Tanzania’s Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Friday was sworn in as the President after the sudden death of John Magufuli from an illness shrouded in mystery.
She is the first female president of the East African nation.
In her first public address as president, the 61-year-old leader announced 21 days of mourning for Magufuli and public holidays on March 22 and on March 25, the day the late president will be buried.
“It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart,” said Hassan. “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 said, after being sworn in on Friday.
Hassan ascended to the presidency after President Magufuli’s death due to heart disease was announced by the government on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he was last seen in public.
Magufuli’s absence since February 27 had fuelled speculation about his health and sparked rumours he had contracted COVID-19, although officials had denied he was ill.
According to Tanzania’s constitution, the vice president serves out the remainder of the term of a president who dies in office. Magufuli, who was first elected in 2015, secured a second five-year term in polls in October last year.
The constitution also states that after consultation with their party, the new president will propose a deputy, the choice to be confirmed by the votes of no fewer than 50 per cent of the National Assembly.
Hassan rose through the ranks over a 20-year political career from local government to the national assembly. A stalwart in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), 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.
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.