Every once in a while, certain seemingly local events send unintended reverberations far beyond their geographical confines and political jurisdictions – the untimely demise of President John Pombe Magufuli is no doubt one such event. The significance of his fleeting, by Ugandan standards, 5-year tenure in office will not be easily lost on the neighbouring country in more ways than one. Stuck with one tyrant for over 35 years, Ugandans are left reeling in awe the more the achievements of the late President are set in focus. For them, the late Tanzanian President’s legacy is nothing short of miraculous in duration, scale and scope in comparison.
When President Museveni captured power in Uganda in 1986, the future Tanzanian President was an obscure 27-year-old student at the University of Dar es Salaam, incidentally Museveni’s alma mater, where he is reported to have studied some 20 years earlier. Yet, 30 years later, Magufuli went on to develop and evolve within the Tanzanian system, however imperfect, to ascend to the highest office in the land, something that no one else can realistically dream of in Uganda as long as President Museveni lives. The term limit provisions in the new 1995 Uganda Constitution were removed almost as soon as the Constitution they appeared there, never having seen the light of day. Subsequently, the last hurdle to Museveni’s life presidency that of the upper age limit of 75 years, was likewise removed without equally ever being implemented. As a consequence, Uganda is currently stuck with the same incompetent leader for 36 years with no tangible achievements whatsoever to show for it – if anything, there is evidence to suggest that the country has significantly regressed below the 1986 mark.
President Museveni has been thriving on banding around to unsuspecting Ugandans comparative statistical figures to substantiate the supposed progress of his regime, including things like the volume of milk, revenue collection, number of universities and university students with 1986 as the reference point. Yet he conveniently evades mention to the gullible audience of the fact that those outputs were bound to grow in line with the exponential population growth with or without a Museveni – even failed states register natural growth in those areas, and it is disingenuous for Museveni to keep claiming credit for them.
The late President Magufuli, on the other hand, has demonstrated measurable, tangible and undisputed achievements for the people of United Republic of Tanzania within a period of just five years. Not least, Magufuli has reportedly catapulted Tanzania to the middle income economy status, that our very own son of Kaguta has been so promising Ugandans for the best part of 30 years in vain that it now seems to have become a pipe dream, unless the country gets a “Magufuli” of its own. With fresh ideas and the political will to trail blaze the reforms and rid the country of backwardness, kleptocracy and appalling governance standards, Uganda could quickly follow suit and has excellent chances to excel.
There is no doubt that Tanzania has come from behind to lead the pack in the region on how good leadership can lift a country from poverty to prosperity, even on very limited resources, and work for the good of the nation on a servant-boss relationship. Ugandans are still unable to fathom how the late President managed to perform the feat, which has eluded their ageing Ugandan counterpart, yet they now know for a fact that it is doable regardless.
They must now be wondering, and justifiably so, how many ‘Magufulis’ they have missed out on, had their constitution not been manipulated to remove the limits on how many terms a President is allowed to serve or by what age. Mr Museveni’s unmitigated failures, lies, incompetence and misrule have been exposed for what they are and laid bare, in contrast, by the achievements of late President John Pombe Magufuli. He has been stripped of excuses for not doing in 35 years even a fraction of what Magufuli did in a mere five years. Is Museveni a gift from God to Uganda? The Emperor is naked dare l respond to the rhetoric question!
His position is clearly no longer tenable and his image no longer recoverable. Even as we mourn the late Magufuli, there is every reason for Ugandans, as well as Tanzanians, to celebrate his life, seek to uphold his legacy and emulate his statesmanship. The man has demystified the fight against corruption and made it look so easy, contrary to what Mr Museveni has all along made us believe – RIP John Pombe Magufuli.
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant.
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