Less than two weeks ago, Tanzanian vice president Samia Suluhu Hassan delivered the news that her country’s president, John Pombe Magufuli, had died of heart failure. President Magufuli had been described as missing since the end of February, with several antigovernment parties circulating stories that he had fallen ill with COVID-19. During his presidency, Magufuli had consistently challenged neocolonialism in Tanzania, whether it manifested through the exploitation of his country’s natural resources by predatory multinationals or through the West’s influence over his country’s food supply.
In the months leading up to his death, Magufuli had become better known, and particularly demonized, in the West for opposing the authority of international organizations such as the World Health Organization in determining his government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Magufuli, however, had already spurned many of these same interests and organizations that were angered by his response to COVID, having kicked out Bill Gates–funded trials of genetically modified crops and more recently opposing some of the most powerful mining companies in the West, companies with ties to the World Economic Forum and the WEF’s efforts to guide the course of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Indeed, more threatening to the West than Magufuli’s recent COVID stance was the threat he posed to foreign control over the world’s largest ready-to-develop nickel deposit, a metal essential for making electric car batteries needed in the current effort to create an electric autonomous vehicle revolution. For instance, just a month before he disappeared, Magufuli had signed an agreement between the government and a group of investors to begin developing that nickel deposit. The deposit had been co-owned by Barrick Gold and Glencore, a commodity giant with deep ties to Israel’s Mossad, until Magufuli revoked their license for the project in 2018.
A president running afoul of powerful corporate and banking cartels who is suddenly and mysteriously “removed” from power would usually evoke considerable coverage from anti-imperialist independent media outlets, which, for example, recently covered similar events in Bolivia that led to the removal of Evo Morales from power. Nevertheless, the very outlets that have, for years, extensively covered western-backed regime-change efforts have been entirely silent on the very convenient death of Magufuli. Presumably, their silence is related to Magufuli’s flouting of COVID-19 narrative orthodoxy, as these same outlets have largely promoted the official narrative of the pandemic.
Yet, regardless of whether one agrees with Magufuli’s response to COVID, his sudden departure and Tanzania’s new leadership is a defeat for a widely popular domestic movement that sought to halt the centuries-long exploitation of Tanzania by the West. With Magufuli’s lengthy disappearance, followed by his apparent sudden death from heart failure, the country’s future is set to be determined by Tanzanian politicians with deep ties to the oligarch-beholden United Nations and the World Economic Forum.
In contrast to Magufuli, who routinely stood up against predatory corporations and imperialists, Samia Suhulhu and opposition politician Tundu Lissu are poised to offer up their country’s resources, and their population, on the altar of the western elite-driven Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Magufuli’s Celebrated Rise and His Clashes with the West
Magufuli was first elected president of Tanzania with running mate and now president of Tanzania, Samia Suhulu, back in 2015, winning 58 percent of the vote. At first, the president received lavish praise from major western media outlets, which later demonized him. For instance, a BBC report from 2016 reflected on Magufuli’s first year in office and noted his 96 percent approval rating. The report also quoted political analyst Kitila Mumbo, who remarked, “There is no doubt that President Magufuli is very popular among many ordinary Tanzanians” and added that “the president’s main promise of extending free education to secondary school, which came into effect in January, has been well received.”
Also in 2016, CNN had reported that “the Tanzanian public has gone wild for its new president John Magufuli” and that “after sweeping to victory in October 2015, Magufuli has embarked on a remorseless purge of corruption.” The article reported that Magufuli had inspired a new term, as seen in Tanzanians’ social media posts: Magufulify: “1. to render or declare an action faster or cheaper; 2. to deprive [public officials] of their capacity to enjoy life at taxpayers’ expense; 3. to terrorize lazy and corrupt individuals in society.”
