Tanzania President Appoints First Female Defence Minister

File photo: Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, inspects a military parade following her swearing in the country’s first female President after the sudden death of President John Magufuli at statehouse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on March 19, 2021. AFP

 

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has appointed a politician dismissed for criticising her predecessor as energy minister in a cabinet reshuffle that also included the nomination of the country’s first female defence minister.

Former deputy environment minister January Makamba was sacked from the government in 2019 and forced to apologise to then president John Magufuli who died suddenly in March this year.

But in a reshuffle announced overnight Monday, Hassan, who has broken from some of her predecessor’s policies, welcomed the 47-year-old back to government and put him in charge of the strategically important ministry of energy.

READ ALSO: Tanzania In New Crackdown On Opposition Party

Magufuli had accused Makamba of criticising him during telephone conversations with other members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and threatened to expel him unless he apologised.

Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” for his authoritarian style, made no secret of the fact that he eavesdropped on the telephone conversations of members of his government.

Makamba, whose father is a former secretary general of the CCM, had challenged Magufuli for the party’s 2015 presidential nomination and lost.

The reshuffle, which also saw Stergomena Tax named as defence minister, the first woman to hold that position, came as Hassan seeks to draw a line under the Covid-sceptic policies of her predecessor by launching Tanzania’s first vaccination drive in July.

Although some had hoped that Hassan would bring about a new era of political freedom after the increasingly autocratic rule of Magufuli, the arrest of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe has raised fears for the future of democracy in the East African nation.

Mbowe was arrested in July and is being tried on terrorism charges, which his Chadema party describes as a politically motivated effort to crush dissent.

The ministry of energy is currently overseeing the construction of a controversial hydropower dam project in the Selous Game Reserve and is strategically vital to Tanzania, which has significant natural gas reserves.

AFP

Tanzania Swears In Samia Suluhu As First Female President

New Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, inspects a military parade following her swearing in the country’s first female President after the sudden death of President John Magufuli at statehouse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on March 19, 2021. AFP

 

Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu Hassan was on Friday sworn in as the country’s first female president after the sudden death of John Magufuli from an illness shrouded in mystery.

Hassan, 61, a soft-spoken Muslim woman from the island of Zanzibar, will finish Magufuli’s second five-year term, set to run until 2025.

Wearing a bright red headscarf, Hassan was sworn in as the country’s sixth president, at a ceremony in Dar es Salaam, where neither she nor the majority of attendees wore a mask, in the Covid-sceptic nation.

“I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania,” said the new president, as she took the oath of office before inspecting troops at a military parade and receiving a cannon salute.

She becomes the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial.

Hassan was little known outside Tanzania until she appeared on state television on Wednesday night to announce that Magufuli had died aged 61 from a heart condition after a mysterious three -eek absence from public view.

But questions have been raised over the true cause of his death, after multiple rumours that Magufuli — one of the world’s most fervent Covid-sceptic leaders — had caught the virus and had sought treatment abroad.

Main opposition leader Tundu Lissu insists his sources said Magufuli had Covid-19 and had actually died a week ago.

File photo: Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu (L) and Tanzania’s President John Magufuli (C) as they speak with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on the phone at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on July 24, 2019. Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP

 

And Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, which last week reported an “African leader”, in clear reference to Magufuli, was in a Nairobi hospital, on Friday gave more details of his illness, also indicating Magufuli had in fact died last week.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Why Have Some Countries Paused The AstraZeneca Jab?

Citing sources, the paper said Magufuli was discharged from Nairobi Hospital on life support after it was determined he could not be resuscitated, and returned to Dar es Salaam where he died last Thursday.

The paper details his initial evacuation to Nairobi on March 8 in a medical plane, as he suffered “acute cardiac and respiratory illnesses.”

The main question hanging over the new president is whether she will usher in a change in leadership style from her predecessor, nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, notably in the handling of the pandemic.

– ‘A new chapter’ –
Magufuli leaves behind a complex legacy, after a swing to authoritarianism which saw him crack down on the media, activists and free speech, while refusing to take any measures against Covid-19.

He called for prayer instead of face masks, refused to publish case statistics or implement lockdown measures, and championed alternative medicines.

In this file photo taken on May 25, 2019 Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli gestures while arriving at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, for the inauguration of Incumbent South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.  (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

 

In May last year he revealed a papaya, quail and goat had tested positive for the virus in a secret operation, proving “sabotage” at the national laboratory.

However by February, as cases soared and the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died from Covid-19, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating.

The opposition and rights groups have urged Hassan to change course.

“As we continue mourning, let us use this period to open up a new chapter for rebuilding national unity and respect to freedom, justice, rule of law, democracy and people-centred development,” said Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of opposition group Chadema, in a statement Thursday.

He urged Hassan to “lead the nation toward reconciliation”.

