Tanzania: President John Pompe Magufuli Dies at 61

John Magufuli in Nov 5, 2020 Swearing-in Ceremony

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Tanzania's President John Pombe Magufuli has died. He was 61 years old.  Dr John Pombe Magufuli,  AfroAmerica Network Black Man of Year 2015 (see AfroAmerica: John Pombe Magufuli, AfroAmerica Network Black Man of Year 2015), was President of the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). His death was announced  by Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan. According to the announcement, Dr John Magufuli died at Mzena Hospital, of heart complications. 

Nicknamed the "Bulldozer", Dr John Pombe Magufuli was first elected to lead Tanzania in 2015, becoming the country's fifth President. Dr. John Magufuli  re-elected for a second term and sworn in on November 5, 2020. Hence, he was leading the country for the second and final term, as provided by the Tanzanian Constitution. 

He was  praised by many around Tanzania and Africa for his economic policies including big-impact infrastructure projects and a wide reaching anti-corruption campaign. (See here, Tanzania: President John Pompe Magufuli Sworn In for a Second Term)

Controversies around COVID-19 Pandemic

The announcement followed  widely spread rumors, often cofirmed by members of the opposition,  suggesting that Dr John Magufuli had contracted COVID-19 and was in critical conditions in Nairobi, Kenya. The reports of his illness were denied by  senior government officials. Dr John Pombe raised controversies when he minimized the dangers of the  COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 and pushed for more local treatments of the symptoms. Following his denials of the pandemic, he became the target of criticisms from international organizations and the Tanzanian opposition. 

Death of Dr John Magufuli Has Fueled Rumours on the Health of 2 Other African Presidents

The death of John Magufuli has fueled the on-going rumors and speculations on the health of two other African presidents. Since last year, there have been rumors and speculation regarding the critical health conditions of  presidents Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and General Paul Kagame of Rwanda.   These rumors followed the trips outside their countries to seek treatment and the prolonged disappearances from public activities and government fuctions and activities. (See here for  Rwanda: Activist Yvonne Idamange Iryamukwiza Arrested For Denouncing Crimes, Assassinations and Widespread Human Rights Abuses by the Government and  check here for Gabon: Rose Christiane Raponda, First Woman Appointed Prime Minister)


John Magufuri,  The Bulldozer, was on the Second and Final Term and Had Promized Needed Democratic Reforms. He will be Replaced by Samia Hassan Suluhu, the First Woman to Lead Tanzania.  

The election of Dr John Magufuli in 2020 was denounced by the opposition. Hence, the swearing-in ceremony in 2020 was held while the opposition was calling for a fresh election, the disbandment of the electoral commission and an “endless peaceful demonstration” to reject the election results.


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In his speech, President Jon Pombe Magufuli,had  said that "Elections are now over" and called for national unity and promised to work for all Tanzanians.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, President John Magufuli reinforced his commitment of never seeking another term, addressing the concerns of his ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, that also dominate the parliament, may seek to change the constitution to remove the term limit provisions for the President.

Those raising the concerns appeared to refer to what some African dictators have done, citing the example of Paul Biya in Cameroon, Dennis Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of Congo, Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Since then, several African nations, including Senegal, Central African Republic, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo have been experiencing unrests from the people asking for democratic reforms.

According to several observers and analysts, the death of John Magufuri presents new challenges to Tanzania, and increases the risks of more unrests. 

Dr. John Magufuli is survived by his wife, Janet, a primary-school teacher and his two children.  He will be replaced by Samia Hassan Suluhu.  Once sworn in into office, Samia Hassan Suluhu will be the first woman to lead Tanzania. 


@AfroAmerica Network 2021