Here's how ailing African leaders hide their illnesses so they can stay in office

  • Pito.News
  • Aug 25, 2017 at 13:29
  • Africa
Leaders gather for a group photo of the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.Mulugeta Ayene/AP

The Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation say for the past months, and indeed years, have seen speculation mounting over the health of at least four heads of state on the African continent. These include Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari, 74, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 93, Angolan leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos, 74, and Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 80.

Bloomberg reports that these leaders often leave their countries in limbo, as they spend a lot of time abroad seeking medical attention. 

Their ailments are always kept a secret from the public as if the electorate won't vote for them if they open up. 

The Institute for Security Studies say the stance often taken by most leaders not to disclose their illnesses was "a reflection of lack of trust in their citizens".

Business Insider Sub Saharan Africa takes a look at African heads of government who have made the news in recent times because of their health challenges and the secrecy shrouding it. 

With more than seven months gone in 2017, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has spent the better part of the year holed up in a London hospital treating an undisclosed illness far away from the 180 million Nigerian citizens that elected him to lead them out the worst economic crisis to hit the country in decades.

Mr Buhari’s continued absence has fueled a leadership crisis that has threatened to boil over on several occasions amid calls for him to take the high road and hand in his resignation if he can no longer cope with the physical and mental rigor of leading Africa’s most populous country.

But 74-year-old Mr Buhari is hardly the only African president who has had his productivity and ability to govern seriously limited by reoccurring health problems.

In 2016, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi was absent from the country for weeks, leaving the door open to wild speculations about his death as his aides provided no specific information about his whereabouts.

On his return to the country, 76-year-old Mutharika admitted at a press briefing that he had been away in a U.S. hospital to treat rheumatism, a muscle and joint condition that is often chronic and debilitating in older sufferers.

Mr Mutharika, who is rumoured to be seeking re-election, however, insisted that he is in excellent health, adding that he is as healthy as any 30-year-old.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos was away from his country for the entire month of May, sparking speculations that he was dead or terminally ill.

Authorities were not willing to provide specifics about his whereabouts until they bowed to the pressure from the opposition and civil society groups, forcing the Foreign Minister to clarify that 74-year-old Dos Santos, who has led Angola since 1979, was in Spain receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

Robert Mugabe is 93 years old and the oldest elected president in the world. In recent years, his health has taken quite a hit obviously from the ravages of old age; he periodically flies out to Singapore for medical attention. It is rumoured that he has prostate cancer.

However, close aides of Mugabe continue to insist that his many trips to Singapore are meant to treat a minor problem with his eye.

Eighty-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria is rumoured to be bedridden and rarely makes public appearances since he suffered a stroke in 2013.

On several occasions, he has had to postpone or reschedule meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries due to his poor health, including an abrupt cancellation of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Algerian capital, Algiers, in February.

His most recent public appearance after months of absence came in July as Algerians celebrated Independence Day. After nearly two decades in power, many wonder if he can finish his current term in office.

In June 2017, President Patrice Talon of the Republic of Benin surprised and impressed many with his decision to provide details about a prostate condition that saw him undergo two surgeries and spend one month away from the country while receiving treatment in a Parisian hospital.

His action was hailed as a rare example of an African leader publicly revealing the details of his health, with a statement from his office saying the 59-year-old Talon believed it was important to inform his fellow countrymen about the state of his health.


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PITO.NEWS Correspondance

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  • PITO.NEWS Correspondance
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PITO.NEWS Correspondance is a newscaster and general assignment reporter for Pito.News