The Atlantic

Tanzania Was East Africa’s Strongest Democracy. Then Came ‘The Bulldozer.’

Tanzania’s president has put fighting corruption at the center of his agenda. But is it worth the suppression of civil liberties?
Source: Khalfan Said / AP

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DAR ES SALAAM—John Magufuli began shaking things up on his first full day in office.

On November 6, 2015, the newly elected president walked unannounced into Tanzania’s Ministry of Finance, peering into empty offices and interrogating frightened staff—letting it be known that a government long characterized by laxity was in for a major change. He later canceled independence day celebrations and redirected the funding to fight cholera, purged more than 10,000 so-called ghost workers from the public-sector payroll, and initiated a crackdown on corruption and underperformance that saw numerous senior officials sacked, some following scoldings on live television.

Africa took notice: Twitter users across the continent adopted the #WhatWouldMagufuliDo to speculate how he might clean up their own governments. Ten months into his first term, , a regional civil-society group, found that 96 percent of Tanzanians approved of his performance. In a has historically been protected, that near-unanimous level of approval was astounding.

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