• His continued absence has raised eyebrows even as Magufuli continues to downplay the rise of coronavirus cases in his country.
• Tanzania currently has 509 confirmed coronavirus cases with 21 deaths.
Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli was conspicuously missing in a meeting convened by the East African Community Heads of State members on Tuesday.
Only Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Salva Kiir (South Sudan) were present in the virtual meeting.
This is not the first time Magufuli is missing these virtual meetings in which the EAC discusses the Covid-19 pandemic.
His continued absence has raised eyebrows even as Magufuli continues to downplay the rise of coronavirus cases in his country.
Tanzania currently has 509 confirmed coronavirus cases with 21 deaths.
Former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, hinted during a recent interview with the BBC that Magufuli has been incommunicado with other leaders in the region.
Raila and Magufuli are close friends who have been involved in each other’s political and personal lives.
“No, I haven’t talked to my friend. I’ve tried to reach him on phone, but I haven’t been successful,” Raila said. “[So], I’ve left him a message on SMS.”
President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza was also absent from the meeting.
FREE MOVEMENT OF GOODS
Continued free movement of goods and the management of the cross-border spread of Covid-19 topped Tuesday's agenda of the EAC Heads of State and Government.
In the virtual meeting convened by President Kagame who is also the current EAC Chairperson, the leaders agreed to prioritise the implementation of measures that will ensure uninterrupted cross-border movement of goods even as the region continues to battle Covid-19.
The leaders acknowledged the challenge posed by cross-border trade in the fight against Coronavirus, especially the emergence of truck drivers as a high risk carrier population.
The Heads of State tasked their respective state agencies responsible for health, transport and EAC affairs to roll-out border screening and testing measures especially for truck drivers that do not compromise cross-border movement of goods.
Uhuru emphasised the need for collective EAC interventions against the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“A unified stand is what we need to combat this pandemic in the region," Uhuru told his regional peers, adding that contact tracing had helped Kenya to isolate and treat those infected by the virus.
“We continue to actively enforce contact tracing which has proved to be very effective in identifying those who have come into contact with infected persons,” he said.
The Heads of State expressed satisfaction with measures taken so far by regional governments in managing Covid-19 and thanked the EAC Secretariat as well as the Council of Ministers for ensuring the region is able to minimize the cross-border spread of the virus while ensuring the uninterrupted movement of goods.
The leaders acknowledged the slowdown caused by the global pandemic on the region’s key economic sectors and urged member states to prioritize local production of essential supplies needed to combat Covid-19.
Further, the Heads of State encouraged EAC countries to invest more in agricultural production, agro-processing and value addition so as to empower the sector to act as an import substitute in this period when global trade is suppressed by the current public health crisis.
The leaders singled out SMEs as the sector with the highest potential to cushion the region against adverse economic effects of the pandemic and recommended the establishment of special-purpose financing schemes to support the sector.
The Heads of State thanked development partners including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) for their continued support to EAC states in combating the virus.