Raila Odinga on President John Magufuli

President John Magufuli of Tanzania

The former prime minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, said of Dr. John Pombe Magufuli, “He was determined to put Tanzania ahead in the region and Africa through industrialisation. … His primary business was Tanzania. Outside Tanzania, his other business was Africa. He … embraced some of the founding President Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere’s ideals on patriotism, nationalism and self-reliance for his country. In about six-years, he went farther than Mwalimu Nyerere in trying to economically empower his people. While Mwalimu Nyerere embraced internationalism and had a broader view of the world and Tanzania’s place in it, Dr Magufuli was a super nationalist … Where Mwalimu Nyerere was a constant voice on the global stage, especially for Africa and the Third World, Dr Magulfuli reserved his voice and energy for Tanzania…. Dr Magufuli was, however, overly successful in transforming Tanzania in just about six years. He transformed Tanzania’s highways, ports, created Rapid Bus Transit to decongest Dar es Salaam and delivered SGR at a competitive rate, all because of a crackdown on corruption. Despite all these, Dr Magufuli’s … pushed hard the idea that success comes from hard work. In Tanzania today, people report to offices very early and they do not just sit there, they work. … May Dr Magufuli fare well in the next world.” [Raila Odinga, former Prime minister of Kenya in MarketWatch.com]

President John Magufuli in His Own Words

President John Magufuli of Tanzania

President John Pombe Magufuli has shown us, Africans, just like Thomas Sankara, that you do not need 20 or 40 years in power to make palpable improvement to the lives of Africans. Just look at what this man was able to achieve in 5 years! It is so reminiscent of Thomas Sankara‘s 4 years in power where he eradicated hunger, had roads and railways built by the local people, and influenced generations. So to all those African dinosaurs, the sellouts, or to anybody who applaud those treacherous creatures, please let them know that it is possible to get Africans out of poverty! All that is needed is visionary leaders who love their own… who love their fellow humans and not just their pockets! As always, we need to remember not to fall into the trap of democracy [Africans and the Trap of Democracy] laid out by the west, where democracy is a word used by the West against any government which does not abide by their will, and does not sell out to them…

Below are some of the quotes by the great man Dr. John Pombe Magufuli. May he rest in Power! Enjoy!

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As the 5th president of Tanzania, John Magufuli vowed, “My government will put emphasis on fighting corruption, job creation and industrialization.

To fight against corruption he said, “The way to treat a boil is to squeeze it out, and I have made it my responsibility to do that. I know squeezing out a boil hurts but unfortunately, there are no two ways about it.

Flag of Tanzania

Reflecting on his youth, as the son of a farmer, and on his knowledge of the people’s conditions, and need to make their lives better, Magufuli said, “Our home was grass thatched and like many boys I was assigned to herd cattle, as well as selling milk and fish to support my family, I know what it means to be poor. I will strive to help improve people’s welfare.

As soon as he was elected, he divided his own salary by four, making him one of the lowest-paid African heads of state, cut public spending drastically, cancelled independence ceremonies as too costly, and began sweeping the streets of Dar es Salaam himself to set an example. As said earlier, this is reminiscent of what Thomas Sankara did in Burkina Faso.

Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, and includes about 120 different African tribes. Believing in the unity of Tanzanians, Magufuli said, “It’s now time for us to unite and put our ideological differences aside, I will work hard for all Tanzanians regardless of their tribal, religious or ideological affiliations.”

John Magufuli was a doctor of chemistry, and had both taught chemistry and mathematics at the Sengerema Secondary School, before joining the Nyanza Cooperative Union Limited as an industrial chemist.With a PhD in Chemistry, he was among the top 5 most educated Presidents in Africa. He said, “You cannot talk of preserving the environment when the majority of the citizens are depending on charcoal or wood for most of their energy source;” there needs to be other ways, focusing first on getting them out of poverty.