Indeed, Magufuli’s time in office was characterized by his making decisions that benefited the majority of Tanzanians, largely at the expense of foreign corporations but also by overhauling the Tanzanian government itself, known for its entrenched corruption and absenteeism prior to Magufuli’s rise. His administration cut the salaries of the executives at state-owned companies, as well as cutting his own salary, from $15,000 to $4,000. Some state parades and celebrations were reduced or cancelled to cover the expenses for running public hospitals.
Improving health care had long been one of Magufuli’s priorities, and life expectancy in Tanzania significantly increased every year he was in office. In addition, in the previous fifty years of Tanzanian independence, only 77 district hospitals were constructed, whereas, during the past four years alone, 101 such hospitals were constructed and equipped through local funding. By July 2020, the country had grown from a lower-income country to a middle-income country, per the World Bank.
A recent report by the hawkish US establishment think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was highly critical of Magufuli but noted the following about his political philosophy:
Magufuli, who subscribes to his own homegrown “Tanzania first” philosophy, believes that Tanzania has been cheated out of profit and wealth by exploitative mabeberu (“imperialists”) since independence. To secure populist support, Magufuli has fashioned his agenda as a continuation of the socialist vision of Tanzania’s first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who advocated self-reliance, an intolerance to corruption, and a strong nationalist character.
Magufuli’s conflicts with the mabeberu transpired throughout his presidency; he targeted various projects, corporate ventures, and oligarchs that have exploited much of the Global South for decades. For example, in late 2018, Tanzania’s government ordered a stop to all ongoing field trials on genetically modified crops and the destruction of all plants grown as part of those trials. Those trials were being conducted by a partnership called the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), which was a collaboration between Monsanto and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a nonprofit funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, GM seed/agrochemical giant Syngenta, PepsiCo, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the latter long known to be a cut-out for the CIA. In January 2021, a month before Magufuli’s disappearance, Tanzania’s agriculture ministry not only announced a cancellation of all “research trials involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country” for a second time, it also announced plans to institute new biosafety regulations aimed at protecting Tanzania’s food sovereignty by scrutinizing western GM seed imports.
Historically, the US has been particularly harsh to countries that resist the integration of GM biotech into their food systems. According to a State Department cable from 2007 published by Wikileaks, Craig Stapleton, then US ambassador to France, advised the US to prepare for economic war with countries unwilling to introduce Monsanto’s GM corn seeds into their agricultural sectors. He recommended that the US “calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU” because of the bloc’s resistance to approving some GM products. In another cable from 2009, a US diplomat stationed in Germany relayed intelligence on Bavarian political parties to several US federal agencies and the US secretary of defense, telling them which parties opposed Monsanto’s M810 corn seed and spoke of “tactics that the US could impose to resolve the opposition.”
The US government’s use of food as a weapon for its imperialist agenda became de facto policy when Henry Kissinger was secretary of state during the Nixon administration. During that period, a classified report was produced by the State Department that argued that the population of the developing world threatened US national security and posited that food aid be used as an “instrument of national power” to advance US aims.
A Roadblock for the Ruling Class’s “Green” Future
Magufuli’s role in robbing Big Ag of a foothold in Tanzania a month before his disappearance and death certainly casts suspicion on the circumstances surrounding his demise. Yet, if that weren’t enough, Magufuli, during the same time frame, greatly angered the world’s most powerful commodity corporations in the mining, oil, and natural gas sectors.
Particularly damaging to foreign corporate interests and agendas was Magufuli’s targeting of the foreign-dominated mining sector in Tanzania, as the nation has some of the world’s largest deposits of minerals essential to Fourth Industrial Revolution–related technologies. With its 500,000 tons of nickel, 75,000 tons of copper, and 45,000 tons of cobalt, Tanzania sits on a mountain of mineral wealth and, more specifically, minerals needed for next-generation batteries and hardware that are essential to implementing “smart” infrastructure and automation globally. Within the continent of Africa, Tanzania has the largest mining industry after South Africa.
