• Tanzania
    Arrests of Tanzanian Opposition Underline Need for Constitutional Reform
    The arrest of opposition figures in Tanzania, ostensibly for meeting to discuss constitutional reform, has only served to underline the country's need for a new constitution.
  • Tanzania
    Interview: Tundu Lissu on Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan and the Role of the West in Democratization
    Tundu Lissu, in an interview, comments on expectations for President Samia Suluhu Hassan, a Zanzibar native who was sworn in following former President John Magufuli’s death as Tanzania’s sixth—and first female—president.
  • Tanzania
    Interview: Tundu Lissu Discusses the Need for Constitutional Reform in Tanzania
    This is the first half of a two-part interview conducted by Nolan Quinn, a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program, and reviewed by Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow John Campbell. The interview was held on March 19, 2021—the day after Tanzania President John Magufuli’s death was announced. The second half will be posted in the coming days. Mr. Lissu has confirmed as accurate the quotes attributed to him in this post. “Well, we are not trying to overthrow the government, are we? No? Right, so let’s do it on the record.” -- Tundu Lissu Tundu Lissu, a Tanzanian opposition leader, does not aim to overthrow the government, but he nonetheless has big goals for his home country. Following the death of Tanzania’s authoritarian President John Magufuli, an avowed COVID-19 skeptic who likely died of the disease, Lissu plans to return to Tanzania to fight for democratic progress in a country that has experienced rapid democratic backsliding in the last five years. “President Magufuli’s passing gives us an opportunity to return to the status quo ante. And I won’t stand for anything less.” Lissu, a member of the opposition Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (the Party for Democracy and Progress, CHADEMA), has spent his political career, which includes a ten-year stint in parliament, fighting for a more accountable polity in sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth most populous country. And it nearly cost him his life. In September 2017, he was shot sixteen times in what is widely seen as an assassination attempt orchestrated by the Magufuli government. But Lissu survived. And three years and more than twenty operations later, he returned to Tanzania from Belgium last year, where he had been seeking medical care, to contest the presidential election held in October. After attracting huge crowds as he toured the country to campaign, he was defeated in a contest marred by intimidation and fraud, handing Magufuli another five years in office and forcing Lissu back into exile. But following the president’s untimely demise, Lissu is plotting his return. Asked whether his plans upon returning to Tanzania are more in line with activism or a re-entry into politics, his response was simple: “Is there a difference?” Removing the Velvet Glove In a previous interview with the Africa Report, Lissu said that while it was “very easy to point an accusing finger at Magufuli,” the former president also had “not changed a single provision of the constitution, and those powers were created by Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere,” Tanzania’s revered first president. Hence, talk of a return to the status quo ante seemed, at first, insufficient. “Tanzania has always been authoritarian and violent,” Lissu explained. “There is continuity from the colonial to the post-colonial government. Both have lacked accountability and did not care about rights.” “But what Magufuli did is he removed the velvet glove from the iron fist that has always been the Tanzanian state. He turned the security services above and beyond just the opposition.” And, by using the organs of the state to take aim at civil society, musicians, and private citizens, Lissu thinks, counterintuitively, that Magufuli created an opening for more lasting—and positive—political change. “Magufuli squandered his political capital with his ruthlessness. The Magufuli project was over. And then, even before he died, COVID had finished him politically.” And now, after five years of the president’s “reign of terror,” Lissu sees a growing consensus that “the only way to prevent another Magufuli is a new constitutional and political order.” Reforming the Constitution “Tanzania has needed a new constitutional order for a long time,” according to Lissu, “and the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1992 made calls for reform louder, but not many people took reformers seriously.” This was due, in part, to the perception among many Tanzanians and donors that despite the dominance of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (the Party of the Revolution, CCM)—the party has, in one form or another, been in power since independence in 1961—Tanzania had continued to democratize under Magufuli’s predecessors, President Benjamin Mkapa (1995-2005) and President Jakaya Kikwete (2005-2015). After Magufuli, however, “the case for a new constitution is unanswerable.” Lissu believes that even Kikwete, who he accuses of torpedoing the constitutional reform process in 2014, along with the faction within CCM that aligns closely to him would now support a new constitution. Asked what needed to be changed, Lissu answered that, first and foremost, a new Tanzanian constitution should do away with “the imperial presidency put into place by Julius Kambarage Nyerere.” The “presidentialism” enshrined in the constitution should be abolished, Lissu said, as “giving enormous power to one person is dangerous in unstable societies,” as Magufuli so brutally demonstrated. “Do we need a president that has the power to appoint officials all the way down to the district level?” Lissu asked rhetorically. He argued that Tanzania needs to “devolve and decentralize” power closer to where it is exercised, thus helping build “accountability from the bottom.” Asked what a better system of government would look like in Tanzania, Lissu said that Tanzania should opt for a parliamentary democracy in which “parliament is the true center of power and the head of state is answerable every day to parliament.” “The 1961 constitution gave us parliamentary democracy,” Lissu continued, “but it lacked a bill of rights.” Since the bill of rights was incorporated into the constitution in 1984, Lissu argues that “a parliamentary democracy now would be on a different plane than 1961.” Lissu cares little about whether the head of state will retain the title of president. More important, he says, is function. “In South Africa, they have a president, but he can still face a vote of no confidence just like the prime minister in London. Impeachment