Tanzania’s soft-spoken Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Friday was sworn in as the country’s first female president after the sudden death of Dr John Magufuli.
“I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania,” said President Hassan, dressed in a black suit and red headscarf before dignitaries at a ceremony in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
In her first public address as president, the 61-year-old leader announced 21 days of mourning for Dr 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 President 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, after being sworn in at 10am local time (07:00 GMT) on Friday.
President Hassan ascended to the presidency after Dr Magufuli’s death due to heart disease was announced by the government on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he was last seen in public.
According to Tanzania’s constitution, the VP serves out the remainder of the term of a president who dies in office. Dr Magufuli, who was first elected in 2015, secured a second five-year term in polls in October last year.
The constitution also states that after consultation with their party, the new president will propose a deputy, the choice to be confirmed by the votes of no fewer than 50 percent of the National Assembly.
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Kenyan capital Nairobi, said: “She has just given her maiden speech and it was a very emotional tribute to her predecessor John Magufuli. I’ve been speaking to people in Tanzania to get a sense of what she is about and what they’re telling me is that her leadership style is very different from the late president. They say she listens to counsel more and is not one to make unilateral decisions.”
‘Time to stand together’
Described as a softly spoken consensus builder, President Hassan has become the country’s first female president and the first to be born in Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean that forms part of the union of the Republic of Tanzania.
She said that Dr Magufuli “who always liked teaching” had prepared her for the task ahead. “Nothing shall go wrong,” she said, 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.”
President Hassan rose through the ranks over a 20-year political career from local government to the national assembly. A stalwart in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), she was named Dr Magufuli’s running mate in the 2015 presidential campaign.
The pair were re-elected in October last year.
Her leadership style is seen as a potential contrast from Dr Magufuli, who earned the nickname “Bulldozer” for muscling through policies. – Agencies