In the years prior to Magufuli’s rise, Tanzania had offered relatively low tax rates and little regulatory oversight for mining companies. Yet, in 2017, Magufuli declared “economic warfare” on foreign mining companies, and his administration followed through on the declaration, passing two laws that provided the government with a much greater share of the revenue from the exploitation of Tanzania’s natural resources. This, of course, came at the expense of foreign mining conglomerates. The new legislation also gave the government the right to renegotiate and/or revoke existing mining licenses that had been awarded prior to Magufuli’s presidency.
Tanzania’s government soon took aim at Acacia Mining, which is now owned by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, and slapped it with $190 billion in fines for unpaid taxes and penalties. “It shouldn’t happen that we have all this wealth, sit on it, while others come and benefit from it by cheating us,” Magufuli said of the decision. “We need investors, but not this kind of exploitation. We are supposed to share profits.” In 2018, the administration went after Acacia again, fining them $2.4 million for contaminating local water supplies in residential areas.
The year 2018 was also when Magufuli’s biggest rift with powerful mining corporations took place, one that potentially influenced his disappearance and subsequent death. The Kabanga nickel project, the largest development-ready nickel deposit in the world, had been owned jointly by Canada’s Barrick Gold and commodities giant Glencore. In May 2018, Magufuli’s administration revoked the Barrick-Glencore license for the project, along with several other projects that included the mining of nickel, gold, silver, copper, and rare earth elements.
Angering Glencore is a particularly risky business. The commodities giant was originally founded by Marc Rich, an infamous asset for Israel’s Mossad, who allowed Glencore’s profits to be used to finance covert intelligence activities. Rich and Glencore’s intelligence ties are discussed in greater detail in Part 4 of Whitney Webb’s series on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Today, Glencore is closely linked with Nathaniel (Nat) Rothschild, the scion of the British-based branch of the elite banking family, who purchased a $40 million stake in the company. Rothschild was largely responsible for orchestrating Simon Murray’s appointment as Glencore’s chairman and has a close relationship with Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg.
In January 2021, a month before Magufuli disappeared, the Kabanga Nickel project went forward without Glencore and Barrick Gold, as Tanzania successfully negotiated joint ownership of the mine with a company set up by Norwegian millionaire Peter Smedvig and two of his associates. Unlike the Barrick-Glencore project, in which Tanzania’s government had no financial stake, the new project gave Tanzania 16 percent ownership in the mine, a percentage required by law following Magufuli’s reform of the country’s mining sector.
The loss of Kabanga was clearly a grave one for Barrick Gold and Glencore, given the central role nickel and this specific deposit in Tanzania are set to play in the production and implementation of “smart” technologies. Nickel, among other uses, is a key component of the next-generation batteries used in electric vehicles. As a result, the demand for nickel is projected to rise dramatically in the next few years, in part due to the effort to phase out most motor vehicles and replace them with ones that are both electric and self-driving. The importance of nickel to the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been underscored by the World Economic Forum, which estimates that demand for high-purity nickel for EV battery production “will increase by a factor of 24 in 2030 compared to 2018 levels.” In addition, last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that “nickel is the biggest concern for electric car batteries.”
In addition to Tanzania’s valuable nickel reserves, it can be argued that Tanzania’s other most significant mineral wealth lies in its graphite, the fifth-largest reserve in the world. In 2018, Oxford Business Group estimated that Tanzania would become one of the top three graphite producers on the planet. With the World Bank estimating that graphite demand will increase 500 percent in the next thirty years, Tanzania now holds a strong bargaining position in the global market. The global lithium-ion battery market is “expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.0% from 2020 to 2027,” and these batteries usually require both nickel and graphite, both of which are plentiful under Tanzania. As Elon Musk has put it, “lithium-ion batteries should be called nickel graphite batteries.”