President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania

African countries’ economic capacity is not the same as that of developed countries,” Magufuli told a televised meeting of top security organs. He singled out the World Bank, which has been offering new lending to nations on the continent to help them tackle the health crisis. “Instead of offering more loans to fight corona, they should forgive debts,” the president said [see… the west is always eager to give out loans at high rates, why not remove the unfair debt they have put on African countries? remember Thomas Sankara Speech on Debt and Unity?]. Tanzania spends 700 billion shillings ($303.03 million) every month to service its debts, with close to 200 billion shillings going to the World Bank, Magufuli said.

In 2020, after his re-election, he said, “As you are aware, elections have been a source of conflict in many countries, but we Tanzanians have safely passed this test. This is proof to the world that Tanzanians are peace-loving, and we have matured in our democracy.”

Dr John Magufuli was a remarkable economic leader, who understood that food security is a national security issue that needs the highest attention. He fought for his people, and loved them deeply. He was a nationalist!

I live you here with the speech by the Africant poet, Obert Dube. Enjoy!!!

So Long to President John Magufuli of Tanzania: The Bulldozer

President John Magufuli of Tanzania (Source: eahealth.org)

My heart is bleeding from the news of the passing of President John Magufuli of Tanzania. When I learned the news, all I could think of were Bob Marley‘s words “How long shall they kill our prophets …?” As you scroll through the media, all Western world newspapers seem so cheerful announcing that the African president who was a coronavirus denier has died, brushing away the legacy of this man and what he has done for the people of Tanzania and of Africa in general. President John Magufuli passed away yesterday on March 17, of a heart attack! Odd for this very healthy man who was seen doing push-ups with soldiers just a few weeks ago. So who was John Magufuli?

John Pombe Magufuli was born on October 29, 1959 in the Chato region of then Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1988. Later, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in chemistry from the same university in 1994 and 2009, respectively. I was happy to learn that he had attended the Mkwawa High School, named after the great king Mkwawa who defied and defeated the Germans, and later Mkwawa College of Education at the University of Dar es Salaam.

King Mkwawa

For years he was a secondary school teacher and then a chemist with a farmers’ cooperative union before entering politics as a lawmaker representing Chato in the National Assembly. He also worked as an industrial chemist before going into politics under the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. He was elected a member of parliament in 1995 and that same year appointed deputy minister of works, later becoming full minister in 2000. He served in several Cabinet positions, notably as the hardworking public works minister nicknamed “the bulldozer” in the administration of predecessor Jakaya Kikwete. In 2010, he gained popularity after he was appointed Tanzania’s minister for works and transportation for the second time. His bullish leadership style and fight against graft in the road construction industry was endearing for Tanzanians, who affectionately nicknamed him “the bulldozer.” Under his leadership, Tanzania saw growth and development. For instance, to leave Dar es Salaam the capital could take 4 hours, but Magufuli had so many roads build, that in just a few years, Tanzania was seen under a brand new lens.

Flag of Tanzania

He ran as president in 2015 and won 58% of the vote, defeating Edward Lowassa of the Chadema opposition party. He had a reputation as an incorruptible man. In 2015, the newly elected Magufuli made news on his first day in office. He showed up unannounced in the morning at the Ministry of Finance offices to see how many officials had come to work on time (this is reminiscent of Thomas Sankara). That week he also banned unnecessary trips by government officials, as an austerity measure. He soon canceled Independence Day celebrations and said the funds budgeted for the event would be used to improve roads and infrastructure in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital; he also urged citizens to clean up their communities to fight a cholera outbreak. Magufuli also fired a number of top government officials in his anti-corruption crusade. Under his command, his government passed laws to increase Tanzania’s stake in its mineral resources and demanded millions of dollars in back taxes from foreign mining companies, giving itself the right to renegotiate or terminate bad mining contracts in the event of proven fraud, which these multinationals did not appreciate; after all they are used to plundering Africa without paying a dime, so you can imagine their anger.

