Tanzania: Samia Suluhu Hassan succeeds John Magufuli, the country’s first woman president

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Dar es Salaam | Tanzania’s Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in on Friday to succeed President John Magufuli, whose death was announced on Wednesday evening, becoming the first woman to lead the East African country.

“I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and to obey and protect the Tanzanian constitution,” the new leader, wearing a black dress and red scarf, said during a brief ceremony in the economic capital Dar es Salaam.

Applauded by the dignitaries present, including former President Jakaya Kikwete, she then proceeded to a troop review.

According to the Tanzanian constitution, this 61-year-old Muslim from the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar is to remain in power until the expected end of Mr. Magufuli’s mandate, in 2025.

She is now one of two women currently in power in Africa, along with Ethiopian Sahle-Work Zewde, whose duties are honorary.

Samia Suluhu Hassan, running mate of John Magufuli in the elections won in 2015 and 2020, announced on television on Wednesday evening the death of the head of state, aged 61.

The latter, who had not appeared in public since February 27, officially died Wednesday of heart problems.

His unusual absence had fueled rumors, which said he had COVID-19, a disease he had continuously minimized. The authorities had so far denied any deterioration in his state of health.

Main opponent Tundu Lissu claimed on Thursday that, according to his own sources, Magufuli died from the coronavirus “Wednesday of last week”.

He is the second East African leader to die in controversial circumstances, after Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, also skeptical of COVID-19 and who died of “heart failure” last June after his woman was transported to Nairobi for treatment of the coronavirus.

The Tanzanian constitution provides that Ms. Hassan proposes a vice-president, “after consultation with the party to which (she) belongs”, the CCM (Chama cha Mapinduzi). This choice must then be validated by a vote of the National Assembly, in the presence of at least 50% of the deputies.

The CCM called an extraordinary meeting of its central committee on Saturday.