is impossible politically. We saw that even in the United States with Donald Trump. Impeachment is not a sufficient check on the power of the president.” Beyond abolishing the imperial presidency, Lissu also sees need for a revisiting of the relationship between Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous archipelago that merged with the mainland—then known as Tanganyika—in 1964. “I feel more strongly about the question of Zanzibar than even many Zanzibari nationalists,” Lissu suggested. “The 1964 Zanzibar Revolution was a coup funded, armed, and supported by mainland Tanganyika to overthrow the legitimate government of Zanzibar. The only way to maintain the Union since then has been through violence,” illustrated most recently when at least nine people were shot dead by police in Zanzibar in the run-up to the October elections. Lissu, objecting to CCM’s use of force to control Zanzibar, said he supports Zanzibari calls for independence. “Since 1984,” when changes to the Zanzibar Constitution further extended CCM’s influence over the islands’ politics, “there have been calls for a looser union which have not diminished.” Lissu pointed out that many mainland Tanzanians dismiss these calls outright, on the view that accepting a looser union is merely a halfway point to independence—and he agrees. But “it is up to Zanzibaris to decide whether they want to remain in the union and, if so, under what arrangement.” This publication is part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy.
  • Heads of State and Government
    John Magufuli, Tanzania’s COVID-Denying President, Dies
    Nolan Quinn is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program. President John Magufuli's death at sixty-one years of age followed a familiar pattern among Africa’s putative strongmen: denials that he was sick followed by secrecy as to the circumstances of his dying and where it happened. Magufuli, like other African heads of state, apparently sought treatment outside his own country, rumor had it either in Kenya or India—perhaps both. Vice President Samia Suluhu, announcing the president’s death yesterday, said the president died from a heart condition, and that he had been treated at two different hospitals in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital. However, in social and traditional media both in East Africa and elsewhere, rumors that the president had contracted COVID-19 had been circulating for more than a week. The mystery surrounding the true nature of his death could well remain unresolved. Yet if, as seems likely, Magufuli has died from COVID-19, the story of his demise would prove ironic. A conservative Roman Catholic—yet influenced in his outspokenness by a Nigerian Pentecostal televangelist—the president denied the presence of the disease in Tanzania, having declared victory over the novel coronavirus thanks to the power of prayer. Meanwhile, escalating numbers of senior officials and clergy have been dying of "respiratory disease." Prior to Magufuli’s death, the Catholic Church in Tanzania had become the most high-profile institution willing to contradict the narrative spun by its most high-profile adherent. Even after Magufuli had fallen ill—the vice-president announced he was initially admitted to the hospital on March 6—the government arrested individuals for spreading “false information” about the president’s health. Such tools of power, hardly considered legitimate in the decades preceding Magufuli, were used with increasing regularity as the president moved Tanzania in an authoritarian direction. Intimidation of opposition leaders and the media became commonplace. Suluhu, who became Tanzania’s first-ever female vice president in 2015, is now legally considered the acting president of Tanzania. A swearing-in date has not been announced for her to formally take office; the constitution states that she is to serve the remainder of Magufuli’s five-year term, which began after he was re-elected in October in elections marred by violence and fraud. One member of parliament who worked closely with Suluhu called her “the most underrated politician in Tanzania,” but reports have surfaced that the acting president does not command support across the various factions of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the ever-fractious ruling party. While it appears unlikely that the constitutionally outlined succession plan will be contravened, especially given the military’s weak political influence, the circumstances of Suluhu’s rise to power—coupled with her gender in a nation that retains deeply patriarchal beliefs—could handicap her political ambitions. The new president will have several pressing issues to address. Tanzania is still in the grips of what appears to be its biggest wave yet of COVID-19. Anecdotes from those in Tanzania—one of few sources of information on the disease’s prevalence in Tanzania at present—suggest case numbers are falling, but prominent figures continue to become sick with COVID-like symptoms. The government will come under renewed pressure from international health agencies to begin reporting data and accept assistance, such as vaccines, from abroad. And while Tanzania has weathered the COVID-related economic shock better than many other countries, growth has nonetheless been below potential, and will remain so if the government does not begin to recommend science-based public health practices. At the southern border, a brutal jihadi insurgency in Mozambique occasionally spills over into Tanzania. Under Magufuli, bilateral relations with Tanzania’s southern neighbor were occasionally strained, but cooperation between the two had been improving. Regardless, the trajectory of violence suggests the insurgents will prove a lasting headache for the incoming government and potentially even further into the future. Most unpredictable is the path the new government will take with regard to respect for political freedoms. While Tanzania has never been considered fully democratic, it was, prior to Magufuli, known for its political stability, respect for minorities, and limits on power. It would seem unlikely that Suluhu, a soft-spoken former activist, shares Magufuli’s authoritarian tilt. Indeed, many Swahili-speaking users on Twitter and the Tanzania-based message board JamiiForums have interpreted her rise as heralding an easing of restrictions on speech, as has opposition leader Tundu Lissu. But the degree to which intolerance of criticism has become institutionalized within CCM is unclear and, until more time passes, unknowable. The assessment of Magufuli’s reign therefore remains a work in progress: was it a deviation from the mean, or merely the beginning of a darker era in Tanzania’s politics? This publication is part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy.
