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Tanzanian President John Magufuli dies


John Magufuli in July 2015. Associated Press/Photo by Khalfan Said

Tanzanian President John Magufuli dies

President John Magufuli, a populist leader who recently denied COVID-19 existed in Tanzania, died on Wednesday. He was 61. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Magufuli died of heart failure at a hospital in the largest city of Dar es Salaam. But opposition leaders said the president likely contracted coronavirus after he disappeared from the public at the end of February.

What was his legacy? Magufuli, the son of a subsistence farmer, became president in 2015 and quickly garnered international praise for his anti-corruption stance and crackdown on government excesses. He boosted several infrastructure projects and improved the electricity supply. But his policies soon grew repressive. In 2016, he stopped live broadcasts of parliamentary debates and banned political rallies. His administration also passed several laws that cracked down on media and rights groups. The National Electoral Commission, which is under executive control, denied registration to several opposition candidates.

His coronavirus policies also drew international and local criticism. The nation stopped publishing data on coronavirus infections and deaths in May despite reports of crowded intensive care units and late-night burials. A devout Catholic, Magufuli called instead for prayers and said the country would not accept any vaccines. As several senior politicians died from the virus, Magufuli reversed his policy in February and urged people to wear masks.

According to Tanzania’s constitution, Hassan will assume Magufuli’s role and complete his second term, which began last year.

Dig deeper: Read my World Tour report on Tanzania’s response to COVID-19.


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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