Tanzania and the UK have strong connections, in particular through the Commonwealth Association.
The Commonwealth is unique as member states have no power over one another; instead, countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status and cooperate within a charter of shared values. The values include promoting democracy, human rights, good governance, individual liberty, free trade, multilaterism and world peace. It is fair to say since President Magufuli came to power, his government are in breach of almost all the Commonwealth goals and values. Lets go through the evidence:
1. Democracy: Tanzania Election Watch this week 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.
2. Human Rights: Tanzania has not published COVID-19 stats since May 2020 when it logged 509 positive cases. The Tanzanian authorities have refused to participate in COVAX advocating herbal remedies and prayer. Individuals who do call out the government’s negligence are subjected to severe reprisals and a crackdown on journalists reporting the pandemic. “Access to information is an essential part of the fight against COVID-19, yet the Tanzanian government is choosing to censor journalists and media outlets who report on the disease”said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
3. Good Governence: Despite a marked increase in deaths attributed to “respirstory” illness (Tanzania dies not allow COVID-19 testing) including that of the Vice President of Zanzibat, Magufuli continues to advocate prayer and herbal remedies. I watched in horror as Dorothy Gwajima the Health Minister held a press briefing that looked more like a poorly put together cooking programme. She blended a concoction of ginger, onions, lemon and pepper, and claimed this vegetable smoothie would ward off coronavirus. People are dying in Tanzania, how is this good governance?
4. Individual Liberty: Magufuli started hunting LGBT individuals and activists in 2018 putting together a team of officials and police that would target gay people, who could face lengthy prison sentences, intensifying discrimination.
5. Multilaterism: ah, yes! Multiple countries pursuing a common goal. According to the Lancet, Tanzania is one of four African nations refusing to participate in COVAX, the global vaccination program. Given recent reports of the virus mutating and affecting vaccine efficacy, we are doomed if Tanzania continues to give the virus a sanctuary.
So, here we are celebrating Commonwealth Day when one of the club members is breaking all the rules. Time to call out Tanzania or reconsider its position in the Commonwealth. Time to act.