Tanzania President Denies Suppressing Democracy


Tanzania President John Magufuli has denied criticism that his regime is “suppressing democracy” for the sake of developing the country’s economy.

Having just passed the one-year mark as Tanzania’s newest leader, the jury is still out on what kind of president Magufuli will be. During the early months of his tenure, there was hardly a bad word printed about ‘The Bulldozer’. However, many now accuse Magufuli of shaping up as a dictator who tramples on democracy in favour of development and consolidating power.


My government supports democracy

Speaking to the BBC in a recent interview, Magufuli was asked by journalist Sammy Awami to respond to critics calling him undemocratic. The president insisted his government is pro-democracy:

“Criticisms and praises should be expected of any administration, I see my government as one supporting democracy as opposed to suppressing it,” Magufuli said. However, the Tanzanian also warned about the limitations of democracy and questioned the concept of what a dictatorship actually is.

“Dictatorship is a perception by some people and everyone has his/her own view of the term,” he added.


Democracy vs development

The questions raised about Magufuli are nothing new – in fact, they’ve become the standard discourse when any African leader prioritizes national development over democratic ideals.

After just one year, Magufuli looks like he could join the likes of Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni and some of the biggest success stories in East Africa’s modern history. The problem with all of these regimes, however, is human rights and democratic ideals take a back seat while economic prosperity and national security are priorities.

Presidents who want to develop their countries as fast as possible and maintain their power struggle to follow the democratic handbook. In Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, and now Tanzania, economic development has come at the expense of some cut-throat decisions by their respective leaders.

It’s a model that’s worked for so many of East Africa’s leading nations that experts are questioning whether it’s possible to have the kind of rapid development African nations need and democracy in the same regime.


Featured image: YouTube

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.