Tanzania swears in Samia Suluhu Hassan as first female president

Residents watch the television announcement of the death of Tanzania's President John Magufuli, addressed by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on March 18 2021.
Residents watch the television announcement of the death of Tanzania's President John Magufuli, addressed by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on March 18 2021.
Image: REUTERS/ EMMANUEL HERMAN

Tanzania's new President Samia Suluhu Hassan called on Friday for unity and said the country needed to bury its differences and avoid pointing fingers following the death of President John Magufuli after weeks of uncertainty about his health.

Hassan, vice president since 2015, gave a brief and sombre address after she was sworn in as president, becoming the first female head of state in the east African country of 58 million.

“This is a time to bury our differences, and stand united as a country,” she said. “This is not a time for finger pointing, but it's a time to hold hands and move forward together,” she said, addressing a crowd of current and former officials that included two former presidents and uniformed military officers.

Wearing a red hijab and taking her oath on the Koran, she was sworn in at State House in the country's commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

She assumes the presidency two days after she addressed the nation to announce the death of Magufuli, after a more than a two-week absence from public life that drew speculation he was critically ill with Covid-19. Magufuli died of heart disease, she said.

Described as a soft-spoken consensus-builder, Hassan will also be the country's first president born in Zanzibar, the archipelago that forms part of the union of the Republic of Tanzania.

Her leadership style is seen as a potential contrast from Magufuli, a brash populist who earned the nickname 'Bulldozer' for muscling through policies and who drew criticism for his intolerance of dissent, which his government denied.


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