Map of Tanzania

Magufuli was focused on Tanzania’s economic success and sought to implement ambitious projects that would lift more of his people out of poverty. Under his reign, he expanded free education, and rural electrification. Scores of infrastructure programs, including trains and railways, a hydropower dam set to double electricity output, and the revival of Air Tanzania, were launched. Tanzania is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and in July 2020 the World Bank categorized it as a middle-income country five years ahead of schedule. “We had envisaged achieving this status by 2025 but, with strong determination, this has been possible in 2020,” Magufuli tweeted at the time.

In Tanzania, President Magufuli was a popular figure. His lean government and cost-cutting measures greatly earned him respect among citizens. As said earlier, he embarked on major infrastructure projects such as the port of Bagamoyo, and upgrading the Dar-es-Salaam International Airport. His hands-on war against corruption was admired not just in Tanzania — but the entire continent. “Magufuli came in on the platform of fighting corruption and empowering the masses,” Martin Adati, a Kenyan political analyst, told DW. “It is the people who have been benefiting from corruption and all these other funny things who are not very happy with him.”Magufuli remained a popular figure at home

President John Magufuli of Tanzania

So, why are Bob Marley’s words on my mind “How long shall they kill our prophets…?” Isn’t it strange that in Africa, the best ones are always the ones dying while the ones who are selling out their countries to the West are still standing? You know, the ones like P.B., I.D., S.N., F.E., A.B., ADO, P.K., M.S., and all of them? They can murder their populations, impoverish them, open their frontiers to all sorts of experiments by the big multinationals, and they stay so long in power… oh, and they get accolades from Western media as well. Isn’t it odd that this is the second president to die in office in East Africa, after Pierre Nkurunziza last year? And both were called “deniers” by the west? We have to pray for the people of Tanzania, because this might open the door to all sorts of funky business, nullifying Magufuli’s legacy, name, and efforts, and killing the wind of independence which was blowing on other African countries as well. May the spirits of Mirambo, Mkwawa, Nyerere, and Magufuli watch over Tanzania! So long President Magufuli, we liked your “bulldozer” style, because it included us, the people!

Mirambo: the Black Napoleon

Mirambo, towards the end of his life
Mirambo, towards the end of his life

Today, I will talk about Mirambo, the man the explorer Henry Morton Stanley first referred to as a bandit, and later on as the Napoleon of Africa for his military prowess.  Who was Mirambo?

Map of Tanzania
Map of Tanzania

Born Mbula Mtelya, Mirambo is the man who revolutionized nineteenth century Tanzania, and made it hard for the Germans to conquer the region: he united the numerous Nyamwezi tribes, and gained control over Swahili-Arab trade routes.  Mirambo was the leader of the Nyamwezi people on a 200,000 km2 territory south of Lake Nyanza (Lake Victoria), and east of Lake Tanganyika.  He was not a vulgar chief of brigands as the Arab traders made Stanley believe in 1871, but his links to different families of Ntemi (kings) were a little bit blurred as many historians had mixed up dynastic and genealogical lineages, different in a matrilineal system such as that of the Nyamwezis.  In 1858, Mirambo managed to inherit the chiefdom of Uyowa from his father, Kasanda, who was a renowned warrior; he was only 18 years old.  In 1860, he joined two chiefdoms located 100 km west of Tabora, in the kingdom of Unyanyembe.  He learned the Ngoni language (Ngoni people trace their origin to the Zulu people of KwaZulu Natal), as well as their military techniques.  Later in 1860, he conquered the neighboring territory of Ulyankuru.

