AU and SADC must act on Tanzania

CityPress - - Voices -

When he took of­fice three years ago Tanzania’s Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli looked as if he would pos­i­tively dif­fer­en­ti­ate him­self from the strong­men and klep­to­crats who run some of Africa’s coun­tries.

He im­me­di­ately moved to curb govern­ment ex­cesses by cutting the size of Cabi­net, forc­ing min­is­ters and bu­reau­crats to drive cheaper ve­hi­cles, ban­ning un­nec­es­sary over­seas jaunts and even can­celling In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions and redi­rect­ing the money to anti-cholera pro­jects.

The world ap­plauded. Tan­za­ni­ans, so used to profli­gacy at the top, fell in love with Magu­fuli and nick­named him The Bull­dozer for the force­ful man­ner he used to push through his pro­gramme. The love af­fair was not to last long.

The Bull­dozer soon be­gan bul­ly­ing op­po­si­tion and civil so­ci­ety. He be­came an au­thor­i­tar­ian leader of his own gov­ern­ing party.

Dur­ing his ten­ure there has been a con­certed crack­down on gay peo­ple. The “breath of fresh air” leader dis­cour­aged birth con­trol be­cause, he said, that was for lazy peo­ple who are scared to work to feed large fam­i­lies; and he threat­ened to ban girls who fell preg­nant from re­turn­ing to school.

In the tin­pot dic­ta­tor­ship that Magu­fuli is creat­ing the me­dia has nat­u­rally been in his sights. Me­dia out­lets have been shut down, jour­nal­ists ha­rassed and threat­ened, and the press has been warned by Magu­fuli to “be care­ful, watch it”.

This week South African jour­nal­ist An­gela Quin­tal and her Kenyan coun­ter­part Muthoki Mumo, who were in the coun­try work­ing for the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, were in­ex­pli­ca­bly de­tained, an ex­am­ple of Magu­fuli’s at­ti­tude to­wards me­dia free­dom, hu­man rights and democ­racy.

The African Union (AU) and the SA De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) must not stand by idly while an­other coun­try slides back­wards and drags the con­ti­nent with it.

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