Where is Tanzania’s President John Magufuli?
Tuesday marks 17 days since the 61-year-old has been seen in public, and despite a clamour of rumours of ill-health, the Tanzanian authorities have yet to provide clear answers as to his whereabouts.
The mere question is now leading to arrests, as the government seeks to contain the rumours.
And analysts say the silence is telling.
‘I think whatever happens … it is clearly true the regime is trying to buy time,’ said Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham.
‘And it only really makes sense that the regime is trying to buy time if the president is very ill, incapacitated, or dead.’
Magufuli last appeared in public on February 27, and the fervent Catholic has missed three Sunday services, where he would often address the congregation.
Just days before, Finance Minister Philip Mpango appeared coughing and gasping at a press conference outside a hospital, to dispel rumours he had died of Covid-19.
Fended off by prayer
Magufuli’s absence comes amid a string of high-profile deaths and illnesses attributed to ‘respiratory problems’ or ‘pneumonia’.
Magufuli had for months insisted the virus no longer existed in Tanzania, and had been fended off by prayer.
He refused to wear a face-mask or take lockdown measures.