Map of Mirambo's kingdom
Map of Mirambo’s kingdom

He then moved his capital to Iseramagazi where he built a Boma, a fortified residence, with walls made up of dry bricks, retrenchments and hedges of euphorbia flowers.  From his father and mother, he was a descendent of Mshimba (lion), the last ruler of the legendary kingdom of Usagali, and Mirambo was thus recreating the old empire.  Thus in 1860, he created a new Nyamwezi state, the Urambo, from the name he had adopted for himself, ‘corpses‘ in kinyamwezi, Mirambo.  From 1860 to 1870, he strengthened his authority along the banks of the river Gombe, i.e. on the road to Ujiji, thereby threatening to block the Arab commerce in the area.  In 1871, he defeated the Arab traders at Tabora.  The Sultan of Zanzibar, Barghash bin Said, retaliated by sending 3000 soldiers (2000 Swahili, and 1000 Balutchi).  Mirambo’s resistance was one of the most fierce: Nyamwezi’s fighters would go as far as melting their copper bracelets to make bullets for their guns.  A compromise was made to keep commerce flowing with the coast: caravans could pass after paying a tax (hongo) to Mirambo.

Illustration of the Ntemi of Urambo, Mirambo (from James William Buels Heroes of the Dark Continent (1890))
Illustration of the Ntemi of Urambo, Mirambo (from James William Buels Heroes of the Dark Continent (1890))

Every year, during the dry season, Mirambo would dispatch his ruga-ruga in all directions to continue the expansion of his territory.  From 1876 to 1878, the territory was expanded to the north, up to the southern banks of Lake Victoria.  From 1879 to 1881, expansion to the west toward Uvinza, for the control of Lake Tanganyika.  The Muhambwe of King Ruhaga fell under Nyamwezi domination, and the Ruguru of King Ntare had to seek protection from Mirambo and agree to the presence of a ruga-ruga post on the eastern border of his kingdom.  In 1879, there was also the expansion towards Burundi.  His alliance with the Ngoni fell apart in the early 1880sHe was greatly hated by the Arabs who used to dominate the commerce in the region, and other neighboring kings who feared him, and the Europeans who saw in him as a powerful adversary.  After 1881, the Arabs managed to convince the International African Association (AIA – Association Internationale Africaine), a European power created under King Leopold II’s initiative to inflict an embargo on arms and munitions on Mirambo (yup… European unions already inflicted embargo on arms back then).  The goal of the AIA was to “open up central Africa to civilization.”  At first Mirambo’s army succeeded in entering Burundi by surprise using a feud between the local king and his brother, but in 1884, his army was defeated by Burundi warriors (aided by Ngoni warriors).  After his defeat in Burundi, and another defeat against the alliance of the Arabs and the Ntemi of Bukune, Mirambo’s troops were led by Mpandashalo as he was increasingly sick.  Mirambo died on 2 December 1884.

Flag of Tanzania
Flag of Tanzania

Mirambo was a strong and ambitious leader.  He expanded his authority and influence over a number of Nyamwezi chiefs.  One of his challenges was to devise a political system that would allow him to consolidate his power, while ever expanding his territory.  For that, he made sure not to change the structure of the Nyamwezi’s society: once in power, he would usually choose a successor from the same family.  As long as the new chiefs pledged allegiance to him, they would be left to go about their political duties.  The conquered chiefs had to provide troops at all times.  His greatest strength was military.  He used surprise as a tactical ployHis capital was both a military and economic center.  He had two residences: Iseramagazi from 1879, and Ikonongo from 1881.

Mirambo was actually a simple man, deeply rooted in his culture and traditions, but also very curious of the world.  He was a man of order and progress, who will set the price of commodities in the capital’s markets, and regulated the consumption of alcohol in his kingdoms (he thought that alcohol weakened societies – just like Gungunyane), and meditated on the decadence of Africa in the 19th centuryHe was nostalgic of the magnificent ancient African capitals, and kingdomsIn essence, Mirambo had 4 faces: the traditional king, the warrior leader, the state builder, and the modernizer. To learn more, go to: ThinkAfricaPress.com, BlackPast.org, and Les Africains, Vol. 6, editions J.A, C.-A. Julien, P. 127-157, (1977).