Tanzania swears in Hassan as first female president

Tanzania's Vice-President Samia Suluhu gives an address to heads of state and members of the public on Sept 14, 2019. (PHOTO / AFP)

NAIROBI – Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Friday the country should unite and avoid pointing fingers after the death of John Magufuli, her COVID-19 sceptic predecessor, urging the east African country to look forward with hope and confidence.

Wearing a red hijab, she took her oath of office on the Koran in a ceremony at State House in the counry’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam. She is the first female head of state in the country of 58 million.

Hassan, vice-president since 2015, gave a brief and sombre address after she was sworn in, addressing a heavily male crowd that included two former presidents and uniformed officers.

“This is a time to bury our differences, and be one as a nation,” she said. “This is not a time for finger pointing, but it is a time to hold hands and move forward together.”

Wearing a red hijab, Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan took her oath of office on the Koran in a ceremony at State House in the counry’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam. She is the first female head of state in the country of 58 million

ALSO READ: Tanzania's re-elected leader keeps finance minister in new govt

The remarks appeared aimed at dispelling a mood of uncertainty that developed after Magufuli, criticised by opponents as a divisive and authoritarian figure, disappeared from public view for 18 days before his death was announced.

His absence from public life drew speculation he was critically ill with COVID-19. Magufuli died of heart disease, Hassan said when announcing his death on Wedneday.

READ MORE: Tanzanian President Magufuli seeks second term as polls open

She will also be faced with the task of healing a country polarized during the Magufuli years, analysts said, and building her own political base to govern effectively.

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.