For a time, Tanzania enjoyed a reputation for mostly free elections and public debate. But after President John Magufuli was elected in 2015, he introduced measures to stifle the media and tilt the electoral playing field in favor of the longtime ruling party. The turn toward authoritarianism is not due to any one personality or stereotypical “mad dictator,” however (notwithstanding Magufuli’s pandemic denialism, which may have cost him his life). It is part of the legacy of the early postcolonial period and the revered founding president, Julius Nyerere, who set the foundations of one-party rule and wielded the rhetoric of economic nationalism.

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