Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president

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Samia Suluhu Hassan

FILE – In this Tuesday, March 16, 2021, file photo, Tanzania’s then Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan speaks during a tour of the Tanga region of Tanzania. Samia Suluhu Hassan has been sworn in Friday, March 19, 2021, as Tanzania’s president, making history as the country’s first woman in the position following the death of her predecessor John Magufuli. (AP Photo, File)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — Samia Suluhu Hassan, 61, made history Friday when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president at State House, the government offices in Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city.

Dressed in a hijab and holding up a Quran with her right hand, Hassan took the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Ibrahim Jumavowing, in which she vowed to uphold the constitution of the East African country.

The inauguration was witnessed by members of the Cabinet and Tanzania’s former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Jakaya Kikwete and Abeid Karume. The former heads of state were the only ones in the room wearing facemasks to protect against COVID-19.

Hassan then went outside to inspect a military guard of honor.

Hassan’s inauguration comes two days after she announced the death of President John Magufuli, who had not been seen in public for more than two weeks. Magufuli had denied that COVID-19 was a problem in Tanzania, saying that national prayer had eradicated the disease from the country. But weeks before his death, Magufuli acknowledged that the virus was a danger in the country.

Although it was announced that Magufuli died of heart failure, exiled opposition leader Tundu Lissu says the president died of COVID-19.

In her first public address as president, Hassan announced 21 days of mourning for Magufuli and public holidays on March 22 and on March 25, the day the late president will be buried.

“It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart,” said Hassan. “Today I have taken an oath different from the rest that I have taken in my career. Those were taken in happiness. Today I took the highest oath of office in mourning,” she said.

She said that Magufuli “who always liked teaching” had prepared her for the task ahead. “Nothing shall go wrong,” she assured, urging all the country’s people to work to unite the nation.

“This is the time to stand together and get connected. It’s time to bury our differences, show love to one another and look forward with confidence,” she said. “It is not the time to point fingers at each other but to hold hands and move forward to build the new Tanzania that President Magufuli aspired to.”

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Odula reported from Nakuru, Kenya.

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