Last year, Musk tweeted, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it,” in response to accusations that the US government had backed the 2019 coup in Bolivia so that Musk’s Tesla could obtain the world’s largest lithium reserves, another mineral critical to electric vehicle battery production. A few months before Musk’s infamous tweet, the foreign minister of Bolivia’s coup government had written a letter to Musk stating that “any corporation that you or your company can provide to our country will be gratefully welcomed” in relation to the country’s mining sector. These incidents underscore the US empire’s current willingness to engage in regime change to ensure control of mineral deposits considered essential to emerging technologies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In the case of Tanzania, it is worth noting that Glencore, which had its ownership of the Kabanga nickel deposit revoked by Magufuli, is closely tied to the World Economic Forum and is part of the WEF’s Global Battery Alliance as well as its Mining and Metals Blockchain Initiative, both of which focus on supply chains for minerals deemed essential to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Also of interest is that Tundu Lissu, the Magufuli government’s most vocal critic and a main source for all mainstream media Tanzania reporting, was formerly employed by the World Resources Institute, a US-based nonprofit and “strategic partner” of the World Economic Forum. The WRI aims to build “clean energy markets” and “value supply chains” that will inevitably depend on cheaply sourced raw materials like nickel, graphite, and cobalt.
The World Resource Institute has received no less than $7.1 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and, according to the WRI’s donor page, they’ve received at least $750,000 from the West’s most powerful corporate actors, including Shell, Citibank, the Rockefeller Foundation, Google, Microsoft, The Open Society Foundation, USAID, and the World Bank. Lissu praised news of Magufuli’s sudden death as a “relief” and an “opportunity for a new beginning” in Tanzania. Tellingly, he also spoke very positively of the country’s future under Magufuli’s former vice president and current president Samia Suhulu, suggesting that she will take the country in a very different direction than that of her predecessor.
Thabit Jacob, a Tanzanian academic at Denmark’s Roskilde University, was quoted in the global news service upstream as saying that Rostam Aziz—one of Tanzania’s wealthiest businessmen and ex-parliament member who had a major falling out with Magufuli over tax policy—could soon become a key player in the new government, “meaning big business will play a bigger role” in the country’s future. Rostam owns Caspian Mining, the single largest Tanzanian mining firm and a frequent contractor for Barrick Gold.
COVID-19 Response Met with Foreign Hostility
Under the Magufuli administration, Tanzania’s COVID-19 response policies ran counter to the international consensus, with the country declining to implement any major lockdowns or mask mandates. It should be noted that even the Council on Foreign Relations reported that these decisions had the support of the nation’s masses, writing that “on-the-street sentiment suggests many Tanzanians agree with the government’s light-touch approach.”
Magufuli was also skeptical of adopting COVID-19 vaccines before they could be investigated and certified by Tanzania’s own experts, warning that they could pose safety concerns due to their rushed development. “The Ministry of Health should be careful; they should not hurry to try these vaccines without doing research. . . . We should not be used as ‘guinea pigs,’” Magufuli had stated in January. “We are not yet satisfied that those vaccines have been clinically proven safe,” Tanzanian health minister Dorothy Gwajima later remarked at a news conference.
Magufuli refused to immediately agree to receive COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the public-private partnership between Gates’s Gavi, Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization that aims to deliver 270 million COVID vaccines—with 269 million of them being the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine—to the world “as soon as they’re available.” In recent weeks, major safety issues with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have been identified by national regulatory bodies across Europe and Asia, and numerous countries have suspended its use.
Such nuance regarding the safety of “vaccine aid” was absent from the now ubiquitous mainstream narrative of Magufuli being “antiscience.” That narrative was first established as early as May 2020, when Magufuli exposed the inaccuracy of imported polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing kits after a goat, a piece of fruit, and motor oil all received “positive” test results from the supplied kits. “There is something happening . . . we should not accept that every aid is meant to be good for this nation,” he proclaimed in a national address.
