Are These Images Related to Magufuli’s Mysterious Disappearance?

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Images circulating online, including an image showing the Kenyan flag raised at half-mast, another showing Tanzanian vice president Samia Suluhu walking through a parade of soldiers and an image claiming to show that Wikipedia has apparently changed information about President Magufuli to state that he died on March 10 have been making rounds online.

The images have been circulating amid unverified claims on social media, saying that President Magufuli is allegedly dead.

Background

President Magufuli has not made any public appearances since February 24, 2021 when he launched government projects in Dar es Salaam. He was scheduled to attend the East African Heads of State Summit on February 27 but was instead represented by Vice President Samia Suluhu.

Magufuli’s public absence, in addition to opposition leader Tundu Lissu’s tweets and later media reports citing that the Tanzanian president was on March 10 admitted at the Nairobi Hospital and found to have COVID-19 brought about public speculations, including the unverified death claims. This is especially since President Magufuli has been termed as ‘Africa’s most prominent coronavirus sceptic’ for publicly disregarding the fatal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an analysis published by Piga Firimbi, Tanzania was found to have disguised the virus by reporting a surge in sickness and deaths caused by difficulty in breathing- a typical COVID-19 symptom.

The government however denied claims that President Magufuli is sick. The office of Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa on March 12 tweeted that the president is in good health. The Prime Minister further dismissed concerns that the president is sick as rumors spread by people outside the country. In his public address on March 12 Mr Majaliwa added that the president has been busy working on files indoors and has been delegating some of his duties to ministers.

“The president has his own work schedule and can’t appear under your directions,” he said.

Verification

According to a Google image reverse search, the image attached to a tweet saying that Tanzania is about to have its first female president is actually from 2018. The image was published on Vice President Samia Suluhu’s Twitter account on April 25, 2018 stating that it is from a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) event in Angola.

Another tweet similarly claiming that Vice President Suluhu is the new Tanzanian president uses an image from 2016. There is no official government source backing up the false claims that the vice president of Tanzania has been appointed to act as the president.

Contrary to information published in a tweet, Wikipedia has not changed its information on President Magufuli to state that he died on March 10. The fake Wikipedia post was shared on a tweet published on March 10, 2021 appears to have wrongly stated the year 2020, by indicating that Magufuli allegedly died on March 10, 2020 which is before allegations of his death began circulating and also before the beginning of Magufuli’s second term after the October 28, 2020 elections.

A screenshot of the fake Wikipedia post

Yet another image showing the Kenyan flag raised at half-mast was attached to a tweet associating the image to the possibility of the Tanzanian leader’s death. The Kenyan flag is normally flown halfway (at half-mast) as a national symbol of honour to a person or people who have passed away. Previous cases when this happened was after the death of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, and the death of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Results from a Google image reverse search show that the image is not recent, as it has been published several times before, including in an article published in 2016 on The Star news website. The caption attached to the image states that it is was taken at the Kenyatta mausoleum in Nairobi on the first day of national mourning following the Westgate Mall attack that happened in September 2013.

Verdict

The images claiming to show events taking place after Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s reported illness are MISLEADING.

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Linda Ngari