John Magufuli, Tanzania Leader Who Played Down Covid, Dies at 61

NAIROBI, Kenya — President John Magufuli of Tanzania, a populist chief who performed down the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and steered his nation away from democratic beliefs, died on Wednesday within the port metropolis of Dar es Salaam. He was 61.

Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan stated in a quick televised tackle that Mr. Magufuli had died of coronary heart issues whereas being handled at Mzena Hospital. The announcement adopted more than a week of intense speculation that Mr. Magufuli was critically ailing with Covid-19 — experiences that senior authorities officers had repeatedly denied.

Ms. Hassan didn’t specify Mr. Magufuli’s underlying sickness however stated that he had suffered from power atrial fibrillation for greater than a decade. She introduced 14 days of nationwide mourning and stated that flags would fly at half-staff nationwide.

According to the Tanzanian Constitution, Ms. Hassan will likely be sworn in as president to serve the rest of the five-year time period that Mr. Magufuli started when he received re-election final October. The transfer will make her Tanzania’s first feminine chief.

Mr. Magufuli, a skilled chemist, was first elected in October 2015 on an anticorruption platform. He was initially lauded for his efforts to bolster the economic system, stem wasteful spending and improve Tanzania’s infrastructure.

But the chief, popularly referred to as “the Bulldozer,” was quickly accused of muzzling dissent, rolling again freedom of expression and affiliation, and pushing by legal guidelines that shored up his Party of the Revolution’s grip on energy.

That marked a sharp departure from policies of his two immediate predecessors, who had promoted their East African nation as a peaceable, business-friendly democracy.

During his first time period, Mr. Magufuli’s authorities banned opposition rallies, revoked the licenses of nongovernmental organizations and launched legal guidelines that critics stated repressed impartial reporting. He additionally stated that pregnant girls should not be allowed in school.

Rights teams accused his authorities of failing to hold out credible investigations into the killings, abductions and persecution of journalists who have been essential of the federal government and opposition figures.

As Mr. Magufuli sought a second time period final fall, the authorities made it more durable for opposition events to marketing campaign, froze the financial institution accounts of civil society teams, denied accreditation to election observers and journalists, and refused to let opposition representatives into polling stations.

On voting day, at least 10 folks have been killed when violence broke out within the semiautonomous archipelago of Zanzibar after citizens said they had seen soldiers delivering marked ballots.

Mr. Magufuli won that election with 84 % of the vote amid accusations of widespread fraud and irregularities. Tundu Lissu, the principle opposition candidate operating in opposition to him, was accused of trying to overthrow the government and needed to depart the nation. He stays in exile in Belgium.

Over the previous yr, Mr. Magufuli got here underneath intense criticism at residence and overseas for his dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic. He railed in opposition to masks and social distancing, promoted unproven treatments as cures and stated that God had helped the country eliminate the virus.

Tanzania has not shared information on the coronavirus with the World Health Organization since April, and it has reported simply 509 instances and 21 deaths, figures which were extensively considered with skepticism.

As vaccine rollouts started worldwide, Mr. Magufuli discouraged the Health Ministry from securing doses for Tanzania.

“Vaccines don’t work,” he claimed in a speech to a maskless crowd in late January. “If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, then vaccines for AIDS would have been brought. Vaccines for tuberculosis would have made it a thing of the past. Vaccines for malaria would have been found. Vaccines for cancer would have been found.”

Such statements drew condemnation from the World Health Organization in addition to the Roman Catholic Church in Tanzania. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the W.H.O. regional director for Africa, urged the Tanzanian authorities to arrange the infrastructure to distribute the doses, writing on Twitter, “Science shows that #VaccinesWork.”

In February, the United States Embassy in Tanzania warned of “a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases” and stated that “limited hospital capacity throughout Tanzania could result in life-threatening delays for emergency medical care.”

Mr. Magufuli’s demise got here simply days after hypothesis that he was sick with the virus. The rumors started swirling after Mr. Lissu, the opposition determine in exile, stated that the president had Covid-19 and was being handled in a hospital in neighboring Kenya.

Mr. Lissu urged the authorities to reveal the whereabouts of the president, who had not been seen in public for nearly two weeks. Mr. Magufuli didn’t attend a digital summit for leaders of the East African regional bloc on Feb. 27.

Tanzanian officers had dismissed the hypothesis and stated that Mr. Magufuli was working as regular.

After Mr. Magufuli’s demise was introduced on Wednesday, the chief of opposition occasion Act Wazalendo referred to as on Tanzanians to point out “patience and understanding” because the nation undergoes a essential transitional interval.

“This is an unprecedented moment,” the opposition occasion chief, Zitto Kabwe, said in a statement, “one that will undoubtedly move us all in very personal ways.”

John Pombe Joseph Magufuli was born on Oct. 29, 1959, within the district of Chato in what’s now northwestern Tanzania and was then referred to as Tanganyika. He earned a bachelor’s diploma in schooling from the University of Dar es Salaam and, in 2009, a doctorate in chemistry from the identical college, according to the presidential office’s website.

Before turning into president, he was a member of Tanzania’s Parliament and held quite a lot of cupboard posts. He developed a fame for preventing corruption whereas working in cupboard positions, together with because the minister of lands, fisheries and public works.

Mr. Magufuli is survived by his spouse, Janet, a primary-school trainer; and two youngsters.

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