Tanzania swears in first female president

TONY KARUMBA / AFP

Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as Tanzania's president on Friday, becoming the first female head of state in the east African nation.

Hassan, 61, was sworn in at State House in the country's commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

The former vice-president assumes the presidency following Wednesday's announcement of the death of president John Magufuli after more than a two-week absence from public life that drew speculation about his health.

In a statement, the presidency said Hassan would address the nation after being sworn in and would also hold a cabinet meeting.

The absence of Magufuli since February 27 had sparked rumours he had contracted COVID-19, although officials had denied he was ill. Hassan said he had died of heart disease.

Described as a soft-spoken consensus-builder, Hassan will also be the country's first president born in Zanzibar, the archipelago that forms part of the union of the Republic of Tanzania.

Her leadership style is seen as a potential contrast from Magufuli, a brash populist who earned the nickname 'Bulldozer' for muscling through policies and who drew criticism for his intolerance of dissent, which his government denied.

The new president will be faced with the task of healing a country that was polarized during the Magufuli years, analysts said, and building her own political base to govern effectively.

Hassan will also be faced with a decision on whether to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the country of 58 million people.

Under Magufuli, the government said it would not procure any vaccines until the country's own experts had reviewed them.

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