Samia Suluhu Hassan
|6th President of Tanzania|
|Assumed office |
19 March 2021
|Prime Minister||Kassim Majaliwa|
|Vice President||Philip Mpango|
|Preceded by||John Magufuli|
|10th Vice-President of Tanzania|
5 November 2015 – 19 March 2021
|Preceded by||Mohamed Gharib Bilal|
|Succeeded by||Philip Mpango|
|Minister of State for Union Affairs in the Vice President's Office|
November 2010 – November 2015
|Preceded by||Muhammed Seif Khatib|
|Succeeded by||January Makamba|
|Member of Parliament|
November 2010 – July 2015
|Succeeded by||Ameir Timbe|
|Minister of Tourism, Trade and Investment|
|Preceded by||Mussa Silima|
|Succeeded by||Said Ali Mbarouk|
|Born||27 January 1960|
Makunduchi, Sultanate of Zanzibar
|Political party||Chama Cha Mapinduzi|
|Children||4, including Wanu Hafidh Ameir|
|Education||Mzumbe University (AdvDip)|
University of Manchester (PGDip)
Open University of Tanzania (MSc)
Samia Suluhu Hassan[a] (born 27 January 1960) is a Tanzanian politician who has served as president of Tanzania since 19 March 2021. She is the first woman to serve in the position. She previously served as vice-president of Tanzania from 2015 to 2021, from which she ascended to the presidency following the death of her predecessor, John Magufuli.
A native of Zanzibar, Suluhu served as a minister in the semi-autonomous region from 2000 to 2010. She then served as the Member of Parliament for the Makunduchi constituency from 2010 to 2015 and was the Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office for Union Affairs from 2010 to 2015. In 2014, she was elected as the vice-chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with the drafting of the country's new constitution. Suluhu became Tanzania's first female vice-president following the 2015 general election, after being elected on the Chama Cha Mapinduzi ticket with Magufuli. Suluhu and Magufuli were re-elected to a second term in 2020.
As president, Suluhu has implemented democratic reforms, reversing the policies of her predecessor that were implemented to repress political opposition. She also implemented policies to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tanzania, which Magufuli had denied was a serious issue. Other focuses of her presidency have included the expansion of infrastructure and the globalisation of the Tanzanian economy through investors and tourism.
Early life and education
Suluhu was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar on 27 January 1960 to a teacher and his wife. Four years later, Zanzibar unified with Tanganyika to form the nation of Tanzania. She completed her secondary education in 1977, and she began working as an office clerk. Shortly after this, she married agriculturalist Hafidh Ameir. Together they had three sons and one daughter. Their daughter Wanu Hafidh Ameir (born 1982), the couple's second child, went on to become a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
Suluhu pursued a number of short-courses on a part-time basis. In 1986, she graduated from the Institute of Development Management (present-day Mzumbe University) with an advanced diploma in public administration. Between 1992 and 1994, she attended the University of Manchester and earned a postgraduate diploma in economics. She later obtained her MSc in Community Economic Development in 2015 via a joint-programme between the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire University.
Suluhu became a development officer with the regional Zanzibar government in 1988. She became a project manager at the World Food Programme. In the 1990s, she was put in charge of a body that regulates non-governmental organisations in Zanzibar.
In 2000, Suluhu decided to run for public office. She was elected as a special seat member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives with the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, where she was appointed Zanzibar's Minister for Youth Employment, Women and Children. While in this position, she ended the prohibition on new mothers returning to school. She was the only high-ranking woman minister in the cabinet and was treated less seriously by her male colleagues because she was a woman. She was re-elected in 2005 and was appointed as Minister for Tourism and Trade Investment.
In 2010, Suluhu sought election to the National Assembly, standing in the parliamentary constituency of Makunduchi and winning by more than 80%. President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs. In 2014, she was elected as the Vice-Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.
Suluhu was the vice-presidential candidate for the CCM in the 2015 general election, along with presidential candidate John Magufuli. She was an unexpected choice, as several more prominent and influential politicians were passed on for the role. She was the first female running mate in the party's history. They won the election, and they were sworn in on 5 November 2015. Suluhu became the first female Vice-President of Tanzania. A dispute emerged between Magufuli and Suluhu in 2016 in which her questions of her loyalty were raised, but Suluhu then made public statements in support of Magufuli. Magufuli and Suluhu were re-elected in the 2020 general election, though the victory was called into question after allegations of electoral fraud by independent observers.
