Dar es Salaam (Agenzia Fides) - Gratitude, but also fear. These are the reactions of the missionaries when they talk about the new Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who took office for a second term last week. "In the first mandate", missionaries who want to remain anonymous, told Fides, "the president stood out for his commitment to building infrastructures. Thanks to the help of China, a historic ally of Tanzania, roads and railways were built, internal and international connections have improved. There is no comparison with the past".
Magufuli was also committed to improving education. "On this point", the missionaries continue, "we can only praise the commitment of the government. It reorganized the teaching staff by choosing the most qualified teachers and offering training to the least trained. It also insisted on the fact that all children must have at least a basic education. The measures affected the entire national territory. It is a very important step forward".
Another element judged positively is the close fight against corruption. "Magufuli - they continue - was relentless towards the corrupt and corruption. He has launched severe policies that have drastically reduced the phenomenon throughout the country and at all levels". These investments have favored an expansion of the economy. A growth that continued in 2020, despite the coronavirus epidemic. The state budget for the 2020-21 fiancial year envisages a growth of 5.5%, although the World Bank estimates it will likely only be around 2.5%.
However, there are also downsides. "What scares us - the missionaries continue - is this president's style of action. A tough, decisive style, at times dictatorial". According to Freedom House, an organization that monitors respect for human rights and democratic values in the world, "the authorities have intensified their efforts to contain opposition parties in recent years. In 2016, the government banned all political demonstrations and rallies outside of the parliamentary term, drastically limiting the parties' ability to mobilize public support. In January 2019, Chama Cha Mapinduzi [CCM, party in power for 50 years, ed] used its parliamentary majority to approve amendments to the law on political parties that further restrict the rights of opposition groups".
The government arrested several high-profile opposition figures in 2019 and 2020, thus continuing a campaign of repression. "Anyone who criticizes the president - the missionaries observe – runs the risk of being stopped by the police and ending up in prison. Opposition politicians, journalists, members of non-governmental organizations disappeared during the elections. Democratic principles are in question. The President himself is trying to break the two-term limitation in order to run for the third time".
"In the country - the missionaries conclude - there is no mention of the Covid-19 emergency or the threats posed by jihadists in the southern districts. The President assures that these dangers are being addressed, but there is no public debate on them. Tanzanians are forced to trust the President and many do, relying entirely on Magufuli and his policies". (E.C.) (Agenzia Fides, 11/11/2020)