Tanzania's President John Magufuli has stirred controversy after sacking 9,000 government employees over fake certificates. Former leader Benjamin Mkapa supports the move.
How is Tanzania's President John Magufuli faring? Should Africa continue to blame colonial Europe for its extreme poverty and underdevelopment? Why is Burundi still in a political deadlock? The former president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, speaks to DW on various issues in an exclusive interview.
DW: You are remembered for having headed an exemplary leadership in Tanzania. What is your take on the current state of governance in Tanzania, considering the clampdown on the media and the opposition?
President Benjamin Mkapa: I tried my best to undertake a major participatory review of the state of the country, and then evolved what I called a common vision for 2025, which was arrived at after extensive consultations with actors from the political, labor, women's, youth and parliamentary scenes.
That gave rise to a vision that was enough to produce an action plan for reform and mobilization. That's what I was able to achieve. As a result, we got debt relief, and then we got real [economic] growth up by 6 and 7 percent.
That is what I was famous for, but at the time, the problems were so grave that maybe the media did not have much time (giggles) to engage in the kind of excursions - I call them political excursions - that they are engaged in now.
But I think I can say this of much of sub-Saharan African media: Their preoccupation is with the political shenanigans of who is who and who is doing what to whom. On the economic front, there is very little reporting, assessments or advocacy on the part of the media. What you are describing now as being a clampdown on the media and so on is primarily about social media, which is really just gossip or personal views.
It is very unrelated to development challenges; it is very unrelated to development plans; it is very unrelated to advocacy; it is unrelated to mobilization for development. And we are behind; we are poor. I consider that the aim of such clampdowns is to reduce the number of media that are really just gossipers and social agitators, which for me is no major deal at all.
International media have been reporting that President John Magufuli sacked 9,000 government employees with allegedly fake certificates.
Actually, I support that entirely. These are fake employees of the government or fake retirees who were claiming salaries rather than pensions; they should be sacked. One of the questions I asked myself was why I had not thought of ordering such inquiries in my time. But I had other issues to settle. For me, the sacking of those employees was absolutely overdue.
Political stalemate in Burundi
You have been appointed by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni as a negotiator in the Burundi crisis. How far has the process gone?
The process is not at a stalemate but it is slow-moving. I am facilitating the parties disputing the political situation in Burundi up to the point where it comes to serious mediation between the parties.
The chief mediator is President Museveni. The East African Community leaders have asked me to do the donkey work, if you like, of talking to the various parties and trying to see whether there is a common way forward, a possibility of bringing them together to find a common position for resolution of their conflict.
As I said, it is slow-moving. The principle obstacle in my view is that every side is extremely opinionated and uncompromising, and that is a difficulty. How do you persuade them that they must get together? They should be able to sit together in a room. They should be able to discuss the issues.
We have succeeded in bringing them to spell out the issues that are involved. But getting them to talk together, not separately as I have been doing with them, is very difficult indeed.
Colonialism and Africa's development
Africa is a continent plagued with so many negatives. Where is the link between poverty, diseases and under-development, and colonization?
The link is that if our ancestors were able to resist their dehumanization, the population that was being colonized in 1884 and partitioned in sub-Saharan Africa had to also summon the energy to protest and that is the beginning of the decolonization movement. That is the linkage that I find.
Now, why are there so many problems in spite of independence? There are several reasons. One is that the decolonization movement concentrated on political liberation to get the colonialists out.
As a result of the pressure for the political decolonization, they didn't have enough time to plan for social and economic emancipation. The time has come where we need to sit back and ask how we can develop ourselves.
Benjamin William Mkapa was the third president of Tanzania from 1995 to 2005.
The interview was conducted by Maxwell Suuk