  • Heads of State and Government
    Tanzanian President Magufuli’s Veneer of Omniscience in Critical Condition
    Nolan Quinn is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program. A story published yesterday in Kenyan newspaper the Nation suggests—though does not confirm—that Tanzanian President John Magufuli was flown into Kenya and admitted to a hospital in Nairobi to receive treatment for COVID-19. The president, who has repeatedly downplayed the disease while encouraging citizens to pray and inhale steam to kill the novel coronavirus, was reportedly placed on a ventilator. Main opposition figure Tundu Lissu told the BBC that the president was in critical condition after experiencing cardiac arrest and later tweeted that Magufuli had been transferred to India for further medical treatment. Both claims remain unverified, but Magufuli, according to a senior Tanzanian medic close to the president, has a history of heart issues that could complicate his recovery. Magufuli’s approach to the pandemic has won plaudits from the president’s personal supporters and COVID-19 skeptics alike, many of whom have taken his denials of the disease’s existence in Tanzania at face value. The president has backed his narrative, and implicitly portrayed himself as the sole arbiter of truth about the virus, through fact-free diatribes questioning the reliability and efficacy of testing, lockdowns, and vaccines. The government’s efforts to criminalize the sharing of data on COVID-19—Tanzania last reported case numbers in May—served to further reinforce Magufuli’s role as the unquestioned authority on the pandemic in the East African nation. The president’s monopoly on information, however, became untenable as a wave of deaths attributed to “pneumonia” spiked suddenly in Tanzania last month. The country’s Roman Catholic Church, to which Magufuli himself belongs, pushed back on the president’s claim that prayer had defeated the virus, urging adherence to best public health practices. (The Church’s website was conspicuously taken offline shortly after but has since gone back up.) The Church again stepped into the fray earlier this month, announcing that sixty nuns and twenty-five priests had died in the last two months after experiencing COVID-like symptoms. Alongside such warnings came a spate of high-profile deaths—some confirmed as COVID-related, others merely suspected. Reports that Magufuli has contracted COVID-19 after flouting public health measures invite a comparison to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s own bout with the disease. However, should Magufuli recover, his political reckoning could prove much different than that of his American counterpart. Trump, upon being discharged from the hospital, released a video hailing the United States’ medical personnel and its development of the “best medicines in the world,” a message his supporters found inspiring. Magufuli’s decision to seek treatment abroad, on the other hand, conveys a lack of faith in Tanzania’s medical infrastructure—this from a fervent nationalist who boasted that he did not send his wife abroad when she was sick due to his belief in Tanzania’s health systems, which he said had begun to attract medical tourism. The seriousness of the president’s condition has also exposed his medical advice as mere quackery. Contradicting the official line on COVID-19 remains dangerous for most people in increasingly authoritarian Tanzania. But even before Magufuli’s unconfirmed diagnosis, ruling-party legislators had begun to exhibit growing unease about the number of deaths from “respiratory disease” being reported. Lawmakers will feel they have less to lose by speaking out when their lives and those of their loved ones are threatened by the unabated, unmonitored spread of COVID-19. Dissent from the within the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM)—the party in power since independence—could provide an opening for a more serious discussion about the disease’s prevalence in Tanzania and, in doing so, loosen the president’s stranglehold on the party. Much in the way Magufuli went from CCM outsider to spearheading the shrinking of civic space in Tanzania, a bold figure within the ruling party could capitalize on the current episode to begin to reverse course. (With the opposition effectively kneecapped, immediate change is more likely to come from within CCM.) Such an individual would need to cleverly navigate the party’s internal politics—especially during such a tense moment—building a coalition to overcome Magufuli allies who have pushed the president to accept a third term. Until recently, with Magufuli in the ascendancy, this seemed far-fetched. But the president no longer enjoys the all-knowing aura he once did.
