What you need to know:
- At the regional level, countries are expected to pursue common strategies to prevent Covid-19 infections.
- It does not make sense for one country to impose restrictions when its neighbour does not.
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan made two decisions this week that signal a dramatic change in direction for a country that has borne the weight of tight-fistedness.
First, she plans to constitute a committee of experts to review the country’s Covid-19 responsiveness and advise on how to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Secondly, she has directed the Ministry of Information to lift a ban on media outlets that were shut by the previous administration that was hell-bent on stifling press freedoms.
These are welcome endeavours for a country that was increasingly getting isolated for unilateralist decisions that exposed citizens and neighbours to grave health dangers as well as undermined governance and suffocated democracy.
Under President John Pombe Magufuli, Tanzania lived in denial about Covid-19. Dr Magufuli categorically declared that the country was free of the virus, chastised those who suggested that there were infections in that country and refused to impose safety protocols such as use of face masks and social distancing.
It was only in his sunset that he grudgingly acknowledged the pandemic. Kenya, and the region, bore the brunt of his stand, given that the frequency of travel between the two countries made it easy for infections to spread.
The war against the coronavirus pandemic is an international challenge and every country has a duty to institute local measures to contain it.
At the regional level, countries are expected to pursue common strategies to prevent infections. It does not make sense for one country to impose restrictions when its neighbour does not; the impact is negated.
President Magufuli’s clampdown on the press and civil society stymied civil liberties and placed the country on a downward slide. The ensuing silence and homogeneity of thought masked deep frustrations and disillusionment.
And now, President Suluhu is giving Tanzania a breath of fresh air. She should continue on that trajectory — launch aggressive campaigns to fight the devastating coronavirus and institute reforms to secure the country’s democratic credentials.