ignore family planning?

President Hassan Samia Siluhu can maintain Magufuli’s economic development pace for Tanzania while abandoning the authoritarianism. Tanzania can be a model for other African countries. 


Columnist and author Rukirabashaija is a Museveni regime torture victim. He can be reached via Kakwenzarukirabashaija@gmail.com 

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