  • COVID-19
    Tanzania’s COVID Denialism Harms its Economic Future
    Beyond the immediate, detrimental effects for Tanzanians’ health, President John Magufuli’s aggressive COVID denialism is likely to dent the country’s economic prospects.
  • Infectious Diseases
    Ebola Resurfaces in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
    Three months after health authorities from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared the country had brought to an end its eleventh outbreak of Ebola, the disease has killed the wife of a survivor in a hospital in Butembo, a large city (estimated population of around one million) in North Kivu province. (In earlier Ebola outbreaks, Butembo has been a prominent treatment center.) Despite the bad news, some encouragement is that health authorities know what to do: World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist are tracing more than seventy persons with whom the victim had contact and are thoroughly disinfecting any places she had visited. While it is too soon to assess the seriousness of this outbreak, such measures raise hopes that it can be contained. But this latest outbreak also underscores that the disease is endemic in eastern Congo and hence is likely to reemerge. Butembo is an important trading and mining center in North Kivu, of which it is the second largest city after Goma. The province has seen banditry and warlordism, yet Butembo has in the past managed to insulate [PDF] itself from the worst episodes of violence. North Kivu is adjacent to Rwanda and Uganda and is not far from Burundi and Tanzania. Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania remain politically opaque. Coronavirus is believed to be widespread in East Africa; there should now be concern over the possibility that Ebola could spread elsewhere in the region. Tanzania's regime of John Magufuli is a particular concern, having refused to share information with the WHO about possible Ebola cases in Dar es Salaam in 2019 and, since then, rejecting public health measures based on science—including vaccines—to contain COVID-19. Magufuli claims that Tanzania is free of the virus because of the power of prayer. This latest outbreak of Ebola against the backdrop of COVID-19 reminds that Africa has a particularly heavy disease burden that in some places is exacerbated by political unrest and warlordism. And, through COVID-19, the world has learned that disease knows no boundaries. Thus far, the United States has been largely spared from Ebola; that might not be true of another, now-unknown disease that has its origin in the rainforest.
  • Tanzania
    Parting of Ways: Secretary Pompeo Announces Sanctions on Tanzania
    Nolan Quinn is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program. On January 19, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo—on his last full day in the position—announced visa restrictions on “Tanzanian officials responsible for or complicit in undermining” the general elections held in late October last year. As of yet, none of the individuals sanctioned have been identified publicly. In announcing the measures, Secretary Pompeo asserted that “there are consequences for interfering in the democratic process,” while the U.S. embassy in Tanzania said it had “kept its promise” to hold accountable those officials who had interfered in the elections. Prior to Tanzania’s elections, Secretary Pompeo released a nonspecific statement urging African governments to hold “free, fair, inclusive elections.” The Tanzanian government, led by President John Magufuli and the increasingly authoritarian ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), undoubtedly failed to heed Secretary Pompeo’s call. However, the same could be said of incumbents in the Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Uganda, none of which faced a response from the Trump administration beyond rhetoric. While the reasoning behind the decision to single out Tanzania—one that belies the Trump administration’s weak record of defending democracy in Africa—is not clear, what is apparent is that U.S.-Tanzania relations have sharply soured in the past decade. Until recently, the U.S.-Tanzania partnership was strong. In 2013, President Barack Obama became the third successive U.S. president to travel to Tanzania. In a joint press conference with Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, who was also the first African head of state to visit the Obama White House, President Obama commended Tanzanians—and their government—for “doing their part to advance the good governance and transparency upon which democracy and prosperity depend.” Obama, in touching on the “spirit of friendship” the two countries enjoyed, was not merely offering a one-sided, feel-good bromide: from 2006 to 2012, approval of U.S. leadership in Tanzania stood at an average of over 72 percent; in 2015, 78 percent of Tanzanians expressed confidence that President Obama would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” Tanzania has also consistently been among the top two or three recipients of bilateral aid administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the 2015 annulment of an election in Zanzibar—one initially praised as the smoothest in the semiautonomous archipelago’s history—precipitated what has been a rapid deterioration in bilateral relations. Citing the Zanzibar election and limitations on freedom of expression, in March 2016 the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. foreign assistance agency, suspended its partnership with Tanzania. Magufuli further irritated relations when, in June 2016, his government unilaterally cancelled a contract with Symbion Power, a U.S. company that had received more than $110 million in MCC procurement awards. Pressure to act against the Tanzanian government rose further amid a crackdown on human rights, which included the president’s pledge to set up a “surveillance squad” targeting the gay community. On January 31, 2020, the Trump administration announced sanctions against Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam, for his role in targeting “marginalized people,” and on the same day, the White House added Tanzania to a list of countries—considered by some commentators the final iteration of President Trump’s much-maligned “Muslim ban”—for its apparent failures to share public-safety and terrorism-related information. Pompeo’s final imposition of sanctions for electoral malfeasance is likely to command support across the aisle. In the U.S. House of Representatives, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a resolution noting discontent with the Tanzanian government’s conduct in business disputes and its role in suppressing dissent in the lead-up to the elections. Following the vote, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) called violence by security forces “the culmination of five years of sustained attacks by the Magufuli administration against the country’s democratic institutions,” while U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Donald J. Wright, a political appointee, noted that “detaining opposition leaders is not the act of a government confident in its victory.” Tanzanian opposition figures have welcomed Pompeo’s move. Zitto Kabwe, a Tanzanian opposition leader, had already expressed a desire for other countries to sanction Tanzania. Fatma Karume, a former president of the Tanganyika Law Society who was disbarred seemingly for her political activism, thanked the United States for “saying NO to IMPUNITY” and giving those “who believe in DEMOCRACY and HUMAN RIGHTS renewed vigour.” Magufuli’s main contender for the presidency in October’s elections, Tundu Lissu, called the move a “clear and unmistakable warning to dictators who stole elections.” The question for the Biden administration is not whether it will repeal sanctions against Tanzanian officials. Without wholesale changes in Tanzania’s political climate, it will not, though the broader travel ban is almost sure to be axed. More pressing is for President Biden and his coterie of advisers to decide whether to send similarly strong messages to other authoritarians in Africa, particularly in Uganda, where reported abuses have been on par or worse than those in Tanzania. While the United States’ democratic credentials have certainly been damaged following the assault on the U.S. Capitol, failing to punish blatant abuses of human rights would do nothing more than leave autocrats comfortable in their ill-gotten victories.
  • Radicalization and Extremism
    From Separatism to Salafism: Militancy on the Swahili Coast
    Nolan Quinn is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program. The revelation that a Kenyan member of al-Shabab was charged with planning a 9/11-style attack on the United States has served to underline the Somali terror group’s enduring presence in East Africa and the region’s continuing relevance to U.S. national security. Shabab has terrorized the northern reaches of the Swahili Coast, which runs from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique, for well over a decade. More recently, a brutal jihadi insurgency has emerged on the Swahili Coast’s southern tip. Ansar al-Sunna (ASWJ), known among other names as Swahili Sunna, ramped up its violent activities in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province in 2017 before spreading more recently into Tanzania. The risk of a further rise in jihadism along the Swahili Coast is serious—and growing. The Swahili Coast has long been recognized as having a rich, eclectic culture shaped by interactions with predominantly Arab traders. (Much of the coast once fell under the rule of the Sultan of Oman.) The region has been strongly influenced by Islam, in contrast to the Great Lakes region further west, which is predominantly Christian. Additionally, much of the mainland is dominated by Bantu ethnic groups, while many coastal residents maintain an identity distinct from their continental peers. As in much of Africa, arbitrary borders drawn during the period of European colonialism separate the region, lumping coastal and mainland residents together across several states. The separation of the Swahili Coast laid the foundations for a re-emergence of pre-independence feelings of marginalization. Many coastal residents, who chafe at government institutions and economic policies seen as favoring Christians and wabara (“people of the mainland”), have called for decentralization of power and even secession from their respective states. Separatist fervor—particularly strong in the Mombasa-Zanzibar corridor—has been stoked by groups such as the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) and Uamsho (“awakening” in Kiswahili). While both have been defunct or dormant following crackdowns on their leadership, a purported effort to reinvigorate the MRC—already met with a spate of arrests by Kenyan police—illustrates that discontent is still very much present along the coast. In this context, the growing popularity of Salafist ideology in East Africa is worrying. The trend, facilitated by the historical exchange of people and ideas with other littoral states in Africa and the Middle East, has resulted in the displacement of the tolerant, Sufi-inspired Islam that has long been predominant on the Swahili Coast. Salafis’ strict textualist approach raises several objections to Sufism that have been used to motivate attacks by ASWJ in northern Mozambique [PDF] and al-Shabab in Somalia. Less violent—but still occasionally violent—Sufi-Salafi competition has also been on the rise in Tanzania. Several factors suggest that disgruntled wapwani (“people of the coast”), especially youth, are at increased risk of Salafi radicalization. To start, unemployment is widespread on the coast. Joblessness is concentrated among youth and the well-educated—the demographics that have most enthusiastically subscribed to Salafist teachings globally. In Cabo Delgado, ASWJ fighters have clashed with Sufi elders seen as heretical by the Salafi-jihadi group. Yet financial rewards [PDF], such as small loans to start a business or pay bride prices, also appear to be important recruitment incentives. While al-Shabab and ASWJ have gained international notoriety for their insurgent activities, allied groups focusing on youth recruitment in East Africa play a sinister role in enabling their success. Islamist groups such as the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC)—later renamed al-Hijra—in Kenya and the Ansaar Muslim Youth Center (AMYC) in Tanzania have both sent fighters to Somalia and offered refuge [PDF] to returning jihadis. And in Tanga—the coastal region of Tanzania where AMYC was founded and reports [PDF] of small-scale attacks by Islamists have occasionally surfaced—police have in the past uncovered Shabab-linked child indoctrination camps. Swahili’s function as a lingua franca in East Africa is also helping Islamist groups grow in the region. MYC leader Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a radical Kenyan imam who was sanctioned by the United Nations for his support of al-Shabab, targeted Swahili speakers with his repeated calls for the formation of a caliphate in East Africa. Tapes of Rogo preaching in Swahili allowed disaffected youth in Cabo Delgado—many of whom speak Swahili but have a weak or no understanding of Arabic—to access extremist viewpoints, accelerating their radicalization. The jihadis now take advantage of Cabo Delgado’s linguistic, cultural, and business links to coastal communities—in Tanzania in particular—to recruit and expand ASWJ’s operations. Meanwhile, al-Shabab and the Islamic State group, to which ASWJ has been formally aligned since June 2019, utilize Swahili in original and translated media publications. Many of the responses to such activities have been counterproductive. Between 2012 and 2014, Rogo and two of his successors were killed in three separate, extrajudicial shootings blamed on Kenyan police. The killings caused riots in Mombasa, and Rogo’s posthumous influence points to the futility of a “whack-a-mole” approach that tries to silence firebrands. Several mosques and homes in Mombasa were also controversially raided, with hundreds arrested. Yet according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), a shift in strategy since 2015 from heavy-handed policing to community outreach has successfully reduced jihadi recruitment along the Kenyan coast. Tanzania and Mozambique, however, appear to be repeating Kenyan mistakes. The overly militarized response to ASWJ has failed to quell a fast-intensifying insurgency. And in Zanzibar, where some researchers have argued electoral competition has forestalled Salafis’ embrace of jihadism—despite Uamsho’s evolution from religious charity to secessionist movement to nascent militant Islamist group—worsening repression and the ongoing detention of Uamsho leaders ensure the situation remains volatile. Even mainland Tanzania, seen as more pacific than Zanzibar, has seen a recent uptick [PDF] in terrorist violence; Tanzanian security forces, according to ICG, have responded with arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances of coastal Muslims. The threat of rising support for Islamist militancy in East Africa should not take away from efforts to address calls for secession: separatist movements can, of course, turn violent. However, in areas where separatism is rife, ham-fisted clampdowns on Muslim preachers and their followers risk strengthening radicals’ hand. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres—speaking in Nairobi—warned, the “final tipping point” to radicalism is often state-led violence and abuse of power. A shift from separatism to endemic radical Salafism would re-frame narratives of coastal exclusion along more explicitly religious lines, causing new problems for governments. While calls for autonomy and independence draw strongly on questions of identity, they remain political—and therefore open to conversation and compromise. A growing Islamist movement, meanwhile, would recast such debates in rigid, ideological terms, thus giving rise to a zero-sum scenario in which dialogue is nigh on impossible.
  • Mozambique
    The Military-First Approach in Northern Mozambique is Bound to Fail
    Nolan Quinn is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program. On October 14, the Islamist insurgency focused in northern Mozambique spilled over into Tanzania, with an estimated three hundred militants carrying out an attack on Kitaya village in the region of Mtwara. Since then, Ansar al-Sunna (ASWJ)—the Mozambican jihadi group with apparent links to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS)—has claimed at least three more attacks in Mtwara. This comes despite Tanzania sending troops to the region earlier this year to tighten border security and its military’s security operations in areas near the Mozambican border. The widening scope of ASWJ’s attacks is indicative of the shortcomings of the current approach to combating the group. The response to the Islamist insurgency has, thus far, been primarily military in focus. In September 2019, the Wagner Group—a private military contractor with links to the Kremlin—was deployed to Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s worst-afflicted province and site of the largest private investment in Africa. By November the same year, the mercenaries were evacuated after sustaining losses; another security contractor, the South African Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), remains in Cabo Delgado but has been unable to subdue the insurgency. An (unlikely) intervention by South African government forces has been considered, and Zimbabwe’s ruling party has argued the Southern African Development Community should invoke its mutual defense pact and enter the conflict. The European Union, meanwhile, agreed last month to provide training as well as logistical and medical support to Mozambican forces. The military response has been hampered by its unprofessionalism. Tensions between Tanzanian and Mozambican forces were already high before the former allegedly fired rockets into the latter’s territory, injuring civilians. Mozambican forces were implicated in a horrific extrajudicial killing last year and have been credibly accused of various other abuses. DAG helicopters have, on multiple occasions, killed Mozambican civilians in counterinsurgency operations. Amid the climate of insecurity, Mozambique’s government has begun arming militia groups, which have publicly tortured and beheaded suspected insurgents. Government forces and militia groups have accidentally attacked one another several times, highlighting a lack of coordination. Concerted efforts to improve governance and economic opportunity in Cabo Delgado have been largely absent from any existing counterinsurgency strategy. Instead, in a peripheral region blighted by