After this address, Bloomberg called Magufuli the “COVID-denying president.” Foreign Policy went as far as to dub the president “Denialist in Chief” and asked if he was even “more dangerous than COVID-19.” Magufuli became the western press’s poster boy for “COVID denial” while Tanzania became “the country that’s rejecting the vaccine.”
In the months since May 2020, however, the accuracy of PCR testing kits has been called into question, not only by mainstream media but also by “authoritative” global health bodies such as the World Health Organization, thereby validating Magufuli’s initial critique. In a story titled “Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be,” the New York Times reported that the “standard [PCR] tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus . . . and are not likely contagious.”
In a November 2020 landmark case in Portugal, the court ruled that the PCR test used to diagnose COVID-19 was not fit for that purpose and that “a single positive PCR test cannot be used as an effective diagnosis of infection.” In their ruling, judges Margarida Ramos de Almeida and Ana Paramés referred to a study by Jaafar et al. that found that the accuracy of some PCR tests was only about 3 percent, meaning that up to 97 percent of positive results could be false positives.
By December 2020, the World Health Organization had confirmed that the PCR test was capable of false positives and warned that they could easily lead to COVID-free individuals receiving positive test results. The position that PCR testing kits are unreliable is not new science, as a 2007 New York Times article titled “Faith in Quick Test Leads to Epidemic that Wasn’t” stated that the sensitivity of PCR testing kits “makes false positives likely, and when hundreds or thousands of people are tested, false positives can make it seem like there is an epidemic.” In addition, large batches of PCR test kits in the early phase of the COVID-19 crisis were contaminated with COVID-19 prior to their use, which was later found to have significantly skewed the number of cases reported in the early phases of the pandemic in the US and beyond.
Numerous examples of vaccines with severe adverse effects being pushed onto the Tanzanian people, combined with the widely reported safety issues surrounding the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine that Tanzania would receive through COVAX, make the western media’s “antiscience” characterization of Magufuli particularly inappropriate. For example, as far back as 1977, studies published in the Lancet established that the risks of the diphtheria tetanus pertussis (DTP) vaccine are greater than the risks associated with contracting wild pertussis. After mounting evidence linking the drug to brain damage, seizures, and even death, the US phased it out in the 1990s and replaced it with a safer version called DTaP. A 2017 study funded by the Danish government concluded that more African children were dying from the deadly DTP vaccine than from the diseases it prevented. Researchers examined data from Guinea Bissau and concluded that vaccinated boys were dying at 3.9 times the rate of those who had not received the shot, while vaccinated girls had a death rate almost 10 times (9.98) greater than that of unvaccinated girls. Gavi, subsidized by USAID and the Gates Foundation, has dumped over $27 million worth of the dangerously outdated DTP vaccine onto the Tanzanian health system.
Furthermore, as detailed by Unlimited Hangout in December, the developers of the Oxford vaccine (the vaccine Tanzania would receive under COVAX) are deeply entangled with the eugenics movement and, to this day, engage in ethically questionable activities relating to the intersection of race and science. In 2020, the Wellcome Trust, the research institute where both of the lead developers of the Oxford vaccine work, was accused by the University of Cape Town of illegally exploiting hundreds of Africans by stealing their DNA without consent.
Also concerning is the fact that more than twenty European countries have halted use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine due to a possible link to blood clot disorders and strokes. Even the New York Times has questioned if the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a viable candidate, particularly for Africa. According to a Times article from February, South Africa halted use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical trial volunteers from mild or moderate illness.
A Recent Election Victory “amid Claims of Fraud”
In October 2020, Magufuli was reelected to a second, five-year term, this time gaining a resounding 84.39 percent of the vote. At the time, the US government–funded outlet Voice of America quoted one Tanzanian, Edward Mbise, who told the outlet that “[they] all expected [Magufuli] to win due to what he has done . . . he has accomplished so many things that you can’t even finish listing all of them.”