Meanwhile Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the new government “has a chance for a fresh start by ending problematic past practices.”

– ‘Hold your breath’ –
However analysts say Hassan will face early pressure from powerful Magufuli allies within the party, who dominate intelligence and other critical aspects of government, and would try and steer her decisions and agenda.

“For those who were kind of expecting a breakaway from the Magufuli way of things I would say hold your breath at the moment,” said Thabit Jacob, a researcher at the Roskilde University in Denmark and expert on Tanzania.

Hailing from Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean, Hassan rose through the ranks over a 20-year political career from local government to the national assembly.

Residents of the Kawe Kanisani district watch the swearing-in of the new Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, on March 19, 2021.  AFP

 

A ruling party stalwart, she was named Magufuli’s running mate in the 2015 presidential campaign. The pair were re-elected in October last year in a disputed poll marred by allegations of irregularities.

Hassan must consult the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) about appointing a new vice president. The party is set to hold a special meeting of its central committee on Saturday.

New Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, inspects a military parade following her swearing in the country’s first female President after the sudden death of President John Magufuli at statehouse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on March 19, 2021. AFP

 

Tanzania is observing a 14-day mourning period and details on Magufuli’s funeral have yet to be announced.

Magufuli is the second East African leader to die under mysterious circumstances.

Burundi’s equally Covid-sceptic leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, died from “heart failure” last June after his wife was flown to Nairobi to be treated for coronavirus.

AFP

Suluhu To Become First Female Tanzanian President After Magufuli’s Death

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 24, 2019, Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu (L) and Tanzania’s President John Magufuli (C) as they speak with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on the phone at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 
Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP

 

Samia Suluhu Hassan is a soft-spoken, Muslim woman thrust from the obscure role of vice president to become Tanzania’s first female leader after John Magufuli’s sudden death.

Under the constitution, Hassan, the country’s 61-year-old vice president, will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025.

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.

A ruling party stalwart, she rose through the ranks until being picked by Magufuli as his running mate in his first presidential election campaign in 2015.

The Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) comfortably won and Hassan made history when sworn-in as the country’s first-ever female vice president.

The pair were re-elected last October in a disputed poll the opposition and independent observers said was marred by irregularities.

 

READ ALSO: Tanzania Mourns President Magufuli’s Demise After Mystery Illness

 

She would sometimes represent Magufuli on trips abroad but many outside Tanzania had not heard of Hassan until she appeared on national television wearing a black headscarf to announce that Magufuli had died at 61 following a short illness.

In a slow and softly spoken address — a stark contrast to the thundering rhetoric favoured by her predecessor — Hassan solemnly declared 14 days of mourning.

She will consult the CCM over the appointing of a new vice president.

– ‘Hold your breath’ –

Analysts say Hassan will face early pressure from powerful Magufuli allies within the party, who dominate intelligence and other critical aspects of government, and would try and steer her decisions and agenda.

“For those who were kind of expecting a breakaway from the Magufuli way of things I would say hold your breath at the moment,” said Thabit Jacob, a researcher at the Roskilde University in Denmark and expert on Tanzania.

“I think she will struggle to build her own base… We shouldn’t expect major changes.”

Her loyalty to Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his no-nonsense attitude, was called into doubt in 2016.

Her office was forced to issue a statement denying she had resigned as rumours of a rift grew more persistent, and Hassan hinted at the controversy in a public speech last year.

“When you started working as president, many of us did not understand what you actually wanted. We did not know your direction. But today we all know your ambitions about Tanzania’s development,” she said in front of Magufuli.

– Getting things done –

Hassan was born on January 27, 1960 in Zanzibar, a former slaving hub and trading outpost in the Indian Ocean.

Then still a Muslim sultanate, Zanzibar did not merge formally with mainland Tanzania for another four years.

Her father was a school teacher and mother a housewife. Hassan graduated from high school but has said publicly that her finishing results were poor, and she took a clerkship in a government office at 17.

By 1988, after undertaking further study, Hassan had risen the ranks to become a development officer in the Zanzibari government.

She was employed as a project manager for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and later in the 1990s was made executive director of an umbrella body governing non-governmental organisations in Zanzibar.

In 2000, she was nominated by the CCM to a special seat in Zanzibar’s House of Representatives. She then served as a local government minister — first for youth employment, women and children and then for tourism and trade investment.

In 2010, she was elected to the National Assembly on mainland Tanzania. Then-president Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs.

She holds university qualifications from Tanzania, Britain and the United States. The mother of four has spoken publicly to encourage Tanzanian women and girls to pursue their dreams.

“I may look polite, and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say and things get done as I say,” Hassan said in a speech last year.

She is among a very small circle of women to lead East African nations. Burundi briefly had an acting female president in 1993, while both Mauritius and Ethiopia have had women appointed to the ceremonial role of president.

-AFP