A spokesperson for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta denied rumors on Monday that he is missing, chastising Kenyatta’s social media followers for showing a lack of respect to the country’s leader.
Concern over Kenyatta’s whereabouts spread on social media after it emerged he had not been seen in public since his meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the end of April and deleted his social media accounts. The speculation even led to the hashtag #FindPresidentUhuru.
The investigation eventually elicited a response from Kenyatta’s spokesperson Kanze Dena, who claimed that he had been working privately on his agenda.
“The President is around, it doesn’t mean that because he is not seen in public he is not there, he has an office where he goes every day and he is working on several things,” she said in a radio interview. “President Uhuru Kenyatta’s social media accounts are his personal accounts. He has the right to activate and deactivate them. He has his reasons (for deactivating the accounts) and we have to respect that.”
Dena revealed that Kenyatta had deactivated his accounts because of concerns that they had been hacked but also referenced the recent “abuse” leveled at him from angry followers.
“That said, I am surprised when the President is on social media, we turn up and abuse him most of the time, but when he deactivates his accounts, we still go about questioning why,” she continued. “It (the abuses) is not proper. We need to respect the President. He receives a lot of respect when he travels out of the country and we should emulate that.”
Kenyatta did eventually appear in a Twitter photo taken on Monday meeting with Microsoft executives to discuss the importance of intellectual property rights.
The 57-year-old leader was most recently re-elected for a second term in 2017 as head of the Jubilee Party. His initially high approval ratings have slumped in recent months, a trend exacerbated by an unpopular rise in fuel taxes that led to nationwide strikes.
Kenyatta has also joined the many African nations in forging close relations with China. The country is now heavily indebted to Beijing after taking out enormous loans from Chinese banks to build infrastructure projects that have so far proven financially unsustainable.