May 12, 2020

Tanzania, Burundi Leaders Skip Regional Summit on COVID-19


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Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza did not attend a virtual summit of the East African Community (EAC) this Tuesday.

Hosted by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame as current EAC chair, the other leaders Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Salva Kiir of South Sudan and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, were all in their home countries.

The summit had been postponed twice before as there was no quorum. The summit had a single item on agenda, COVID-19 pandemic.

The summit comes as Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya are seeing a steady rise of positive cases who are either cargo truck drivers, or people they have come into contact with.

Rwanda specifically gets more than 90% of its imports via Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. With President Magufuli preferring to keep his country open, unconfirmed reports say infection rates are going out of control.

Opposition politicians have made noise about Tanzania’s lux control measures to no avail. Instead, last Sunday, President Magufuli shocked the world with revelations that samples of pawpaw, car oil, goat and sheep sent secretly to national lab, had tested positive to the virus.

Magufuli doubted the test kits, imported from China like nearly every country, were actually working. Later, head of the Tanzania lab resigned from her post following the embarrassing attack from the President.

In Burundi, with election campaigns ongoing for presidential polls due May 20, outgoing leader Pierre Nkurunziza, has been holding regular national prayers to stop the virus since it emerged globally. There are no conclusive figures as to the infection rate.

In the EAC meeting today, the Presidents directed regional Ministers for Health, Transport and EAC affairs, to devise a plan for testing and certification of truck drivers at the point of origin. The drivers will be tested every 2 weeks.

The leaders also agreed on a host of other measures, but questions will continue as to how the measures will be adopted by Tanzania and Burundi.

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