COVID-19 Outs Presidents’ Leadership Styles

Whereas it is indeed problematic to ‘worship’ leaders and allow them to grow strong wings to enable them fly against the will of the people, the current Magufuli wave does not support the exact point you are making. It has been hijacked and ‘forced’ onto the thesis you want to make.

Bwesigye Mwesigire, 2015

Mweigire concluded his critique of a long post that I authored and published on 7th December 2015, and in which I cautioned us to take the #WhatWouldMagufuliDo adulation with a pinch of salt. I have since edited the post and turned it into four blog posts as follows:

Here below is some more of the exchange we had with Mwesigere (BM) in 2015:

BM: Magufuli’s decisions and pronouncements are not decrees by any definition of a decree. If I remember correctly, a decree has the force of law. A decree is a form of legislation. Not all decisions are decrees.

ME: The definition of ‘decree’ that forms the basis of my analysis defines a decree as:

“A formal and authoritative order, especially one having the force of law: a presidential decree.”

Therefore, all directives that President Magufuli gives in his capacity as the President of Tanzania are decrees, for they come with the force of the law of Tanzania.

BM: To compare Magufuli’s decisions to Idi Amin’s decree is absurd. Magufuli is an elected president, on a ticket of a party that has proved that it can indeed respect the country’s constitution (regarding term limits for example) and not an unelected dictator like Idi Amin, or an unpopular dictator in office after manipulating the constitution and rigging elections.

ME: It is exactly the fact that President Magufuli is a democratically elected president who campaigned on a ticket of a party that provoked my analysis.

Why is he functioning in an individualistic, populist, dictatorial manner and not working through his party – consensus building so that the decrees are party decrees or through a cabinet so that the decrees are state decrees or through approval of parliament?

Why is he functioning similar to how President Amin functioned?

“Rule by decree is a style of governance allowing quick, unchallenged creation of law by a single person or group, and is used primarily by dictators and absolute monarchs.”


Fast forward to 2020, five years later, the manner in which President Museveni and President Magufuli are handling the COVID-19 pandemic reminded me of my exchange with Mwesigire.

To a significant degree, President Museveni and President Magufuli, are both mostly using presidential decrees and in a manner that erodes significant civil liberties and that have triggered human rights abuses.

In Uganda, stories abound of how the enforcement of ‘presidential directives’ has caused physical injury or even death. Multiple reports of journalists and activist arrested and jailed on flimsy charges related to failure to comply with the directives and or allegedly undermining them.

I wonder, does Mwesigire still stands by his critique of my prediction of doom?

There is no doubt about it. The few reports coming out of Tanzania are extremely worrying. Allegedly, the press has been muzzled and are not allowed to freely report the realities of how President Magufuli is seemingly bumbling through and bungling the fight against the pandemic.

Including, for example, questioning science and preferring christian divine intervention. Yes, during Easter, President Magufuli achieved what President Trump had wanted to do in the United States (US) – pack the churches with worshipers – praying for divine intervention to end the pandemic and, indeed, the number of infected in Tanzania went up shortly after.


And yes, therein is the difference. In the US the institutions prevailed over President Trump. As much as he wanted it, he couldn’t decree the country re-opened for business. But in Tanzania and in Uganda, the individuals in office were allowed to “grow strong wings” that they are now using to “fly against the will of the people.”

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