persistent poverty and inequality [PDF], government officials have prioritized the interests of multinational energy companies, large-scale ruby miners, and heroin smugglers [PDF] at the expense of local workers—all while enriching themselves [PDF] through corrupt practices. In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has shown slightly more concern for Mtwara’s economic fortunes by promising government purchases of cashews, a local staple. This, however, has not stopped residents of the region—an opposition stronghold—from crossing into Cabo Delgado to join the insurgency. Government corruption and economic stagnation, coupled with security forces’ penchant for human rights violations, help strengthen ASWJ. While the Islamist group is notorious for gruesome killings, it also employs tactics to win local support. The group has warned civilians to flee before attacks, distributed food in areas under its control, and offered loans to potential recruits. This “hearts and minds” approach bears the imprint of IS, which advocated a similar tactical shift in the Lake Chad Basin, where the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) began providing services and split from Boko Haram due to the latter’s more indiscriminate targeting of civilians. It appears that ASWJ, which has been formally aligned with IS since June 2019, has increased cooperation [PDF] with foreign jihadis. By implementing some of their operational practices, ASWJ is finding success in undermining the Mozambican government’s already tenuous claims to legitimacy. A first step in improving the counterinsurgency effort should be to formalize militia groups’ participation. A major impediment to the military response has been the makeup of troops deployed to Cabo Delgado: most soldiers do not speak the local languages and, being underpaid with little personal attachment to the area, often retreat when attacked. Both the military and militia groups need training in human rights—from the European Union or a regional body—and a clear indication that violations will be punished. To date, Mozambique’s government has not taken any steps to investigate abuses. This makes it difficult for government forces to win local cooperation in fighting ASWJ. Better regional partnerships—especially with the Tanzanian government, with whom joint police operations are set to begin—are needed to push back on ASWJ’s expansion, particularly its growing maritime prowess. A military-first approach cannot cure a failing state. The government and its partners should equally focus on restoring—or, in some areas, establishing for the first time—provision of basic services. Encouragingly, after years of delay, the government appears to have recognized the need for a development strategy. As renowned Mozambique scholar Joseph Hanlon recently documented [PDF], President Filipe Nyusi has put one of his most trusted, effective officials in charge of development agencies—with a remit focused in the country’s north—controlling more than $2.8 billion. The World Bank, meanwhile, has set aside $700 million for initiatives “to address the underlying causes of fragility and conflict.” Hanlon also points to a cash transfer program, starting in Cabo Delgado but later scaling up to the entire country, as a plausible way to share resource wealth. These measures are not preordained for success: hollow institutions and rampant corruption are at the core of Mozambique’s problems and will complicate the rollout of economic stimulus programs. Building a more effective state will amplify military and economic approaches to counterinsurgency and improve the chances of achieving lasting peace. The process of doing so will be long and arduous. But after years of neglecting—even actively harming—many of its citizens, Mozambique’s government has no alternative.
  • Tanzania
    Recent Election Highlights the Dangers of Disenfranchisement in Zanzibar
    Tanzania’s fundamentally flawed elections in late October, and the additional repression unleashed in their immediate aftermath, have provoked international alarm and criticism. From pre-election conditions that stifled free speech and criminalized civic action to election-day irregularities including communications blackouts and ballot box tampering, the entire exercise lacked credibility, making the anodyne statements of the Southern African Development Community nothing short of embarrassing. When opposition leaders are arrested in the aftermath of an election and shortly afterward must flee the country fearing for their lives, there are no congratulations in order for anyone. But sometimes lost in the sheer quantity of alarming news stories about Tanzania’s slide into authoritarianism is the fact that the people of Zanzibar, the semiautonomous region off the coast of mainland Tanzania, have been repeatedly denied their civil and political rights, even in the era when the rest of the country appeared to be on a democratic trajectory. As the International Crisis Group has noted, international observers have corroborated opposition allegations of cheating in every election in Zanzibar since 1995, the year multiparty elections were reintroduced countrywide. In this year’s election, a heavy military and police presence in Zanzibar set an intimidating tone that escalated into beatings, violent expulsions of legitimate observers from polling places, the use of tear gas against civilians, and killings. The people of Zanzibar are almost entirely Muslim, whereas Muslims are a minority on the mainland. Their political rights are consistently denied. Asking them to have faith in the rule of law and peaceful institutions of government to address their grievances is a very tall order, given their repeated experiences.  Zanzibar would seem a very ripe target for violent extremists. As alarm bells sound ever more loudly about the insurgency in northern Mozambique, which has already spilled over into Tanzania, some international soul-searching about why Zanzibar’s plight has persisted for so long is overdue. The point is not that the people of Zanzibar are dangerous; it is that their disenfranchisement is dangerous, in addition to simply being wrong. Those who claim to focus solely on security issues with transnational implications cannot ignore the very real consequences of politics.  
