Tanzania makes history, swears in first female President

March 20, 2021
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Tanzania’s soft-spoken Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Friday was sworn in as the East African country’s first female president after the sudden death of John Magufuli from an illness shrouded in mystery.

“I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania,” said Hassan, dressed in a black suit and red headscarf before dignitaries at a ceremony in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

In her first public address as president, the 61-year-old leader announced 21 days of mourning for Magufuli and public holidays on March 22 and on March 25, the day the late president will be buried.

It is not the time to point fingers at each other but to hold hands and move forward to build the new Tanzania that President Magufuli aspired to.

“It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart,” said Hassan. “Today I have taken an oath different from the rest that I have taken in my career. Those were taken in happiness. Today I took the highest oath of office in mourning,” she said, after being sworn in at 10am local time (07:00 GMT) on Friday.

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Hassan ascended to the presidency after President Magufuli’s death due to heart disease was announced by the government on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he was last seen in public.

Magufuli’s absence since February 27 had fuelled speculation about his health and sparked rumours he had contracted COVID-19, although officials had denied he was ill.

The constitution also states that after consultation with their party, the new president will propose a deputy, the choice to be confirmed by the votes of no fewer than 50 per cent of the National Assembly.

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Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Kenyan capital Nairobi, said: “She has just given her maiden speech and it was a very emotional tribute to her predecessor John Magufuli.”

“I’ve been speaking to people in Tanzania to get a sense of what she is about and what they’re telling me is that her leadership style is very different from the late president. They say she listens to counsel more and is not one to make unilateral decisions.”

Described as a softly spoken consensus builder, Hassan has become the country’s first female president and the first to be born in Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean that forms part of the union of the Republic of Tanzania.

She said that Magufuli “who always liked teaching” had prepared her for the task ahead. “Nothing shall go wrong,” she said, urging all the country’s people to work to unite the nation.

“This is the time to stand together and get connected. It’s time to bury our differences, show love to one another and look forward with confidence,” she said.

“It is not the time to point fingers at each other but to hold hands and move forward to build the new Tanzania that President Magufuli aspired to,” she said, amid opposition claims about the cause of Magufuli’s death.

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