DAR ES SALAAM, 19 March 2021 – Samia Suluhu Hassan made history Friday, getting sworn-in as Tanzania’s first female president, following the death in office Wednesday of President John Magufuli.
The ceremony, full of pomp and pageantry, held in the State House in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
Flags flew at half-mast in the East African nation which was only into the second of 14 days of national mourning.
The 61-year-old Suluhu Hassan, a devout Muslim, spotted her signature Muslim headgear, looked solemn, beautiful, and most presidential.
Tanzania’s Chief Justice Ibrahim Juma administered the oath of office on the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
Within minutes of her assuming the office of the presidency, the loud sounds of a 21-gun salute rang out throughout Dar es Salaam as the nation’s armed and security forces acknowledged her as their new commander-in-chief.
The newly-sworn-in president inspected a guard of honor and military parade.
Later, she signed a book of condolence for Magufuli which has been set up in the State House.
Millions of Tanzanians watched the ceremony from home thanks to live television broadcasts.
In her inaugural address, Mama Samia, as the new president is affectionately and respectfully known to Tanzanians, called for unity.
“This is a time to bury our differences and be one as a nation. This is not a time for finger-pointing, but it is a time to hold hands and move forward together,” Mama Samia said.
She saluted the memory of Magufuli, describing her predecessor as a patriot who was committed to transforming Tanzania.
She gave reassurances of stability, informing the crowd that packed the hall at the State House in Dar es Salaam to hear her, that she was sufficiently prepared for the moment and the tasks ahead.
She also acknowledged the “heavy load” she now shoulders as Tanzania’s first female president.
Suluhu Hassan, who hails from the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar, had served as vice-president of Tanzania since 2015 when she was elected alongside Magufuli.
She becomes the sixth president of Tanzania and only the second from Zanzibar.
The first from Zanzibar was Tanzania’s founding president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who served from 29 October 1964 through 5 November 1985.
Suluhu Hassan rose to prominence in Tanzania in 2014 while serving as the deputy chairperson of a constituent assembly mandated to draft Tanzania’s constitution.
A year later, she became the running mate of Magufuli.
Tanzania’s constitution provides for the vice-president to be sworn in as the new president in the case of the death in office of the president or his/her incapacitation.
She should serve the remainder of Magufuli’s five-year team which began last year, joining a very limited club of African women who hold the presidency or an honorary presidency in their countries.
The constitution further provides that if a succeeding vice-president serves as president for three years or more, they can only run for the presidency thereafter for one five-year term.
Now that Suluhu Hassan has taken the oath of office, she is required to consult with the ruling CCM party to nominate a vice-president.
Given her Zanzibari origins, the nominee must come from the mainland and would take the oath of office only if approved by more than 50 percent of parliamentarians.
Suluhu Hassan is married to Hafidh Ameir and they have four children.