John Pombe Magufuli, President of Tanzania

John Pombe Magufuli, the President of Tanzania, failed to attend yet another presidential virtual meeting with his East African counterparts on Tuesday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), and Salva Kiir (South Sudan) participated in the meeting. Paul Kagame, the East Africa Community (EAC) Chairperson, had convened the virtual meeting with the Head of States to discuss the management of the cross-border infections of COVID-19.

The national leaders acknowledged that truck drivers pose the greatest danger of spreading COVID-19 across borders. The Heads of States, however, agreed that the continuation of free movement of goods across the East Africa Community is a necessary evil. The presidents approved that each state’s agencies responsible for health, transport, and EAC dealings to implement comprehensive screening and testing measures at the border to avoid the spread of the virus in the region.

President Uhuru Kenyatta underscored the need for EAC to fight the COVID-19 pandemic collective.

President Magufuli’s absence in the regional meeting is a continuation of his unorthodox policies of fighting the virus. The head of state has encouraged his citizens to continue with their usual activities.  A case in point, Magufuli has refused to shut down places of worship, claiming that Tanzania needed to pray in church for healing.

Raila Odinga, a close ally of the Tanzanian president, has criticized his COVID-19 policies, stating that they risk spreading the virus across East Africa even more. Raila Odinga has revealed that is efforts to engage Magufuli have been futile, and the Tanzanian presidents have not responded to his automatic answering machine yet.