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Tanzania’s invisible enemy

The late president leaves a country still reeling from a pandemic he routinely denied

By Antoaneta Roussi   May 2021

Death by denial: military personnel carry the coffin of leader John Magufuli. Photo: Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo

On 17th March, Tanzania’s vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced the sudden death of the country’s leader, John Pombe Magufuli. His death at 61 was attributed to a pre-existing heart condition, but opposition leaders claimed that the reliably prominent president had gone missing for a fortnight because he’d been laid low with Covid-19. Rumours, none confirmed, had the ill president flying abroad for treatment in, variously, neighbouring Kenya, South Africa, Germany or India.

Magufuli isn’t the only world leader to have contracted the virus or died from it, but his scepticism about the disease gave his case a special…

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