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Tanzania: Covid Rumors Swirl As President Magufuli “Disappears”

Magufuli, 61 was last seen in public on Feb. 24 during a tour of the commercial hub, Dar es Salaam, where he inspected projects and addressed public gatherings.

Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu questioned President John Magufuli’s whereabouts, as speculation swirled on social media that he’s fallen ill and been admitted to hospital.

Magufuli, 61 was last seen in public on Feb. 24 during a tour of the commercial hub, Dar es Salaam, where he inspected projects and addressed public gatherings.

The president was scheduled to attend a virtual heads-of-state summit for the East African Community regional bloc on Feb. 27, but was represented by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

“The president’s well-being is a matter of grave public concern,” Lissu said in a tweet Tuesday. He cited public announcements of previous Tanzanian leaders’ illnesses, before asking: “What’s it with Magufuli that we don’t deserve to know?”

“The President’s well-being is a matter of grave public concern. We’re informed when Kikwete had prostate surgery. We’re told when Mkapa went for hip replacement. We’re not kept in the dark when Mwalimu fought leukemia. What’s it with Magufuli that we don’t deserve to know?,” Tundu Antiphas Lissu said.

Tanzanian presidency spokesman Gerson Msigwa and government spokesman Hassan Abbasi didn’t answer their mobile phones when Bloomberg called each of them two times on Wednesday to request comment.

Lissu’s remark came after FichuaTanzania, a human rights group, reported that Magufuli traveled to neighboring Kenya to receive treatment at a hospital in the capital, Nairobi. It urged Tanzania’s government to provide an official comment on the report.

Kenya’s The Nation newspaper reported that an African leader had been admitted to a Nairobi hospital. It said it could not reveal his name as government officials from both Kenya and the leader’s home nation had declined to provide official confirmation.

Nairobi Hospital Chief Executive Officer James Nyamongo was unavailable for comment when Bloomberg called his office Wednesday morning. Kenya’s State House spokeswoman, Kanze Dena, didn’t answer a call seeking comment.