Last week I had queried why the European Union had released COVID support funds to a country that is allegedly free of the virus. I was wondering where the 27 million EUROS were spent. Could it be that the money has been spent on installing saunas at two national hospitals? Oh yes, this is President Magufulis latest stunt.
Yesterday, The Citizen reported the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) and Mloganzila had installed four steam inhalation rooms to treat respiratory challenges, the codeword for COVID in Tanzania. Each cabin can accommodate up to six people and, of course, a never-ending opportunity for the virus to spread and mutate. This is madness, yet there is hardly any criticism from the western governments over Magufulis continuing negligence. To add to this, Tanzania Election Watch yesterday concluded the election last year was not free and fair. Opposition party leaders were arrested and police vehicles patrolled Pemba and Zanzibar Islands, where security forces shot and killed several civilians on claims of being aligned with the opposition. To give this context, Zanzibar is semi-autonomous. Imagine this happening in the UK’s devolved nations.
When Magufuli claimed victory last year, the US embassy in Dar es Salaam said that “irregularities and the overwhelming margins of victory raise serious doubts about the credibility of the results”. The US embassy has been a vocal critic, recently calling out the criminal handling of COVID by the Magufuli government. I don’t understand why the UK government isn’t adding its voice; our man in Dar-es-Salam, David Concar, remains suspiciously quiet. The UK has a responsibility given its colonial links, G7 leadership and also Tanzania’s membership of the Commonwealth.
According to the OECD, Tanzania is one of the leading aid recipients in the African continent despite the decline in human rights and authoritarian regime. Denmark has frozen funding to Tanzania, saying it was withholding $10 million worth of aid over concerns about policies that threaten gay people. Magufuli response to this was he prefers assistance from China, as Beijing imposes fewer human rights conditions.
Western countries need to follow Denmark’s lead. Yes, there is an impact on people living in one of the poorest countries; however, after another five years with Magufuli in charge, the damage to Tanzania will be irreversible. The effort must be collective, with western donors taking united action. Support must also be lent to the opposition leaders. Meanwhile, more news of friends and relatives dying in my network today, bringing the total to 12 since January of this year.