  • Tanzania
    Magufuli is Transforming Tanzania's Ruling Party From a “Benign Hegemon” Into a Malevolent One
    Nolan Quinn is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program. Prior to working for the Council, he lived in Tanzania, returning in March 2020. Tanzania’s Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is the longest-serving ruling party in Africa, having held power since independence in 1961. CCM has previously been dubbed a benign hegemon, winning elections largely—but not entirely—on merit since the advent of multiparty politics in 1992. On October 28, Tanzania will choose a president and members of the country’s National Assembly. This year, few observers expect a fair vote, given incumbent President John Magufuli and his government’s weaponization of the law in the lead-up to the elections. This march towards authoritarianism appears a stark shift for a country that has been lauded for its traditions of political stability and democratic transfers of power. CCM’s dominance has roots in Tanzania’s postcolonial nation-building. Julius Nyerere, the revered first president of Tanzania, believed African political parties, formed in response to colonial occupation as opposed to internal issues, were fundamentally different [PDF] than those in the West. He saw one-party systems, representing the aspirations of an entire nation, as more democratic than multiparty systems, which he argued were prone to factionalism. Ruling party officials, meanwhile, said a one-party system would better align with traditional African forms of governance, which value consensus over competition. Nyerere, to his credit, exhibited flexibility in his commitment to one-party rule. Before departing his role as CCM chairman in 1990, he encouraged a national debate on pluralism. Yet the commission created to explore the issue found that 77 percent of Tanzanians supported [PDF] a continuation of one-party rule, with many citizens expressing concerns that multiparty politics would bring instability. (The commission attracted genuine popular interest, though questions were raised about whether it was truly representative.) In 1992 the constitutional ban on new party registrations was lifted—but CCM has continued to win elections. Polling data by Afrobarometer suggests that Nyerere’s one-party doctrine has had a lasting effect on how Tanzanians view democracy. In 2005, the final year of Benjamin Mkapa’s presidency, only 44 percent [PDF] of mainland Tanzanians disapproved of one-party rule. Disapproval of one-man and military rule, on the other hand, never fell below 82 percent and 79 percent, respectively, in the seven polls conducted since 2001. And in 2017, 50 percent of respondents said [PDF] they trust CCM “a lot,” a far higher figure than for opposition political parties (19 percent) and traditional leaders (20 percent). Tanzanians’ growing resistance to the ruling class appears, in the context of CCM’s enduring popularity, exceptional. However, pushback at present should be seen primarily as a rejection of Magufuli and his quest for one-man rule rather than CCM’s post-liberation ideology. Indeed, many members of the public have called upon the CCM Elders, a group of twenty-one Tanzanian and Zanzibari former presidents and prime ministers, and other prominent party figures to push for a national dialogue that will halt the rapid erosion of the country’s good-government and democratic norms. While the Elders' formal powers within CCM have diminished in the last fifteen years, their opinions continue to hold unique weight across the political spectrum. If, as seems likely, Magufuli wins (or successfully steals) this month’s election, the lead-up to 2025 will be critical. The president has said he will “respect the constitution” with regard to term limits, but the speaker of parliament has reportedly indicated he will seek to scrap presidential term limits after the election. This could bring latent intra-party tensions to the surface. Magufuli was originally a compromise candidate [PDF] without strong backing from any CCM faction, and rumors have emerged throughout his presidency that other party members want him gone. Resistance from within CCM—by members of parliament, the Elders, and other party bigwigs—would probably offer the best chance at rebuffing a third-term bid, given the party’s control of the electoral machinery. On several occasions, such as when President Mkapa helped end electoral violence in Kenya and when CCM advanced [PDF] democratic means of conflict resolution in South Sudan, Tanzania’s ruling party has shown its ability and desire to steer African states toward the better angels of their nature. Under Magufuli, CCM is unrecognizable, using violence and intimidation to maintain control. What the party needs now is to rediscover its moral compass and reverse its slide into authoritarianism. Learn more about John Campbell's upcoming book, Nigeria and the Nation-State: Rethinking Diplomacy with the Postcolonial World, out in early December 2020.