Samia Suluhu Hassan, 61, made history Friday when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president at State House, the government offices in Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city.
Hassan said 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.”
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.
Among the first tasks facing Hassan, 61, will be a decision on whether to procure COVID-19 vaccines. Under her predecessor, the government said it would not obtain any vaccines until the country’s own experts had reviewed them.
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.