Following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise on July 7, a new meme circulating on social media presents the unfounded claim that he and four other leaders, who also died while in office, were killed for opposing COVID-19 vaccines.
The meme ( here , here ) includes the photos of five leaders: Jovenel Moise of Haiti, John Magufuli of Tanzania, Hamed Bakayoko of Ivory Coast, Ambrose Dlamini of eSwatini, and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi.
“All refused the (vaccine emoji),” the text on the meme reads.
There is no evidence of a causal link between vaccines and the death of President Moise.
Reuters reported that the Haitian leader was shot dead in his home on July 7 by heavily armed assassins ( here ). Police said they had arrested one of the suspected masterminds in the assassination who was accused of hiring mercenaries to oust and replace Moise ( here ).
On July 14, the Caribbean country received its first 500,000 doses of COVID-19 donated by the U.S. government through the COVAX vaccine distribution scheme ( here ), regional health officials said ( here ). On July 16, the country started its vaccination campaign, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) here .
Magufuli, when he was in office, played down the threat of COVID-19 and dismissed vaccines as part of a Western conspiracy. The country of 58 million people stopped reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths in May 2020. ( here , here )
His death, which was surrounded by speculation that he had died of COVID-19, ( here , here , here ) was announced in March 2021 by the current President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who said Magufuli died from heart disease.
His government had said it had no plans to import vaccines ( here ) . On June 17, Reuters reported that the East African country was working to join the COVAX scheme and to plan its first national COVID-19 inoculation campaign ( here ).
Hamed Bakayoko, 56, died of cancer at a hospital in the German city of Freiburg, as reported on March 11, 2021 by Al Jazeera and the BBC ( here, here ).He died a day earlier, according to a tweet from Ivoarian Coast president Alassane Outtara ( here ).
Bakayoko did not deny the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. When contracting COVID-19 for the first time on April, 2020, he urged the population to follow all protective measures. “The Coronavirus is a real disease that spreads quickly,” he tweeted ( here ).
Reuters found no public statement by Bakayoko on COVID-19 vaccines.
Ivory Coast was among the first countries to receive vaccines against the disease through the COVAX scheme on February 26, according to UNICEF ( here ).
Reuters reported on Dec. 13, 2020 that Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, died at the age of 52 after battling a COVID-19 infection for four weeks ( here ).
The country declared a national emergency on March 17, 2020 because of the pandemic and subsequently passed regulations to fight the virus ( here ). Its measures included partial lockdown restrictions, hygiene protocols and health precautions based in guidance of WHO and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Prior to Dlamini’s death, the government of Eswatini had also expressed interest on accessing inoculations through COVAX ( here ). On March 24, 2021, the country launched a nationwide vaccination campaign against COVID-19 ( here ).
The Government of the Republic of Burundi announced the death of Pierre Nkurunziza on June 8, 2020, saying it was caused by a heart attack ( here ).
Nkurunziza, had not imposed COVID-19 restrictions in the country, and allowed big sports events and political demonstrations to continue.
But his unexpected death at the age of 55, after just under 15 years in power, predated the widespread availability of vaccines by almost a year, undermining the logic of the meme.
False. There is no evidence that the former leaders of Haiti, Tanzania, Ivory’s Coast, Eswantini, and Burundi were killed for refusing to vaccinate their countries against COVID-19.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .
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