Samia Suluhu Hassan – Tanzania’s new president

Samia Suluhu Hassan, the new President of Tanzania

Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan sworn in as the East African country’s first female president after the sudden death of John Magufuli. Samia Suluhu Hassan is a soft-spoken, veteran politician unexpectedly thrust from the role of vice president to become Tanzania’s first female leader.

Hassan made history on Friday when she was sworn in at a ceremony in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam before a roomful of dignitaries. “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 in her maiden speech. First elected as Magufuli’s running mate in 2015, she was re-elected last year along with him and under the constitution, Hassan will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025. She becomes Africa’s only current female national leader – the Ethiopian presidency is a largely ceremonial role – and joins a short list of women on the continent to have run their countries.

The 61-year-old is affectionately known as Mama Samia – in Tanzanian culture that reflects the respect she is held in, rather than reducing her to a gendered role. A former office clerk and development worker, Hassan began her political career in 2000 in her native Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago, before being elected to the national assembly on mainland Tanzania and assigned a senior ministry.