Buhari, Jonathan, others mourn Magufuli




President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan have joined other world leaders to mourn the death of Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli, who died on Wednesday.

The Tanzanian constitution stipulates that the vice president take up the president’s role if the president dies or is incapable of performing his duties. This task now falls on Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Once sworn in, she will make history as the first woman to lead a nation in East Africa. The 61-year-old politician is expected to serve as president until the end of 2025, when the next presidential elections are scheduled.

In a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, President Buhari described Magufuli as a visionary leader, whose patriotism propelled the nation forward.

“President Muhammadu Buhari joins Government and people of Republic of Tanzania in mourning the passing of President Magufuli, 61, whose legacy of patriotism and dedication to the African course will continue to resonate across the continent.

“The President believes the late Tanzanian President’s courage and love for his country inspired various reforms that generations will continue to celebrate, which include the challenging decision to reduce size and cost of governance, insistence on a people-focused budget, with clear priorities on education and health, and consistently fighting profligacy and frivolities in public expenditures.

“President Buhari prays for repose of the soul of the deceased,” the statement said.

Jonathan, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, in Abuja yesterday, described late Magufuli as a true patriot who did his best to advance his country.

He said: “Today, a bright star has been plucked from the African continent. President Magufuli of Tanzania was a man I knew quite well, due to my frequent visits to Tanzania for the advancement of democracy in Africa.

“I found in him a true patriot who loved his country and did his best to steer the ship of state away from the brink and to the bank of the river of peace, progress and prosperity.”

Jonathan noted that Tanzania had been blessed in the area of leadership and had enjoyed consistent stability because of men like Julius Nyerere and his worthy successors.

He expressed hope and prayed that the “beautiful and determined nation” would continue with the tradition.

News of Magufuli’s death sent shockwaves across the east and central African region. In neighboring Kenya, where his absence had generated a lot of interest, President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday announced a one-week mourning period.

He also ordered the flags be flown at half-mast in the country and all embassies and consulates. “I have lost a fellow leader. Kenya stands with the nation of Tanzania at this time,” Kenyatta said.

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga, a close ally of the late Tanzania president, tweeted that Magufuli had put Tanzania on the world map.

“I want to offer my deepest condolences to Tanzanians for the loss of their president,” Husna, a resident in Kenya’s capital Nairobi told DW.

“He used his presidency to lift poor Tanzanians, “Hassan Wanini, another Nairobi resident, said. “We are all mourning.”

Rwandan President Paul Kagame took to Twitter to express his sympathy with Tanzanians.

“We are very shocked by the death of the Tanzanian president,” Togo’s foreign minister, Robert Dussey, told DW “The situation that the African continent and each of our countries are going through today [COVID-19], it deserves that we become much more aware of what is at stake for our countries.

Dussey offered condolences to the people of Tanzania but declined to be drawn on speculation over the cause of death. “We don’t want to get involved in this controversy. But whether he died from COVID-19 or not, one thing is clear: we have to be very careful. We are in a pandemic, and the only thing we can do is protect ourselves,” he said.

The U.S. issued a statement saying it “remains committed to continuing to support Tanzanians as they advocate for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and work to combat the pandemic. UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tweeted a message of condolence.

A gap hard to fill

For Tanzanians who admired the populist leader, the gap he has left on the political stage will be hard to fill. “What I can say about our president is that when we say he left a vacuum, we really mean that,” Tanzania’s speaker of the national assembly, Job Ndugai, said.

“He was someone who loved Tanzania. He sacrificed a lot for Tanzanians. His contribution to Tanzania’s development is immense, especially in the infrastructure sector – roads, airports, ports, air transport, building vessels on lakes, our ocean. Indeed he has served Tanzanians,” Ndugai said.


But for those who questioned Magufuli’s leadership style, particularly his icy relationship with the media and erosion of democratic rights, this could be an opportunity to usher in a new political era.

The challenge facing Magufuli’s successor

The incoming president, Hassan, will have to contend with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed several prominent politicians. She will also have to decide whether to adopt the same COVID-skeptic stance as Magufuli or impose strict measures to control the spread of the virus.

However, Jebra Kambole, a Tanzanian legal expert, said the constitution does not give a specific timeframe when the deputy president must be sworn in.

“Our constitution is very clear. The presidency vacancy cannot have a vacuum,” Zitto Kabwe, opposition Leader for the ACT-Wazalendo party in Tanzania, said. “This is the first time for the Republic of Tanzania to lose the president while in office, so it is something new to our country,” Kabwe told DW, adding that it is an enormous tragedy. “So now we have a new president-elect, who has not been sworn in. We expect that the authorities will act on this as soon as possible.”

It remains to be seen whether the incoming president will impose strict COVID-19 measures in Tanzania.

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