New Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, inspects a military parade following her swearing in the country’s first female President on Friday, 19 March 2021/Photo: Tanzania Government

Tanzania’s first female president takes office

Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan was on Friday sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president after the sudden death of John Magufuli two days earlier.

Hassan, 61, Muslim from the island of Zanzibar, will finish Magufuli’s second five-year term, set to run until 2025.

“I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania,” said the new president, as she took the oath of office before inspecting troops at a military parade and receiving a cannon salute.

She becomes the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial.

Hassan, who was vice president until the death of Magufuli, was little known outside Tanzania until she appeared on state television on Wednesday night to announce that the former president had died aged 61 after a mysterious three-week absence from public view.

But questions have been raised over the true cause of his death, after multiple rumours that Magufuli — one of the world’s most fervent Covid-sceptic leaders — had caught the virus and had sought treatment abroad.

Main opposition leader Tundu Lissu insists his sources said Magufuli had Covid-19 and had actually died a week ago.

And Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, which last week reported an “African leader”, in clear reference to Magufuli, was in a Nairobi hospital, on Friday gave more details of his illness, also indicating Magufuli had in fact died last week.

Citing sources, the paper said Magufuli was discharged from Nairobi Hospital on life support after it was determined he could not be resuscitated, and returned to Dar es Salaam where he died last Thursday.

The paper details his initial evacuation to Nairobi on March 8 in a medical plane, as he suffered “acute cardiac and respiratory illnesses.”

Hailing from Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean, Hassan rose through the ranks over a 20-year political career from local government to the national assembly.

A ruling party stalwart, she was named Magufuli’s running mate in the 2015 presidential campaign. The pair were re-elected in October last year in a disputed poll marred by allegations of irregularities.

Hassan must consult the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) about appointing a new vice president. The party is set to hold a special meeting of its central committee on Saturday.

Tanzania is observing a 14-day mourning period and details on Magufuli’s funeral have yet to be announced.

AFP

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