Donning a hijab and holding up the Quran with her right hand, 61-year-old Samia Suluhu Hassan scripted history on March 19 when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president. This move came following the demise of President John Magufuli, her controversial predecessor who had previously denied that COVID-19 was a problem in the East African country. The ceremony took place at State House, the government offices in Dar es Salaam.
Hassan took the oath of office in the presence of Cabinet members, and former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete, who were seen wearing face masks to protect against the virus.
One of the main tests of Hassan’s presidency will be steps she puts into action when it comes to the pandemic. As per reports, when the country was under Magufuli presidency, one of East-Africa’s most populated countries with 60 million people, took no efforts to contain the spread of the virus, promote the use of protective masks and social distancing, or obtain vaccines. “The immediate job, the immediate decision she has to make, and she doesn’t have much time for it, is what is she going to do about COVID-19?” exiled opposition leader Tundu Lissu told The Associated Press from Belgium. “President Magufuli defied the world, defied science, defied common sense in his approach to COVID-19 and it finally brought him down,” he said, adding, “President Samia Saluhu Hassan has to decide very soon whether she is changing course or continuing with the same disastrous approach to COVID-19 that her predecessor took.”
Speaking at her inauguration, Hassan did indicate that she intended to change strategy. “It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart,” she said, speaking Kiswahili. “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 added.
She said that Magufuli, “who always liked teaching,” had prepared her for the task ahead. “Nothing shall go wrong,” she assured, urging unity. “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.”
Image Courtesy: Twitter/ Kachwanya (@kachwanya) and Usher Komugisha (@UsherKomugisha)