However, Tundu Lissu, the leader of Magufuli’s main opposition party, alleged that the election had been fraudulent, yet he provided no evidence. According to the same Voice of America article, Lissu called for “citizens [to] take action to ensure all election results are changed.”
Lissu’s accusations of fraud were widely reprinted in the western media despite the lack of evidence. A BBC article was titled “President Magufuli Wins Election amid Fraud Claims.” The Guardian, funded heavily by the Gates Foundation, similarly claimed that “Tanzania’s President Wins Re-Election amid Claims of Fraud.” In the US, the New York Times published a story called “As Tanzania’s President Wins a Second Term, Opposition Calls for Protests.”
No mention of Magufuli’s approval ratings nor quotes from actual Tanzanian people were anywhere to be found in these articles, details which had been plentiful in western mainstream media coverage after his first election victory. Quotes that did appear were usually from Lissu, now exiled in Belgium, or other members of Lissu’s party.
Not long after Lissu’s claims had been uncritically repeated by major western media outlets, Mike Pompeo, on his last day as head of the State Department, announced sanctions that targeted Tanzanian officials who had allegedly been “responsible for or complicit in undermining the 2020 Tanzanian general election.” It is worth pointing out that the similarities between the election fraud accusations in Tanzania and those made in Bolivia just prior to the US-backed November 2019 coup are considerable.
Two weeks later, on February 5, 2021, the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggested that the US might fund Magufuli’s political opposition, writing that the “the Biden administration has an opportunity to increase direct engagement with Tanzanian opposition politicians and civil society groups,” using Magufuli’s “dangerous” approach to COVID-19 as public justification.
That same week, the Guardian’s Global Development section (made possible through a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) published an article titled, “It’s Time for Africa to Rein in Tanzania’s Anti-Vaxxer President.” Predictably, this article, and others like it, sought to paint the African leader as a crazy conspiracy theorist while leaving out that Magufuli had earned MS and PhD degrees in chemistry before being elected president in 2015.
On March 9, Tundu Lissu, the opposition leader formerly employed by the Washington-based and Wall Street–funded World Resource Institute, contended that Magufuli was critically ill with COVID-19. In a series of tweets, Lissu asserted that the president had been flown first to Kenya and then to India to be treated for the virus. “We urge the government to come out publicly and say where is the president and what is his condition,” said John Mnyika, another opposition leader. The very first paper to run the story that Magufuli had COVID-19 was the Nation, a relatively new Kenyan newspaper that has received $4 million from the US-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Meanwhile, the Magufuli government repeatedly dismissed these claims as fake news. “He is fine and doing his responsibilities,” insisted Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa on March 12. “A head of state is not a head of a jogging club who should always be around taking selfies,” Constitutional Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said.
On March 11, just days before the announcement of Magufuli’s death and Suhulu’s ascension as president, the Council on Foreign Relations, the influential think tank closely tied to the Rockefeller family and the US political elite, suggested that a “bold figure within the ruling party [i.e., Magufuli’s party] could capitalize on the current episode to gain popularity and begin to reverse course.”
While a swift leadership transition in Tanzania might seem like an unexpected surprise to some, groups in the US who specialize in foreign meddling and regime change operations had been at work in Tanzania ever since Magufuli’s initial election victory. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government think/do tank that aims to “support freedom around the world,” pumped $1.1 million into various Tanzanian opposition groups and causes over the last few years. A cofounder of NED, Allen Weinstein, once disclosed to the Washington Post that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Carl Gershman, NED’s other cofounder, once told the New York Times that “it would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA . . . and that’s why the endowment was created.”
