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Africa News of Monday, 15 March 2021


Africa's one-time missing presidents: Buhari, Bongo, Bouteflika

The incidence of 'missing presidents' in Africa is not a new phenomenon. Over in Tanzania, the whereabouts of President John Magufuli was the subject of widespread social media rumours for about two weeks.

Exiled opposition leader Tundu Lissu tweeted that Magufuli at a point was in Nairobi seeking treatment for coronavirus. He added later that the president had been evacuated to India.

It wasn't till recently that the government through Prime Minister Hassan Majaliwa denied that Magufuli is unwell or battling COVID-19.

The prime minister said last Friday that Magufuli, who has not been seen in public for 15 days, had asked him to convey his greetings to residents in the country’s southern town of Njombe.

“The president has a lot to do,” he said, adding that the president had delegated some duties to his aides.

But Africa has in recent years had instances where presidents were largely absent from public view, for which reason some of their citizens demanded their whereabouts in some cases, demanding "proof of life."

GhanaWeb chronicles some prominent cases of missing African leaders.

Medical trips of Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017 spent three months on medical leave in Britain. He left Nigeria in May 2017, his return in August 2017 coming after a series of protests calling for him to return or resign.

The government did not disclose the particular malady for which Buhari sought extended medical attention in London. Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo, who was legally handed the Acting President role visited Buhari in London as did a group of governors and other close aides.

Supporters lined the road to the airport in the capital, Abuja, to welcome Buhari as his plane touched down. In June 2016, Buhari was in London for medical treatment and again for two months in January and February of 2017.

Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon

Gabonese president Ali Bongo Ondimba suffered a stroke for which he was flown out of the country to Morocco to seek for medical attention. This was in late 2018.

He was forced to return in February 2019 when a group of soldiers attempted to seize power. He conducted a cabinet reshuffle and was back in Morocco to recuperate from the condition.

In June 2019, he gave his first public speech, which came more than two months after his return to the country after a total of five-months absence in Morocco.

Abdul Aziz Bouteflika, Tebboune of Algeria

In Algeria, the 'missing president' issue is of the immediate past and the present. Ousted president AbdelAziz Bouteflika was known for his long absence from public due to his known medical condition.

He was confined to a wheelchair for large periods of his latter years. He was deposed in 2019 when the army withdrew support for him amid widespread protests.

The country looked to negotiate the curve of having a missing leader, in came the democratically elected Abdelmadjid Tebboune. He triggered concerns in November 2020 when he remained in Germany for a month for treatment after catching Covid-19.

"The prolonged absence of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is now the hot topic of political debate, supplanting a vote on constitutional reform and the rumblings of war near the country’s western border.

"But it’s also stirring uncomfortable echoes of veteran predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who spent months in the hospital abroad before his bid for re-election sparked mass unrest and his downfall last year," a Bloomberg report said about the situation in the North African country.

Meanwhile, 'search' for Magufuli continues

As it stands now, Tebounne, Buhari and Bongo are back home but until Tanzania releases 'proof of healthy life' of president Magufuli who officially is working hard in his office; social media rumours continue to persist despite punitive legal implications.

The latest on Magufuli's health being a claim via Twitter by Tundu Lissu that the president is partially paralyzed and on life support.