Tanzania has long been recognized as stable country, generally more advanced in its democracy than many other countries in East Africa. To be sure, democracy in Tanzania was certainly imperfect and flawed. But there did exist a degree of press freedom, a robust civil society, and multiple political parties.
Over the last few years, elements of Tanzanian democracy have been curtailed. The country is now in the midst of what scholars would call a democratic backslide. This occurs when the state uses its power to weaken institutions that sustain democracy, like civil society and a free press.
A key inflection point in this process was the 2015 election of President John Magufuli. Magufuli is very much a populist — his nickname is “The Bulldozer.” He came to power on a pledge to stamp out corruption but has also shown himself to be increasingly intolerant of dissent.
Since taking office he has enacted laws to severely restrict press freedoms; many journalists have been arrested, and political opponents silenced.
But according to my guest today, Constantine Manda, the process of democratic backsliding really began under the previous administration. Still, for reasons he explains in this episode, the erosions of have accelerated in recent months.
Constantine Manda is a Tanzanian national and a PHD candidate in the department of political science at Yale University. If you have 20 minutes and want to learn why journalists and critics of the government in Tanzania have been silenced in recent years, and why what happens in Tanzania is of global consequence, then have a listen.