The tale of late Tanzanian president John Magufuli, who remained COVID-skeptic until his death of the same disease, portrayed a sad story of the messed up international relations of Tanzania.
At the time when the US Vice-President Kamala Harris invites the New Tanzania President Samia Suluhu for the betterment of the bilateral relations, it is high time for Samia to take this offer seriously.
With the US cooperation, Tanzania has places to go by winning contributions in vaccine distribution, dealing with the healthcare crisis, deteriorated freedom of speech practices, and the lack of human rights.
Will Samia Suluhu learn from the mistakes made by Magufuli, or will it just be another autocratic regime? Will Samia be able to transform the negative image of Tanzania in times when her predecessor left no stone unturned in destructing it? Let’s see.
Kamala Harris Extension of Cordial Relations to Tanzania:
The US Vice President Kamala Harris is a woman of color who can find a cultural bond with Tanzanians. This is one of the reasons why she has already extended her arms to work with the new Tanzanian government.
As Samia Suluhu took office, Kamala Harris congratulated and added that,
“The United States stands ready to work with you (Samia Suluhu) to strengthen relations between our countries.”
At a time when the World Health Organization (WHO) was refraining from self-medication during COVID, Magufuli imported herbal drinks as a COVID cure from Madagascar.
Instead of trusting the proven remedies, he relied on Madagascar just because it was located in Africa. Madagascar, which claimed to prepare herbal remedies and exported them to a score of countries, including Tanzania, was itself strangled in the coronavirus crisis and asked the health companies to flee the crisis.
As Madagascar’s herbal remedy got traction among the other countries, John Magufuli also sent a special state plane to Madagascar to acquire unproven herbal remedies.
The cure named COVID-organics was just tested on less than twenty people when Magufuli decided to import it for the masses of Tanzania. This put Tanzanians’ lives in even more trouble.
With Samia Suluhu in office, she has the opportunity to show the same urgency as that of Magufuli, but to acquire the vaccines from the USA instead of the unproven drugs from some third world country.
On an urgent priority, she should send planes to developed nations like the US to acquire vaccines as soon as possible.
Tanzania has much to gain while working with foreign countries, especially the United States, under the Biden administration.
Biden is reopening the relations with the international community that Donald Trump curtailed to a great extent.
Deteriorated US-Tanzania Relations Amid Populist President in Office
was the populist president who became the “voice of the people” during his tenure.
Despite a lot of corruption scandals in the Tanzanian public sector, John Magufuli kept himself away from corruption in spite of the abundance of infrastructure projects in Tanzania during his tenure.
Infrastructure projects are often characterized as the most corrupt projects due to the margin of corruption in them, but keeping himself away from corruption won him the populist tag.
Not only this, but he also promised to fight against corruption while reforming the civil service and eradicating unemployment from the youth.
All of this was enough for the Tanzanians to hold him high on their shoulders, for which he was known as the populist president.
The relations even tensed in the last days of the Trump administration, when the former secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed restrictions on Tanzanian officials for undermining the domestic elections.
As John Magufuli won almost 84.40% votes in the elections, the elections were widely criticized, not only in Tanzania but also in the international community.
Despite the strong candidature, his competitor succeeded in winning only 13.04% of the votes, which raised many eyebrows.
For this very reason, the elections were called rigged by many, including the United States Embassy in Tanzania said that they have “credible allegations of significant election-related fraud and intimidation.”
This came at a time when Trump himself was undermining the US presidential elections.
The Shattered Infrastructure of Tanzanian Foreign Policy with the USA
With the new presidents in both the United States and Tanzania, it is time for the African country to mend its relations with the superpowers to benefit from the countries across the globe.
Tanzania is a food-insecure country, having poverty vested in its roots. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), almost 23.8% of the country’s population suffer from severe food insecurity.
This results in the stunted growth of children, as 31.8% of children under five-years-old are suffering from stunted growth, as per the same organization.
The problem with Tanzania is that while, on the one hand, it failed in its domestic policies, on the other hand, it also failed to maintain healthy relations with the international community.
As the countries worldwide started vaccination campaigns to save their people, the late Tanzanian president opined that Tanzanian people were used as the pigs on whom the vaccines have been used for experimentation.
This shows a conspiracist mindset of the president towards the west as most of the vaccines were coming from western countries.
Humanitarian Crisis: The Basic Problem of US with Tanzania
Tanzania is often criticized for its worst humanitarian practices, for which it is censured by human rights watchdogs.
According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), in 2017, the Tanzanian president imposed a ban on young mothers and pregnant girls from attending schools.
Police started arresting those pregnant girls and coerced them to reveal the identity of the child’s father.
The late Tanzanian president even did a crackdown on the opposition parties by amending the 2002 political parties act.
Not only this, but the freedom of speech in the country is also next to none, for which it has no proper media infrastructure.
It has penalized journalists for reporting against the government. These practices also impacted the US and Tanzanian relations as the US Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menendez, described the situation in Tanzania as “the gradual downward spiral of respect for civil liberties in Tanzania.”
This speaks volumes about the US concerns about the various deteriorated practices in Tanzania under Magufuli’s doctrine.
The concerns of the United States in Tanzania primarily revolve around the lack of democracy in the country, Tanzania’s negligence of the children and women’s health, the hunger crisis, a nosediving economy, and the poor wildlife conservation.
Samia Suluhu: Will She Walk on Magufuli’s Path?
The US extension of good relations with Tanzania seems to be a good opportunity for the Tanzanian government. However, the new president is also a follower of the late president as she served as a vice president during Magifuli’s tenure.
Many experts expect her to heal the nation deeply divided in politics and shattered with the lack of fundamental rights.
Will she stay on the path set by her predecessor, or lead a nation towards a new dawn? Only time will tell the truth, but a big responsibility lies on her shoulder to take the offer from the United States seriously to heal the country’s relation with the superpower.
Accepting Kamala’s invitation of warm relations will help Tanzania acquire vaccine doses for the COVID-hit population and revamp the everlasting poverty in the country.
She can also explore some avenues to work with the United States for the betterment of the overall healthcare facilities, which never got traction from any government in the past.
Samia Suluhu must know the changing dynamics of global politics to realize that no country can survive alone in today’s globalized world. The Tanzanian government should also put aside the prejudices against the west that they have been feeding for ages.
Without that, they have no future ahead. As the countries worldwide are vaccinating their masses, the Tanzanian government should also make it possible by working with the US and the other vaccine-donating lands.
This way, Samia Suluhu would be drifted away from the late COVID-skeptic president, who played religious cards to appease the majority in the country.