Zanzibar, Tanzania – Condolences poured in from around the world on Thursday after the death of Tanzanian President John Magufuli, as many wonder how the East African country could change in the absence of a beloved, hated and feared leader.
In a televised speech, the country’s Vice President Samia Suluhu said the 61-year-old president died of “heart disease” at a hospital in Dar-Es-Salaam, an illness she said ‘he had been wrestling for 10 years. .
“We have lost our great leader,” she said. The country will enter a two-week mourning period, as funeral preparations are underway.
As with much of his five-year presidency, Magufuli’s decline in health and subsequent death has been marred by controversy. The president disappeared from public view at the end of February, leading to much speculation that he had contracted COVID-19.
As recently as last week, government officials said the president was in good health and working hard. Several people have been arrested for spreading rumors that the president was ill. The wave of speculation over his health came after Magufuli, who had previously played down the coronavirus threat, admitted COVID-19 was still a threat in Tanzania.
From infrastructure development to the suppression of political and civil rights, Magufuli’s leadership left an important legacy that many have yet to fully understand.
“You fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith,” tweeted Humphrey Pole Pole, publicity and ideology secretary of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential party, and prominent Magufuli loyalist.
ACT Wazalendo opposition party leader Zitto Kabwe described the situation as unprecedented and “moving us all in a very personal way.”
In a tweet Thursday, lawyer and rights activist Fatma Karume called the Magufuli administration five “horrible” years.
“But I am grateful and proud to have kept my humanity even when evil was the order of the day. Thank you to everyone who made these 5 years bearable, ”she said on Twitter.
It’s been a horrible 5 years in #Tanzania but I am grateful and proud to have kept my HUMANITY even when evil was the order of the day. Thank you to everyone who made these 5 years bearable.
– fatma karume aka aunt (@fatma_karume) March 17, 2021
The Constitution provides that in the event of death, the Vice President should assume leadership and complete the current term, until the next election.
As such, the soft-spoken Hassan, from the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, would become the first female ruler in Tanzania and the East African region as a whole.
However, as of the end of Thursday, there was no confirmation of plans for a groundbreaking ceremony. The vice president will address the nation on Friday about Magufuli’s burial arrangements, government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said on state television on Thursday evening.
“During this difficult time, we expect the new president to provide the leadership and unity we need. We wish him blessings, courage and patience, ”Kabwe said.
His ascendancy as president would raise questions as to whether there may be a shift in the direction of politics and politics in the country, particularly with regard to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and in the areas civil and political rights; two sets of questions on which Magufuli had aroused strong criticism.
Columnist and political analyst Elsie Eyakuze said she hoped the opposition would find new platforms that enrich and diversify public life.
“I imagine that many restrictions on civil liberties could be relaxed, and I anticipate a change in political flavor, as is the case for every incumbent. I cannot speculate on what his death means for the ruling party. I hope that we can return to the multiparty democracy on which we were working to develop between 1995 and 2015, ”said Eyakuze.
Dan Paget, a professor at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, agreed it was too early to know how Magufuli’s death would affect the ruling party.
“It is not known how the actions of the regime will change, but a new leader is an opportunity to wash away the sins of the past, in words even if not in deeds. I expect at least a sham reform, perhaps a change of course on COVID-19, and symbolic liberalizations. Whether or not Tanzania changes its course on authoritarianism or whatever depends on the extent to which there is a changing of the guard, ”he said.