The Tanzanian president promises a “crackdown without mercy” on protestors planning country-wide demonstrations September 1, setting up a potential firestorm in the northern safari circuit including Arusha and Moshi.
The protest has been called by the country’s principal opposition party, Chadema, to denounce what they claim is a loss of basic democracy under President John Magufuli.
Magufuli roared into power since standing as the ruling party’s candidate in last year’s president election as a dark horse candidate, winning 58% of the vote. His victory, though, was regional if tribal, badly losing the more developed north.
The “Bulldozer’s” tireless attempts to weed out corruption while mercilessly getting a grip on the country’s horrible finances initially attracted unusual praise from foreign donors.
That dissipated after Magufuli voided what most foreign observers considered a free and fair election in Zanzibar that would have brought to power persons opposed to him. The U.S. halted a half billion dollars in aid, followed by similar suspensions in European country assistance.
Magufuli reacted with a political Bronx cheer.
Foreign donors’ now critical stance of Magufuli’s rapid and ruthless consolidation of power has fueled “Ukuta” (Swahili for “wall” or “barrier”), the planned September 1 demonstration to denounce Magufuli’s “strong-arm tactics” and suppression of democracy.
Just like terrorism, freedom is insuppressible.
Magufuli has absolutely acted extra-legally, just like Mubarak did for years in Egypt. But like the country run by Magufuli’s new and trusted friend, Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, Tanzania is currently more stable and financially better off than it was before.
More and more around the world we’re seeing a stark standoff between freedom and stability. Whether it’s the thug whose Filipino presidency has brought a measure of law and order to that wild west place, or now Magufuli who has broken numerous laws to stop corruption, freedom in the developing world means the right to be wrong.
Strong-arm presidents, dictators and other Castros consolidate their initial power because they curtail the worst of human behavior.
At the expense of freedom.
And that’s what’s happening in northern Tanzania, today, particularly among its youth. Just as in Egypt five years ago, the young, well educated and poorly employed Tanzanian young adult is fed up that their government won’t provide them with the same opportunities my own children have.
The complexities of the global market, the greed and power of the have’s – let it all be damned! There’s got to be a better way, right?
The people of Ukuta think they know the way.
The bulldozer thinks he knows better.
Watch the streets on September 1.