NED’s recent operations in Tanzania have included projects to “organize young people to promote reform, and introduce them to new media tools that can assist in their efforts,” “recruit and train young artists to convey stories about governance,” financially support an opposition-friendly “satirical” news production that provides humorous commentary on current events to “encourage conversations,” as well as financially support the production of a “comprehensive televised civic education campaign” aimed at both COVID-related public awareness and “voter education.” The grantee for the funds, the Tanzania Bora Initiative, whose slogan is “transforming mindsets, influencing cultures,” boasts of “empowering over fifty young Tanzanian political candidates.” The Tanzania Bora Initiative was also heavily supported by USAID while Magufuli was in office.
One wonders what effects these NED and USAID-funded efforts would have had on the country if Magufuli had not died in office. In January, the CIA-filled Jamestown Foundation began reporting on Tanzania’s “creeping radicalization issue” and eerily put forward the idea that “Tanzania could be primed to experience an increase in violence directed inward.” Though this, thankfully, never came to fruition, in other cases of western-backed regime change, opposition groups funded by these same organizations have stoked or created violence in order to justify western intervention.
The Magufuli administration was not oblivious to the West’s regime-change efforts. In the years following Magufuli’s election victory, Tanzanian police raided meetings organized by the Open Society Foundation, a group infamous for its meddling in states targeted by the US foreign-policy establishment.
Yet, despite his strong stand against the West, something about Magufuli’s approach had changed on the day of his last public appearance, February 24, 2021. That morning, the Tanzanian president began urging his countrymen to wear masks, something he had resisted doing for nearly a year after the WHO declared a pandemic, and urged them to begin taking health precautions.
A New President to Western Applause
Convenient for the powers that Magufuli had angered, his vice president and successor, Samia Suluhu, hails from the UN World Food Programme and has a profile listed on the website of the World Economic Forum, suggesting a closeness with the circles her predecessor had rebuked. It still remains unclear if she has already reversed any of Magufuli’s policies, either economic or COVID-related, but some shifts seem likely given that her appointment has been met with pure celebration by the same institutional actors that actively worked to undermine President Magufuli.
Another potential indicator is the dubious discovery of a new COVID variant in Tanzania that reportedly has more mutations than any other variant. That variant’s discovery was announced just over a week after the announcement of Magufuli’s death and seems tailor-made to provide a public justification for a reversal of Tanzania’s government approach to COVID. Notably, the Tanzania variant was discovered by KriSP, “a scientific institute that carries out genetic testing for 10 African nations” that is funded by the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the governments of the US, the UK, and South Africa.
Regarding a potentially imminent reversal of Tanzania’s COVID policy, the reaction of the top official at the World Health Organization may offer a clue. WHO general director Tedros Ghebreyesus had no time to comment after receiving word of Magufuli’s sudden death but quickly took to Twitter minutes after Suluhu’s swearing-in ceremony to congratulate the country’s first female president, telling her that he’s “looking forward to working with her to keep people safe from COVID-19, and end the pandemic.” Ghebreyesus was previously on the board of two organizations that Bill Gates had founded, provided seed money for, and continues to fund to this day: Gavi and the Global Fund, where Tedros was chair of the board.
A few days before Ghebreyesus’s tweet, the US State Department released a statement reaffirming US commitment to supporting Tanzanians as they advocate for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It stated, “We hope that Tanzania can move forward on a democratic and prosperous path.” Vice President Kamala Harris had nothing to say regarding the sudden death of the popular East African president, but, like Ghebreyesus, she managed to send her best wishes to the newly sworn in Suluhu Samia on Twitter.
Billionaire-backed Human Rights Watch, whose revolving door with the US government is well documented, welcomed Magufuli’s death, publishing a piece entitled “Tanzania: President Magufuli’s Death Should Open New Chapter,” which said that the African leader’s sudden passing “provides an opportunity.” Notably, the same organization had supported the US-backed military coup in Bolivia as well as the Trump administration’s regime change efforts in Nicaragua. It had called for an increase in US sanctions on Venezeula’s Chavista government, even after the publication of a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that at least forty thousand Venezuelan civilians had already died due to such sanctions.