President of Tanzania
Ascension and swearing in
On 17 March 2021, Suluhu announced that Magufuli had died after a long illness; Magufuli had not been seen in public since late February. She was sworn in on 19 March 2021 to serve the remainder of his second term. Opposition leaders had expressed concern about a possible vacuum when 18 March passed without Suluhu being sworn in. Immediately after being sworn in, Suluhu inspected troops at a military parade in her honour. In her first statements as president, Suluhu said condolences for Magufuli's death and declared three weeks of mourning. She chose Minister of Finance Philip Mpango as her vice-president.
Upon her swearing-in, Suluhu became Tanzania's first female president. She is also the second Zanzibari to hold the post,after Ali Hassan Mwinyi. She was one of only two serving female heads of state in Africa at the time she was sworn in, alongside Ethiopia's Sahle-Work Zewde, who holds only a ceremonial role.
The COVID-19 pandemic was ongoing when Suluhu became president. She reversed the denialist position on the COVID-19 pandemic in Tanzania held by Magufuli, and she entered Tanzania into the COVAX program to begin distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in July 2021. Mandatory 14-day quarantines for travellers entering Tanzania from countries with cases of newly risen variants of SARS-CoV-2 were imposed. Suluhu permitted embassies and other international organisations to import vaccines into the country to vaccinate foreign nationals for their Tanzanian day-to-day work, aided by the Ministry of Health.
Since becoming president, Suluhu has pledged to see that the flagship development projects that were initiated by Magufuli are completed on time. Besides that, she has also approved new development projects. Projects that she prioritised include establishing a railway line, building a hydropower plant, and making electricity and clean water available in rural Tanzania.
Suluhu filmed a movie, The Royal Tour, with journalist and filmmaker Peter Greenberg in early 2021 with the intention of promoting tourism and getting investors interested in Tanzania. It premiered in Los Angeles, Paramount Theatre, before being played in Tanzania. Suluhu became the fifth African woman to address the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021. She reorganised her presidential cabinet in January 2022 to ensure that it was populated by loyalists, while she gradually removed those who had served under Magufuli.
Suluhu adopted a more internationalist approach rather than the isolationism of her predecessor, and she has sought to entice both investors and tourists. In 2022, she attended the Expo 2020 to promote Tanzanian products and opportunities which led her to sign a business partnership deal with Dubai. Suluhu took a neutral stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying that they should negotiate peace and that "we don't know why they are fighting".
Style of governance
Suluhu's style of governance has been contrasted with that of Magufuli. Commentators have described Suluhu as "soft-spoken", and Suluhu herself has referenced her quiet demeanour, in contrast to her more outspoken predecessor. Suluhu is instead compared to Magufili's predecessor, Jakaya Kikwete, who similarly engaged in diplomacy with the opposition instead of repression. Suluhu is sometimes known as Mama Samia in Tanzania, a name meant to indicate reverence. She has emphasised her femininity as part of her presidency, describing it as a factor in her attempts to create a culture of political unity.
When she became president, Suluhu was seen as a more democratically-inclined alternative to Magufuli, who had developed a reputation as an authoritarian. After taking office, Suluhu took measures to increase freedom of speech and freedom of the press to reverse Magufuli's policies and to improve Tanzania's global image. These included releasing political prisoners, meeting with opposition leaders, and reopening newspapers that were shut down for criticising the government. She also lifted a ban on political rallies in 2023, which her predecessor had implemented to stifle the opposition. A sense of distrust has remained among the opposition, amplified by the persecution they experienced under her predecessor.
Tanzania became more democratic during Suluhu's presidency. Though she has initiated several democratic reforms, there is no agreement as to how much can be attributed to her policies, and she has faced criticism for not challenging many authoritarian laws and practices. Suluhu chose not to seek widely demanded amendments to the constitution when she took office, citing the poor state of the economy. Following the release of Freeman Mbowe and his immediate conversation with Suluhu, his first appearance days later was at the International Women's Day event in Iringa. This caused critics to accuse Suluhu of releasing Mbowe on condition of support for Western feminist policies. Suluhu's meetings and reconciliation with opposition leaders have conversely received criticism within her own party.
Honours, awards and recognition
|2023||South Africa||Order of South Africa|
- 2022: Africa Road Builders – Babacar Ndiaye Trophy
Honorary academic awards
|2022||University of Dar es Salaam||Tanzania||Doctor of Letters (D.Litt)|
|2023||Jawaharlal Nehru University||India||Honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa)|
|2022||The Royal Tour Tanzania||Herself||Documentary film|
|2023||The Hidden Tanzania||Herself||Pre-production |
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