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Tanzania elects Samia Suluhu Hassan as its first female president.



Tanzania elects Samia Suluhu Hassan as its first female president.
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Tanzania elects Samia Suluhu Hassan as its first female president.

Tanzania elects Samia Suluhu Hassan as its first female president.


After the death of her controversial predecessor, John Magufuli, who denied that COVID-19 was an issue in Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president on Friday.

Hassan, 61, took the oath of office at State House, the government offices in Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city, while wearing a hijab and holding a Quran in her right hand.

Former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete, as well as former vice president Abeid Karume, were present at the inauguration. Former heads of state were among the few in the room who wore face masks to shield themselves from COVID-19.

Hassan succeeds Magufuli, who had not been seen in public in more than two weeks until his death was confirmed late Wednesday on state television. Magufuli had previously denied that COVID-19 was a concern in Tanzania, stating that the disease had been eradicated by national prayer. However, weeks before his death, Magufuli admitted that the virus was a threat.

How Hassan treats the pandemic would be a big litmus test for her current presidency. Tanzania, which has a population of 60 million people and is one of Africa’s most populated nations, made no attempt to procure vaccines or encourage the use of masks and social distancing to fight the virus under Magufuli’s leadership. African health officials warn that avoiding the disease puts neighboring countries in risk.

Exiled opposition leader Tundu Lissu believes Magufuli died of COVID-19, citing informed medical sources in Dar es Salaam, despite Hassan’s declaration that Magufuli died of heart failure.

“The immediate job, the immediate decision she must make, and she does not have much time to make it, is what will she do about COVID-19?” At his exile base in Belgium, Lissu told The Associated Press.

“In his approach to COVID-19, President Magufuli defied the world, defied science, defied common sense, and it finally brought him down,” Lissu said.

“President Samia Saluhu Hassan must decide quickly whether she will change course or continue with her predecessor’s disastrous approach to COVID-19,” the opposition leader said.

Hassan must also determine how she will deal with Magufuli’s legacy, including whether to proceed with his policies that turned Tanzania into an authoritarian state, according to Lissu, who doubts that she will be able to restore the country’s democratic freedoms and democracy.

After being shot 16 times, Lissu went into exile in 2017. Magufuli said those who opposed his economic reforms deserved to die, prompting the attack. Lissu has returned to Tanzania with the aim of running against Magufuli in the 2020 elections. In polls marred by violence and widespread charges of vote rigging, he lost to Magufuli. Lissu fled to exile, alleging that his life was in jeopardy.

Hassan gave little indication during her inauguration speech that she wanted to deviate from Magufuli’s path.

Hassan said in Kiswahili, “It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my side.” “Today, I took an oath that is unlike any other I have taken in my career. Those were taken with joy. “Today, in mourning, I took the highest oath of office,” she said.

Magufuli, she said, had trained her for the mission ahead because he “really liked teaching.” “Nothing would go wrong,” she promised, encouraging everyone to stick together.

“Now is the time to band together and form bonds. It’s time to put our differences aside, show each other respect, and move forward with confidence,” she said. “Now is not the time to point fingers at one another; now is the time to join hands and work together to create the Tanzania that President Magufuli envisioned.”

Magufuli’s second term, which began in October, will be completed by Hassan. In a male-dominated sector, she has risen quickly in politics. Tanzania, like the rest of East Africa, is slowly moving away from patriarchy.

Hassan became Tanzania’s first female vice president after Magufuli chose her as his running mate in 2015. She was the region’s second female vice president, following Uganda’s Specioza Naigaga Wandira, who served from 1994 to 2003.

Hassan was born in 1960 in Zanzibar, Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago, and attended primary and secondary school at a time when few girls in Tanzania received an education because their parents believed a woman’s position was as a wife and homemaker.

Hassan studied statistics after graduating from high school in 1977 and began working for the government in the Ministry of Planning and Development. In 1992, she worked in Tanzania for a World Food Program project before attending the University of Manchester in London to pursue a postgraduate diploma in economics. She received a master’s degree in community economic development from the Open University of Tanzania and Southern New Hampshire University in the United States in 2005.

Hassan entered politics in 2000, when she was elected to the House of Representatives in Zanzibar. She obtained more than 80% of the vote in the Makunduchi parliamentary seat in 2010. In 2014, she was named a Cabinet minister and later became vice-chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, which drafted Tanzania’s new constitution, a position in which she earned praise for deftly handling a number of challenges.

According to Ed Hobey-Hamsher, senior Africa analyst with the Verisk Maplecroft research company, Hassan’s first job as president will be to unite the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party behind her. Since Tanzania’s independence, the party has been in control.

Hassan may find it difficult to obtain support from the party’s mainland Christians because she is a Muslim woman from Zanzibar, he said, warning that some entrenched leaders may build “obstructionist tactics” against her. He believes Hassan will likely begin her presidency by retaining the status quo and refraining from a major Cabinet reshuffle.

Hassan is the second woman to hold the position of head of state in East Africa. Burundi’s Sylvia Kiningi served as interim president for nearly four months, from February 1994 to February 1995.

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