Earlier this month, Judd Devermont, a former CIA senior political analyst on sub-Saharan Africa, in a Center for Strategic and International Studies piece titled “Will Magufuli’s Death Bring Real Change to Tanzania?,” wrote that, prior to Magufuli’s death, it was “believed that Suluhu was growing increasingly wary of Magufuli’s authoritarian policies.” Later in the article, the former CIA analyst accidentally disclosed his working definition of “authoritarianism” when he wrote, “Magufuli steered Tanzania toward authoritarianism by implementing a nationalist economic agenda characterized by stifled regional and international trade and a blow to foreign direct investment (FDI).”
However, the claim that Magufuli was against all foreign investment is misleading. Perhaps Devermont should have written that Magufuli’s policies were a blow to FDI from the West, as Magufuli, in the last months of his presidency and his life, was directly courting foreign investment from China.
In mid-December 2020, Tanzania Invests reported on a Magufuli meeting with Chinese leaders, after which Magufuli announced that Tanzania “welcomes traders and investors from China in various areas like manufacturing, tourism, construction, and trade for the benefit of both parties.” The report also noted that “Magufuli asked China to cooperate with Tanzania in investing in large projects by providing cheap loans” and that “Tanzania will further develop and enhance its long-standing relationship with China and will continue to support China on various international issues.” China is currently Tanzania’s top trading partner, and Tanzania is the largest recipient of Chinese government aid in Africa. It is worth considering whether this China pivot, particularly at a time when the US’s cold war with China is reaching new heights, played a role in western-backed regime change efforts targeting Tanzania.
Looking beyond Tanzania
The fate suffered by President Magufuli and Tanzania is similar to what happened in a neighboring country, Burundi, just six months ago. The president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, refused to enact top-down mitigation measures in response to COVID-19 and was similarly vilified by US-aligned press and think tanks. In May 2020, Nkurunziza expelled the World Health Organization from Burundi, and, three weeks later, it was reported that he had died after suddenly going into cardiac arrest.
Zambia, which borders Tanzania and is set to hold elections this August, is currently angering some of the same actors that Magufuli had challenged in its efforts to nationalize its copper mines and potentially other mining projects. In December, Zambian president Edgar Lungu announced that his government would acquire “a significant stake in some selected mine assets” in order to “create sufficient wealth for the nation.” Echoing Magufuli, Lungu had stated, “We shall no longer tolerate mining investors who seek to [profit] from our God-given natural resources, leaving us with empty hands.”
In January, Lungu took a step toward nationalizing the copper-mining sector after a protracted dispute with none other than Glencore. Copper, like nickel, graphite, and lithium, is a metal critical to the success of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Western media reports on Lungu’s recent move quoted experts who urged Zambia’s government “to tread carefully” in its efforts to increase the role of the public sector in the nation’s mining industry.
A week after Magufuli’s death was announced, Lungu’s main competitor in the upcoming election publicly accused Lungu of trying to have him murdered, while some English language pro-West media outlets have already claimed that Lungu plans to rig the upcoming election in his favor and that the country “may burn” if the election has the “wrong” outcome.
Such examples reveal that the situation that has recently unfolded in Tanzania is hardly unique in today’s Africa. However, the domination of the media landscape with constant COVID coverage has made western audiences largely unaware of the various regime-change efforts that have taken place or are underway in the region. Unlike regime-change efforts of the past, those targeting Africa, and also Bolivia, seem laser focused on mining assets that are deemed essential to powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
With many of these countries having recently cozied up to China, it seems that regime-change projects and proxy wars of the future are set to revolve, not around fossil fuels and pipelines, but over whether the East or the West will dominate the supplies of minerals needed to produce and maintain next-generation technology.
Not only has COVID kept reporting on these coups for minerals to a minimum, it has also lent a convenient cover for the demonization of leaders and the advancement of regime change in countries that are being targeted for other reasons that have everything to do with resources and little to do with a virus.