Tanzania was not represented in a Tuesday meeting between the Head of States from the East African Community (EAC).
The virtual meeting hosted by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is also the current EAC Chairperson, was about the management of cross-border spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
The meeting brought together Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Salva Kiir Mayardit (South Sudan).
President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania did not attend the meeting despite Tanzania being among East African counties that have reported a high number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the region.
The country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been questioned in the recent past with Magufuli attracting criticisms over unconventional fight against the contagious disease.
The head of state declined to close down churches and border points of entry. He has ignored calls for a partial lockdown/lockdown. Instead he encouraged his countrymen to ‘Chapa Kazi’ (work hard) in their farms and businesses.
Tanzania has so far recorded 509 Covid-19 cases, 183 recoveries, and 21 deaths, among them three Members of Parliament.
A number of truck drivers from the country have tested positive in Kenya and Tanzania, with some neighboring countries threatening to close their borders to prevent Tanzanians from gaining entry.
Magufuli has been missing in action even as the East African leaders go the extra mile to prevent the spread of the disease.
Recently, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Maguli’s longtime ally said attempts to reach the President both by him and heads of state from the region had proved futile.
In an interview with BBC last week, Raila said Magufuli had refused to heed to calls from his Eat African counterparts to institute measures that would slow down the spread of the virus.
“I’ve tried to reach him on phone but I’ve not managed to, and I’ve left him a message on his SMS that I would like to discuss issues of national, regional, and continental importance with him. I think that he as a nationalist needs to get information from fellow leaders because this is a regional issue and if we do not control it in Kenya it will affect Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Burundi because our destiny is tied together,” said Raila.
In the Tuesday virtual meeting, the head of states 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.
A communication from State House in Nairobi indicated that the Presidents 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.
“A unified stand is what we need to combat this pandemic in the region,” President Kenyatta 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,” President Kenyatta said.
During the meeting, 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 the Covid-19 pandemic.