Missing Tanzania’s president has flown to India following Covid-19 complications, opposition claims

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli is in India receiving medical treatment for COVID-19 and is in a serious condition, the nation’s main opposition leader has claimed.

Tundu Lissu, who lost last year’s election to Magufuli, on Thursday cited medical and security sources in Kenya for his information that the president had been transferred from a hospital in Kenya to India and was in a coma.

Tanzanian government spokesmen have stayed mum during days of speculation over the 61-year-old Magufuli’s whereabouts and health.

In power since 2015 and nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, Magufuli was last seen on February 27 looking his normal robust self during a ceremony at State House in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city.

Lissu told the news agency Reuters that Magufuli was flown to Kenya’s Nairobi Hospital at the start of this week and then on to an unknown destination in India. “He’s comatose since yesterday morning,” he said, without elaborating.

Kenya’s Nation newspaper cited unidentified political and diplomatic sources on Wednesday saying that an African leader, which it did not name, was being treated for COVID-19 on a ventilator at a Nairobi hospital.

India’s foreign office is yet to comment.

Magufuli has played down the threat from COVID-19, saying God and remedies such as steam inhalation would protect Tanzanians. He has mocked coronavirus tests, denounced vaccines as part of a Western conspiracy to take Africa’s wealth, and opposed mask-wearing and social distancing.

“His COVID denialism in tatters, his prayer-over-science folly has turned into a deadly boomerang,” Lissu tweeted in the early hours of Thursday.

According to Tanzania’s constitution, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan would take over for the rest of the five-year term if the president is unable to discharge duties.