Democracy’s Suicide

Democracy’s Suicide

trumpmagufuliantidemocraticThe presidents of Tanzania and the United States are blood brothers in their defiance of law. I don’t think Tanzania and the U.S. are organically connected politically, but clearly both are being effected by social waves of discontent in the same way.

In both Tanzania and the U.S., two so different societies half-way round the world from one another, both leaders came to power democratically with support from people who now think it’s fine to undermine democracy.

It’s a weakness of democracy: that it can be used to destroy itself.

In a weak and underdeveloped society, Tanzania has cultured a number of very strong local organizations: the local human rights organization, several Maasai political groups come immediately to mind among others, but the most notable one is the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS).

The irony with the TLS is that it was established by an act of Parliament… to be a watchdog on Parliament. It’s less ironic when you realize that this creating act of Parliament was in 1954 when the country was still being governed by Britain. Britain knew independence was coming and it was trying to create institutions that would last beyond its departure.

It wasn’t long after independence that the act was rescinded but it was replaced with another one creating an only slightly different TLS version.

But that was a half century ago. Since then “Tanganyika” federated with Zanzibar and became “Tanzania” but the TLS remained “Tanganyika” as the first indication that it was hardly a government mouthpiece.

The TLS has never shied from speaking its mind and defending democracy and the rule of law. That is particularly difficult in this era of President Magufuli, who is operating like a dictator with probably a majority support of the Tanzanian population.

Several months ago the government threatened to close down the TLS when the chief lawyer for the country’s main opposition party announced he was running for president of the association.

He won and the government backed down when it was learned the organization would simply reconstruct itself outside of a parliamentary mandate. But there are other ways.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted by the courts for his illegal handling of illegal immigrants, specifically for alleged torture and profiling of U.S. Latinos. Long Island law enforcement was censored for its heavy handed attempts to eradicate the MS-13 gang, specifically unwarranted raids against certain bars allegedly frequented by gang members. There are other ways.

President Trump flew to Long Island to praise police action there, and he pardoned Joe Arpaio.

Friday night/Saturday morning an important lawyers’ office in Dar-es-Salaam was bombed. The TLS president knew the outrage that could cause among progressives in the city so he urged everyone to calm down and “let the police do their job.”

Today the TLS completed its investigation and charged the police were the bombers.

Dar police bombing of the TLS is patently illegal. The police, of course, have denied it, but the evidence so far presented by the TLS seems incontrovertible. We’ll have to see if democratic justice in Tanzania has so completely disappeared that there will be no one held to account.

As for us in the U.S. it, too, remains to be seen how much undermining of democracy Trump is capable of.

In the end neither president can survive without public support. Right now President Magufuli seems untouchable. President Trump’s supporters are smaller in percentage than Magufuli’s but perhaps more staunchly behind him than even President Magufuli’s. Trump’s so angry and vocal supporters have neutralized the “equal and separate” branches of government which could do something to bring back the rule of law and the democratic process.

We are witnessing democracy’s suicide.