DAR ES SALAAM, 11 March 2021 – Tanzanian officials are being extremely tight-lipped about the whereabouts and health of President John Magufuli.
The silence comes as speculation swirled on social media and on some mainstream media in the East African country, that Magufuli has taken seriously ill and has been hospitalized with breathing difficulties.
The rumors and speculation deepened Wednesday after the Tanzanian human rights group, Fichua Tanzania, reported that Magufuli traveled to neighboring Kenya to receive treatment in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Kenya’s The Nation newspaper reported Wednesday that an African leader had been admitted to a Nairobi hospital.
The paper declined to name the leader, saying that Kenyan government and officials in the nation of the leader both declined to provide official confirmation.
The 61-year-old Tanzanian leader, was last seen in public on February 24 during a tour of the country’s economic capital, Dar es Salaam.
Magufuli skipped scheduled attendance at a virtual heads-of-state summit for the East African Community (EAC) regional bloc held last February 27.
The Tanzanian leader was represented at the EAC first-ever virtual summit by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
On Wednesday, Tanzanian government spokesperson Hassan Abbasi and Magufuli’s spokesperson Gerson Msigwa as well as the country’s minister of information, all dodged requests for comment by journalists.
Bloomberg News reported that their calls to the two for comment were not returned.
Requests by the leader of the opposition Tundu Lissu, for the presidency to provide information to parliamentarians on the whereabouts of the president and his health, have also gone unanswered.
“The president’s well-being is a matter of grave public concern,” read a tweet Tuesday from Lissu.
The opposition leader recalled that the health of previous Tanzanian leaders was not a state secret.
“What’s it with Magufuli that we don’t deserve to know?” Lissu asked.
Information Minister Innocent Bashungwa warned against spreading “rumors,” saying those responsible will be held accountable.
On Twitter Wednesday, he encouraged Tanzanians to get their information from official sources only, avoiding to comment on reports of the president’s hospitalization.
Bloomberg’s phone calls to the Nairobi Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, James Nyamongo and to a spokesperson in Kenya’s State House, Kanze Dena, seeking comment, were also not answered or returned.
Magufuli has dealt with the new coronavirus in the most unorthodox way, including claiming that it was prayed away in Tanzania and claiming the country won’t need COVID-19 vaccinations.