Tanzania: President Threatens Crackdown on Protesters
Tanzania President John Magufuli threatened protestors on Friday, promising to crackdown “without mercy”.
Magufuli gave his warning the day after an opposition party called for anti-government demonstration on September 1. The president, nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for his no-nonsense approach, says he won’t tolerate violence on the streets of Tanzania.
‘Do not test me’
“Do not test me,” the president told a crowd in central Tanzania. “I don’t want violence in this country,” he claimed. “I will deal with anyone who causes violence thoroughly and without mercy.”
Tanzania’s main opposition group CHADEMA said on Thursday it would hold rallies across the nation, in protest of government actions since Magufuli came into office.
This follows opposition protests in June, when security forces used teargas to disperse crowds. The police then announced an indefinite ban on all opposition protests. However, the move did little to deter the opposition judging by comments made on Thursday.
“We will hold these rallies and demonstrations in defiance to the order issued by the president and the police,” CHADEMA chairman Freeman Mbowe told journalists. Magufili promptly replied with his warning on Friday.
Magufuli’s changing tone
Magufuli will mark his first year as President of Tanzania on November 5. His first months in office made headlines across Africa, praising his hard stance against corruption and government spending. His reputation among Western powers quickly soared, pinning him as the new hope for African democracy.
However, opposition members started criticising some of his moves in a matter of months. That’s hardly a surprise, coming from an opposition party but the nature of their complaints sounds very familiar.
They accuse the president of being undemocratic, following the suspension of seven opposition lawmakers. Then his decision to ban live TV coverage of parliamentary debates sparked the recent calls for demonstrations.
Such moves aren’t enough to condemn Magufuli as undemocratic at this stage but they do hint of the authoritarian ‘democracies’ to emerge in East Africa. However, a ban on protests and threats to clamp down without mercy sound like textbook moves from the transitions we’ve seen in Rwanda and Ethiopia.
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